‘Reagan!’ ‘Olé!’

On the floor of the convention, I was introduced to a guy who’ll be speaking later this week. He isn’t in politics, he has never spoken to a convention, and what he is afraid of is this: He’ll be up there trying to speak, and the crowd will be bopping a big beach ball back and forth. I told him that’s OK if it happens, it sort of takes pressure off him in a way, some people will see his predicament and root for him, and he can sort of calm the crowd down by just being . . . calm, and telling them things it will be helpful for them to hear. I forgot to say: They won’t be bopping a big beach ball across the floor, they’ve done that in the past but between speakers, or before the show begins.

Afterward, a memory. The 1976 GOP convention, the Republican Party torn in two over Ford and Reagan. Before the speaking began, the California delegation was feeling frisky. Hundreds of delegates started to chant: “RAY-GUNNN!” And the New Mexico delegation would pause a beat and then answer: “Olé!” They kept it up—“Reagan!” “Olé!” Across the floor the New York delegation steamed. They were for Ford. So the next time the Californians bellowed “Reagan,” the New Yorkers, hundreds of them, bellowed back, “Oy vey!” And that went on for a while, too.

That story was told to me by Dick Rosenbaum, head then of the New York GOP. Thinking of it made me remember: the Republican Party has weathered a lot of storms. It has been broken in two and forced, over years, to reheal.