The flash commanded immediate attention, filling the bay window for a dazzling instant. And then came the signature.
If you were in Longmont on Friday evening, you know exactly what I’m talking about – a window-rattling, house-shaking thunder burst fit for a Beethoven video. The sort of close strike that makes you wonder what just blew up, or when the invasion began.
I gave a nervous glance to my front yard maple tree – untouched, thank goodness – and to social media, which was lighting up even faster than the sky had. But the skies themselves had other business; with their Big Boom out of the way, the agenda had moved on to a gentle rain rather than an extended battle.
Which in turn meant peace in Chez Rochat. Our mighty dog Big Blake, known to cower under desks on the Fourth of July, was on to his usual food-swiping and eye-begging ways within moments. Our disabled ward Missy, who jumps and yells at the sound of a backfiring motorcycle, kept rocking out to the tunes on her stereo.
There had been plenty of buzz. Lots of chatter. But no lasting effect.
This time of year, that seems especially appropriate.
Right at the close of convention season.
I spent 16 years as a newspaper reporter, most of it covering governments of one kind or another. I used to joke that it was a lot like following a soap opera: when you first sit down, the actions seems utterly incomprehensible, but over time it becomes addictive as you start to understand the characters and the plots.
Even so, I never saw the point of a national convention. To torture the metaphor a little further, it always felt like a “sweeps week” – a chance to juice the ratings and draw in some casual fans with a gimmicky plot that had little relation to the rest of the season.
Granted, that’s a recent thing. Once upon a time, the national party conventions were the ultimate bargaining table. History could be made with a quick deal that swung enough delegates behind your candidate. A potential president might emerge to find half his cabinet already filled from backroom promises or standing on a party platform with a few curious planks to bring in the stragglers.
These days, thanks to the greater weight of primary elections, everyone knows who the major-party nominees will be long before Day 1 of either convention. The event is no longer a bargaining session – it’s a week-long ad meant to generate a “bump” in the polls. And with one convention following hard on the heels of the other, the bumps have been getting smaller and shorter-lived.
It’s a thunder burst. Flashy. Noisy. But not really good for anything except a moment’s brief attention.
The lasting work in any storm comes from the rain. The sustained effort that actually grows something.
That’s where we come in.
Elections don’t need conventions. But they do need informed voters. Individuals who pay attention for longer than a few speeches and sound bites. Citizens who care not just about who wins, but about where we’re going and why.
Grass needs rain. Democracy needs us.
I know, it sounds idealistic. It always has. But if enough of us dedicate ourselves to repairing what’s broken and even building something better, a difference can be made. Not easily. Not without a struggle. But not without hope, either.
The rumbles have died down. The flash has left the sky. But the real work is still ahead. Our work.
It’s time for us to take our part in the storm.
Long may we rain.