OK, who else is ready for the pep rallies to be over with?
If you’re an unabashed fan of the Republican or Democratic national conventions, my apologies to the three of you. (Anything will have someone who cheers for it – I give you the Oakland Raiders as Exhibit A.) But I suspect I’m not alone on this one. Like most former reporters, I’m something of a political junkie, but when it comes to getting to the end of convention season, my inner 6-year-old starts to wake up, kick the back of the driver’s seat and ask repeatedly “Are we there yet?”
If the conventions served an actual purpose, I could probably forgive some tedium. Life isn’t french fries and ice cream, after all; not everything that’s necessary is going to be fun as well. But I’m having a hard time seeing what the reason could be, other than to demonstrate how a political party can blow through $64 million in a week.
“To choose a presidential candidate?” That ship sailed a long time ago. Thanks to the modern system of primaries and caucuses, the conventions are little more than an expensive rubber stamp for a choice that voters made long ago.
“To introduce the candidate to the nation?” Once upon a time, yes. But we’ve had folks campaigning for over 15 months. If someone has been avoiding the major players for that long, are they really going to tune into two weeks of infomercials now? (The RNC’s mediocre television ratings suggest otherwise.)
“To get a ‘bounce’ for our candidate?” Traditionally, the saturation coverage of a political convention has caused a candidate to gain in the polls as they get promoted and their opponent vilified. But as the political website FiveThirtyEight.com has noted, that effect has gotten smaller over the years and tends to be canceled out quickly now that the parties hold their events right after each other. These days, a bowling ball has more bounce than most national conventions.
“Because we’ve always done it this way?” Pretty much. Never underestimate the power of inertia, especially when it puts on its best clothes and calls itself “tradition” instead.
I’ll grant you, this is $64 million apiece that isn’t being spent on more annoying political ads – or rather, is being spent on one big multi-day commercial that’s announced in advance and easier to avoid. And asking a campaign to not spend money is like asking my dogs to not eat crayons; it’s a good idea, but it’s just not going to happen. So unless we come up with an alternative, canceling the conventions simply means stuffing our mailboxes with more fuel for the fireplace and our phones with more requests for “Just a moment of your time.”’
It’s time for something … well, unconventional. And I have an idea.
A few years back, when Colorado seemed ready to burn itself to the ground, I suggested that both campaigns cancel their conventions and put the money they saved into disaster relief instead. That got a flood of support from readers and about as much attention as you’d expect from the campaigns. But if we revise the plan and give ourselves enough lead time, maybe we can save our sanity in 2020.
Let’s have the campaigns put their money where their mouths are.
You want to see America’s space program revive? Take the time and cash you would have normally spent on a convention and put it into a few school STEM programs instead.
Do you want more attention for Americas’s working poor? Pour your convention budget and volunteers into an area’s local utility relief efforts, or their housing assistance program.
Take that platform and make it more than just words. SHOW us what’s important to you for a week by your actions.
Will it be for the cameras? Of course. Will it be self-serving? Probably. But it’ll get something done and leave a mark in a way that no overhyped balloon drop ever could.
Pep rallies are fun for a little while. But every sports fan knows it’s all about the game.
Let’s get the players on the field and see what they can do.