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Democratic Convention 2012: Ask BWA 

Congratulations! You've entered the Ask BWA zone, where readers ask yours truly questions about issues of importance and gravity, and others ask pretty stupid ones. But hey, we pundits are here merely to serve, so let's get on with it. Only two questions this time, and just one of those was actually reader-derived. I bet you'll figure out which question it is.

Dear BWA: Why haven't you written about the Democratic Convention? I think it's going to be a big waste of Charlotte taxpayer dollars. — Jason Snyder

Dear Jason: The convention is being funded by the national Democratic Party, and the city is getting $50 million from Congress for security, so I don't see how it will be a waste of local taxes. I do think, however, that the city may be in danger of running out of hype by the end of the donkey confab. Sure, there are things to like about having the DemCon here — I'm among those who are looking forward to how the city's arts groups are planning — but for chrissakes, people, get a grip. Charlotte's ever-effusive civic boosters and their local media toadies are so gosh-darn excited, they're practically jumping out of their skin, trying to find words to describe the wonderful bigBigBIGness of it all. And don't get them started on how much money will be added to the local economy, or the cornucopia of untold thrills that await us all. And for a whopping four whole days!

What I find hilarious — in the odd way that delusions can be funny — is the claim that the city is in for a veritable tsunami of positive, dollar-drawing publicity, and its ensuing prestige, just for hosting the DemCon. I guess that will make the DemCon the ultimate "it's great fuh SHAH-lut!" event of our lifetime! Why, I could just . . .just . . . sigh at the silliness of it all. At this point, I'm starting to worry that local TV reporters could endanger themselves by indulging in near-lethal levels of delirium and hyperbole.

Here's the thing: One of the marks of a great city is that gigantic, important events come and go without civic leaders and the media acting like Barney Fife planning to meet the Pope. It's true that some folks here will temporarily make more money from the convention (except for local hotels, which will temporarily make a <lot> more money, via extortionate rate hikes); and if you can get within a mile of the arena, you may get to see some A-list celebrities. But "great publicity for Charlotte"? Have any of the people who keep saying that ever watched political conventions on television? I'm wondering because, for the life of me, I don't remember any big national hoopla during the last DemCon about how great and splendid Denver, CO. was, do you? Also, do the Center City Pretenders have any idea how low TV ratings are for national political party conventions? Let's just say that "abysmal" is a generous appraisal.

Other issues come to mind when thinking of the DemCon. For instance, the media will ignore important news affecting the vast majority of the city's population, which will generally remain unaffected by the convention (I know, that's not exactly a change from current local news-gathering practices). There's also the issue that American political party conventions are charades, now that their original roles — writing a party platform that anyone pays attention to, and wheeling and dealing to nominate a presidential candidate — are obsolete. And, of course, there's the little matter of Charlotte's normally taser-happy, high-speed-chase-lovin' police force and whether they'll be able to keep themselves from violating any protesters' civil liberties (God help any black teenagers who happen to wander into the DemCon zone.) So yeah, it's a big deal, and some great stories will no doubt come from it, but, again, how about if we all left our inner Barney Fife behind? At least until the convention is over.

Dear BWA: So, uh, how 'bout that Newt Gingrich? — Weekend Warrior

Dear Weekend: Gingrich's victory in the S.C. Republican primary is the latest example of what we wrote about last week — the power of seriously nasty advertising to sway an election. Newt had one big advantage: the Supreme Court's insane decision that corporations and the super-wealthy can plow millions and more millions into elections, whether they identify themselves or not. Gingrich has a billionaire buddy who bankrolled Newt's B.S. barrage in South Carolina; add in the fact the press wouldn't talk about, namely that S.C. was not about to give the election to a Mormon (Romney), and you could see it coming.

If have a question for BWA, e-mail him at john.grooms@cln.com. If you want to use a nickname, please tell us what it is.

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