Lyons: Now we await the declaration of Independents

After tonight, the lights in convention centers in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., are finally out, and I can’t help but imagine a cartoon version of Carol Burnett sweeping the confetti from the stages.

Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood is still talking to a chair that Joe Biden believes the GOP has chained to the floor.

OK, so maybe I’m more irritable than most, but I’m not a big fan of convention season. As an American, a journalist and a voter, I watch the key convention speeches and grumble from the couch with bipartisan bitterness. But I’ll watch President Barack Obama’s speech tonight just as I watched Mitt Romney’s with the jaundiced eye of a man who watches politicians professionally.

I’d say watching conventions is like eating your vegetables, but that’s not true. If you’re a party loyalist, it’s more like eating cotton candy as an appetizer followed by an entree of birthday cake and ice cream, which explains why blind party ideologues develop a form of mental diabetes that convention season exacerbates.

At some point before I was old enough to pay them much mind, party conventions had some actual relevance. They were always on the theatrical side, but the increase in TV news coverage has turned them into “America’s Got Talent.”

If it were responsible to do so, I’d avoid these carefully staged, helium-laden events like I avoid Chuck E. Cheese. And will someone please stop putting quarters into the James Carville machine? He just chucked an entire 12-slice Super Combo at David Gergen.

We should watch to get at least a glimpse of the nation’s leaders or future leaders in the big spotlight. President Obama wouldn’t be president today if he didn’t shine on this stage in 2004. And at least we get a notion of where these campaigns are heading, although little else.

Does anyone assume that a first lady not named Hillary Rodham Clinton or potential first lady doesn’t love her husband or believe that she’s prepared to share on a national stage how his inability to fix the garage door opener doesn’t bode well for his aptitude for brokering international trade agreements?

Most convention speeches are designed to appease people who lack the self-awareness required not to wear ridiculous hats in public with scripted emotional responses normally reserved for “The Bachelorette.”

The most interesting part of the speeches from the candidates themselves are the lines flung toward Independent voters.

Romney had a few, and obviously Obama will have some of his own if he wishes to continue to reside on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The secret to success in presidential politics resides in the minds of Independent voters. There will always be those who vote Democrat or Republican no matter what kind of characters grace the stage, although the fervor of those throngs ebbs and flows so they can’t entirely be taken for granted.

While still a great nation, the U.S. has plenty of economic problems – some of which began with a Republican administration and others that continued under a Democratic one. Real answers rarely fall along party lines. Even when they do, they are often trampled by partisan gridlock.

So if you aren’t a single-issue voter or don’t wear partisan colors like a street gang member, the end of convention season is where your real campaign season begins.

The good news is that there’s plenty of time to focus on what matters before Nov. 6.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at

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