Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Voice From The Sewer

William Safire sketches out a plausible route leading to a brokered Democratic convention in today's column, a column that uses the term "voice from the sewer." I confess that I had not seen this phrase before, but it's a beaut. Here's the explanation:

Conventions have also served the function of building enthusiasm for the party’s candidates, and even before the advent of television, sometimes this enthusiasm was not entirely spontaneous. At the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1940, a message from President Franklin Roosevelt was read indicating that the president had no desire to be nominated for an unprecedented third term. The delegates were stunned, but soon a “We want Roosevelt” chant began that lasted for forty-five minutes, leaving Roosevelt no choice but to accept the nomination. This demonstration did not begin on its own. Chicago’s superintendent of sewers had rigged a microphone into the arena’s public address system and started the chant immediately after Roosevelt’s statement was read. This went down in history as the “voice from the sewer.”

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