There is something that nags about the conventions. Why? Here are some thoughts, not necessarily in order of importance. Balloon and button makers take note.
Conventions are irrelevant. Before the widespread system of primaries, delegates to national conventions actually picked the candidates. Now conventions are coronations. The closest thing to an actual decision related to the Democratic platform. Party leadership was concerned that the omission of references to God and to moving the Israeli capital to Jerusalem (or at least relocating our embassy) would rile key voter groups. Motions to amend the platform were made, and the amendments required two-thirds approval. Voice votes involving thousands of people — many of whom might not even have been delegates — are, at best, an imperfect science. The acting chair tried several times to achieve a clear mandate but failing that, declared the amendments passed anyway. An iPhone decibel meter app would have reached the opposite conclusion.
Platforms are irrelevant. Theoretically, the platforms should define what the parties stand for, but this is no longer the case either. Like mentions in the State of the Union address, planks in the party platforms are merely red meat to the faithful or sops to the unruly. It does not appear that either party stands for anything other than obtaining a majority. A graphic depiction of the evolution of the positions of the two parties would resemble a double helix, giving new meaning to “I was for it before I was against it.”
Conventions are expensive. The $136 million contributed by the federal government is merely an ante toward the overall cost. The rest is made up by contributions in excess of $50 million each from those who fully expect a return on their investment. Since parties choose candidates, they too must be watered and fed.
Conventions don’t matter to voters. Older readers will recognize the words “gavel-to-gavel coverage” but most think of the conventions as three-hour events. Everything that occurs before 10 PM is for the party faithful, while each nightly hour on television tries to find favor with the undecided, if any are watching.
Conventions are for the sales people. The delegates themselves are the salespeople who have bested their peers and been rewarded with the chance to schmooze with the top brass. They are being sucked up to in the hope they will be energized to go home and do whatever management wants them to do. Sadly, the political salespeople have not learned an important lesson from the private sector. Management hates them. They are necessary evils with whom to spend as little time as possible.
Conventions highlight the tawdry relationship between the political parties and the news media. They are at best an expense item for most major outlets with no hope of selling enough advertising to break even. Some of the journalists are nothing more than shills for their favorite brand and they are rewarded with talking points to fill their stories or TV news blocks. Even the unbiased journalists (or those whose brands require them to appear unbiased) spend most of their time discussing the presidential horse race rather than the policy outcomes that are likely to result from one decision or the other.
Conventions are a lie. If there were a growth industry in this economy, it should be fact checkers. The work is not difficult. All that is required is a working knowledge of English and a facility with Google. Surely, all of the recent college graduates who are unable to find jobs should be able to become fact checkers. But fact checking is not a growth industry because over 90% of the voters don’t care. Whatever a candidate says can be justified either as revving up the base or on the basis that the other guy is doing worse.
Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction by a two to one margin. The Congress does worse with only one in seven approving. The President polls less than half though more approve than not.
Sometimes a symbol can be a good thing and, if there is anyone responsible leading either party, they might well consider doing away with conventions that have long since outlived their usefulness.
How many uncommitted balloon and button makers can there be?