- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — The Republican National Convention is being run not only by a script, but by a score.

Like the Democrats before them, Republicans have set their politics to music, a relentlessly upbeat symphony of familiar rah-rah songs meant to keep the hall pulsing with energy, viewers awake, and gaps in the speechfest filled with sounds and images of a party trying to appeal to all tastes, ethnic groups and voting ages.

There’s gospel. There’s rock with a Christian twist. Frank Sinatra songs and Broadway show tunes helped raise the curtain.

And no Republican convention would be complete without country. The Gatlin Brothers started it all off on opening night by singing the anthem; young Republicans rocked Wednesday night to Brooks and Dunn’s screaming re-creation of Jimi Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Organizers have characterized the offerings as “preachers and patriotism.” As with the Democrats in Boston, the convention proper is featuring acts not likely to offend delegates, with edgier performers taking the stage at other venues.

Kid Rock was the hot act Wednesday night, performing at the Avalon a dozen blocks away in a concert honoring the House speaker, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, in one of the convention’s most improbable pairings.

At Madison Square Garden, the convention was hearing at the same time from keynoter Sen. Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat who supports President Bush and recently attacked the “ignoramus” rocker for a Super Bowl performance in which he wore a poncho that looked like a U.S. flag with a hole cut in it for his head.

He suggested that Kid Rock “be tarred and feathered and ridden out of this country on a rail.” Instead, Kid Rock performed at an event sponsored by corporate and interest groups, including the National Rifle Association.

Music has been a convention tradition for ages, once designed to liven up proceedings for delegates who had real business to do — now part of a glossy, choreographed package to entertain the crowd and serve the party’s message.

Minstrels played for conventioneers who met in Chicago in 1860 to nominate Abraham Lincoln. “Happy Days Are Here Again,” with lyrics penned by Jack Yellen, a Republican, became Franklin D. Roosevelt’s theme song in 1932 and a staple at Democratic conventions for decades.

Bill Clinton opted for a rock ‘n’ roll theme song in 1992. The Fleetwood Mac song “Don’t Stop” became an anthem for Mr. Clinton’s candidacy as he won over legions of young voters and defeated Mr. Bush’s father.

In 2000, Ricky Martin’s Latino beat enlivened the Republican convention and fit neatly into Mr. Bush’s courtship of Hispanic voters.

Specific songs fit exact moments. The song “Knock on Wood” played this week when the convention roll call officially made Mr. Bush the nominee. The song’s title is supposed to be a good-luck charm, and Republicans hope that will be the case in this close presidential race.

When the president left a Columbus, Ohio, arena Wednesday to come to the convention, Sinatra’s “New York, New York” rang out as he shook the last hands along the rope line.

“It’s almost like a subliminal message because it’s not a main part of the program, but it’s there,” said Eugene Alpert, an authority on the national conventions. He said that the conventions have become like telethons — political commercials interspersed with musical acts.

Democrats usually have access to bigger stars, given the liberal tendencies of entertainers outside the realm of country and western music.

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