Dispatches From the Republican National Convention

What To Make of This Week’s Political Conversions?
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Aug. 28 2012 5:02 PM

Dispatches From the Republican National Convention

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Journalists take your seats: The view from stage-left.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Good afternoon, fellas.

I've just taken my seat inside the convention hall for the first time. For your navigational needs, the Slate seat on the writing platform is in Section 106, located between Salon and Yahoo Español. For home viewers, we're off in the third section of laptop jockeys off to stage-left, up behind the Kansas delegation. We'll do our best to respectably represent Slate in panoramic tracking shots.

For all the press will obsess over staging in the next three days, the vagaries of our seating arrangements mean that none of the journalists in the hall can actually see the stage in its entirety from our seats. We're looking at speakers in profile from over their left shoulder. We can't see the backdrop of screens behind them, and only a tranche of the après-ski furnishings that John found so fetching.

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While we're dwelling on aesthetics, I was wondering if you guys had ideas about how to most artfully pull off the role of convention-week apostate. I got to wondering about this because the daily joint magazine of the Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner (a publishing model apparently sustained by ads for Liberty University, Weekly Standard cruises, and the new Dinesh D'Souza theatrical) ran back-to-back pieces today on former Democrat Artur Davis and former Republican Charlie Crist.  

Sasha Issenberg Sasha Issenberg

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

Naturally, the Standard interprets Davis' role at the convention as affirmation of the notion that "it's OK to have changed your mind about Obama." Crist's recent endorsement of Obama, however, is interpreted with no such benefit of the doubt: The piece about him is headlined "The Turncoat. "As hard as it is to stand on principle," David Freddoso writes, "It's a much harder political world for someone who doesn't believe in anything."

Neither Davis nor Crist has sold me on any kind of convincing conversion narrative, which makes situational opportunism the most plausible explanation for how and why they switched sides when they did. But it's gotten me wondering: Could either of these guys say anything now that made their conversion seem less than craven? What's the right way to pull off election-season apostasy? 

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