Monday August 27th starts the US Political silly season with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL followed on September 3rd with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. I will be barely paying attention to them as to me they are nothing but an expensive pep rally before the final three months of the campaign. Conventions lost their usefulness years ago and the only solace I have is the broadcast networks won’t be having gavel-to-gavel coverage. I’ve got better things to do.
I rarely agree with David Frum but on this issue I do:
U.S. political conventions are big, expensive, corrupting wastes of time. But they could be saved and made useful again with one simple reform.
Conventions used to have a purpose: choose the party’s candidates for president and vice president. But the last convention at which there was any uncertainty at all was the Republican convention of 1976. The last convention where any decision making took place was the 1960 Democratic convention. The last convention to go beyond a single ballot: the Democratic convention of 1952.
Today, conventions ratify decisions made long ago and in other places. That makes for boring television, so the cameras go searching for other things to cover: gaffes, mistakes, disagreements. The politicians in control of the conventions respond to the gaffe hunt by imposing ever stricter control on every aspect of the show—making the show even more boring and pointless.
The reason conventions don’t mean anything now is due to the massive need for fundraising. Parties have to raise a lot of money a lot sooner so the nominees are usually set by May of the election year.
These political nerd proms cost tax payers large sums for security since the conventions are considered national security events. It also costs the local hosts money to corral all the various protesters miles away so they don’t show up on TV.
It’s like the Olympics but without the action.
The main speeches will all be during the 10 PM hour on the major networks. PBS will be showing gavel-to-gavel coverage and if you don’t want any talking head spin you can watch the convention on C-Span.
I like David Frum’s idea – cut it to one day for all the major speeches and the rest would be on the parties’ dime.