Un-Conventional Thinking

What could you get for $114 million?

Granted, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. But it still makes for an impressive shopping list.

You could pay for every home and building  lost to wildfires in Larimer County twice over. Or every home lost in the Waldo Canyon fire once.

You could buy three new Frederick High Schools with all the fixings.

With that kind of money, you might even be able to roll out fiber-optic service across Longmont AND redevelop the Twin Peaks Mall.

Or – wait for it – you could pay for two national political conventions.


Granted, I still don’t have the price sheets for this year. But in 2008, that’s what it cost to put on the Democratic and Republican national conventions, in Denver and Minneapolis respectively. A $114 million bill for, basically, two week-long political commercials.

Anyone feel that was money well spent?

OK, OK, maybe the chambers of commerce in those two cities would. Big conventions always make a splash in hotel spending and restaurant spending and local promotion. I get that. But leaving out the ripple effects – which often get debated for any big event – what did we actually get for that money?

We got to hear them announce the nomination of Barack Obama and John McCain. Which we already knew about anyway, even if Hillary Clinton did put up a fight until almost the end.

We got to hear a lot of speeches, most of which we probably couldn’t quote right now without a quick check on Google and YouTube.

We got the official platforms for each party, which typically get less attention than a five-day weather forecast and probably have less predictive power.

Oh, and we got to see a brief “bounce” in the polls for each presidential candidate. That’s nice, I guess.

The fact is, modern politics have made the national convention a ceremony without a function,a party-wide pep rally that even the networks feel less and less responsibility to cover anymore.

That’s a little sad.

It wasn’t always this way. Nominating conventions used to be the proverbial back room, the place where delegates would shout and bargain and deal to decide the man at the top of the ticket. In 1924, it took 103 ballots for the Democrats to nominate John W. Davis (who got thumped by Calvin Coolidge). As late as 1968, it was still possible for someone to win the nomination who hadn’t carried a single presidential primary.

They could be tense. Exciting. Not necessarily representative, mind you. But full of drama.

Now they’re about as predictable as a Gilligan’s Island rerun.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It means the caucuses and primaries can actually mean something, that your voice and your vote really can be part of the process of picking a political champion instead of just being a commodity to be traded away for who-knows-what from who-knows-where.

But it does leave the convention without a real purpose. Other than being a chance to party and see the latest in Darth Vader gear on the local police.

We can do better. And we should.

Here’s a thought. Make it a one-day rally, centered on the candidate’s acknowledgment speech. Loose the balloons, shout the slogans, give your man or woman their time in the spotlight.

And then take the dollars that would have been spent on the larger political orgy and donate them somewhere. Anywhere. Cancer research, wildfire victims, space travel. Buy Girl Scout cookies with them if you must.

Deeds speak louder than words. And seeing where a party chose to give its “convention grant” just might say more than any political platform ever written.

Think about it. Please.

One hundred and fourteen million dollars. Not bad. There’s a lot that could do.

All it needs is someone willing to break with convention.

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