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Until I recently reread "The 103rd Ballot," a history of the 1924 Democratic National Convention at the old Madison Square Garden in New York City, I'd nearly forgotten how much fun politics used to be.

After an epic battle between Alfred Emmanuel Smith and William Gibbs McAdoo stalemated over nine days of stifling hot convention sessions, the Democrats finally ended their misery by nominating an uninspiring Wall Street lawyer, John W. Davis, who went on to lose decisively to the equally uninspiring, but incumbent Calvin Coolidge.

My father, who was using a crystal radio set to receive the first gavel-to-gavel radio broadcast of a political convention, would long afterward remember the interminable roll-call votes which always began with Alabama casting its "24 votes for OS-car Dub'YOO Un-DER-woooood!," their favorite son.

As now, there were many original aspirants for what was thought likely to be a much more competitive general election campaign. The Republicans appeared to be indelibly stained by the scandals of the Harding administration, and particularly by the sordid attempts of Big Oil to bribe their way into the U.S. Navy's petroleum reserves in California and Wyoming.

The "big D" Democrats have once again been giving the nation a lesson in "small d" democracy.

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At its very best, it's an untidy business - and thankfully so. Neat, efficient and expeditious politics neither enthuses nor inspires nor involves. A good scrap always liberates and energizes the American spirit.

This year's see-saw Democratic nominating season, finally pitting the two survivors of a rich field of good choices, has been loud and messy, exhilarating and free. Nearly every Democrat has had an opportunity to help pick someone to put our poor Humpty Dumpty of a country together again.

In 1924, an economic bubble was still inflating; no such luck for McCain in 2008.

John Jordan Moore

Bloomington

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