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banner Friday, 4 August, 2000, 01:13 GMT 02:13 UK
Who's watching the Convention?

By the BBC's Gordon Corera in Philadelphia

George W Bush's speech marks the crescendo of the four-day Republican Convention, replete with all the razmatazz that American politics can offer - and that's a lot.

Bands, balloons and banners festoon the First Union Centre and inside, people have been fighting over the much sought-after gold passes that get you onto the floor.

But while excitement has built here in the small section of south Philadelphia where the Republicans and media have converged, the real question is whether anyone else is paying any attention.

Talking to natives of Philadelphia unconnected with the Convention, interest seemed decidedly limited.

One told me that the highlight so far had been when 'The Rock' - a popular wrestler - made an appearance on stage and this was at least as interesting to her as Bush's speech.

And as the conventions become more stage managed, the media also decides there is less of a story.

New kids

On the opening night, NBC didn't bother with anything at all from here while ABC scheduled it around a football game - and you can guess what people tuned in for.

The networks are leaving more and more of the coverage to cable channels or the new kids on the block - the internet who are here in droves.

All of this means that what was once a seminal act in American politics has become something of a sideshow - mainly the focus of political junkies.

Less than half the American public bothered to vote in the last election - and participation is lowest amongst young people.

The Republicans have been trying their best to be trendy and appeal to the youth vote but, as ever with politicians, it normally ends up being faintly embarrassing.

Alternative view

The place you see the most young people in Philadelphia is at the Shadow Convention - an alternative gathering being held a few miles from the official party.

Organised by Arianna Huffington, a former Republican-turned-independent, and funded by George Soros, the idea is to talk about issues that the main parties won't talk about - drugs, campaign finance reform and poverty.

Ralph Nader, presidential candidate for the Green party, made a brief appearance at the Shadow Convention and young activists swarmed around him listening to him accuse both main parties of being the captives of corporate money.

The example of the Shadow Convention shows that young people may not necessarily be turned off by politics, it may be more that they are turned off by the type of glitzy, big money affairs that the conventions, and American politics in the wider sense, have become.

Until that changes, the parties may well struggle to excite America's youth.

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | Election news
On the party circuit
01 Aug 00 | Election news
Bush's bumpy centre ground
01 Aug 00 | Election news
The two faces of Philadelphia
29 Jul 00 | Election news
Choreographing the convention
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