Last night, I participated in a “Google Hangout” with Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza, Nia-Malika Henderson and Amy Gardner.
At the end of our segment, Cillizza asked the panel whether this will be “the end of conventions as we’ve known them for decades?” With the exception of Gardner (who noted that President Obama used the 2008 convention “as a massive organizing tool”), the consensus was that it’s time to rethink the way we do conventions.
Because the GOP convention went from four days to three days (without anyone really minding), this seems to have become a hot topic of discussion.
Tom Brokaw probably struck first, proclaiming at the New York Times: “Let’s face it, modern political conventions have become extravagant infomercials staged in a setting deliberately designed to seal them off from any intrusion not scrubbed and sanitized.” And he’s not alone in feeling this way.
Over at The Week, Ed Morrissey argued that conventions should go the way of the dodo :
Conventions are an anachronistic throwback to not-so-good old days of party bosses choosing candidates, garner little interest, and make little impact. The question isn’t whether the Republican Party should contract its schedule to one, two, or three nights, or whether Democrats should do the same. It’s why we bother to hold these events at all anymore when the nominees are certain, and why both parties spend tens of millions of dollars on such a useless effort.
On the other hand, while the Atlantic‘s Molly Ball conceded that “the conventions appear to be a relic and a formality,” she also noted that they still have some useful purposes. For example, they provide a platform to introduce tomorrow’s stars:
Then-state legislator Barack Obama’s 2004 convention keynote catapulted him to national political stardom. Vicepresidential nominee Sarah Palin’s 2008 speech, in which she inserted an ad-lib line about hockey moms, pit bulls, and lipstick, created a sensation and presaged her role as a hard-charging provocateur. This year, Republican up-and-comers such as Chris Christie, who will deliver the keynote; Marco Rubio, who is slated to introduce Romney; and a host of lesser-knowns will be hoping to make an impression. If history is any guide, by the time the confetti has fallen and the balloons have been dropped from the ceiling, there will be a new name on the lips of the political world.
Clearly there are important reasons to have some form of a party “convention.” But do we need four days of it?