Thursday, July 7, 2016
I’ve spent most of the past two weeks at a convention/conference. It’s not dissimilar to any other one – there’s great opportunities to meet other people from around the country who work and have interests in the same field. There’s silly hats, branded clothing and the constant crush of people moving from one event to the next. For those of us who work in the field, it’s a wonderful opportunity to feel important, connected and aligned. In the weeks ahead the political world will hold their quadrennial conventions and we have let the parties take over the airways.
Political conventions for the major parties are critical cogs in the wheel of democracy. Delegates make official the presumptive nominees as their candidates for President and Vice President. While technically true it’s the candidate themselves who choose their running mate and then present it to the delegation for approval. Party platforms are approved though it’s the policies of the nominees which govern what may or may not happen if they’re elected far more than statements of principles in the platform.
For decades these conventions have been designed for television viewers. There’s little controversy and the packaging becomes a four day infomercial for each party. According to The Museum of Broadcasting “Critics allege today's nominating conventions are undemocratic spectacles and propose replacing them with a national presidential primary system. Despite these critiques, convention reform is unlikely. Today's streamlined convention regularly attracts 30% television market shares, providing an audience for television news divisions, political parties and presidential candidates, alike. While television coverage has brought many cosmetic changes to the convention, it has not interfered with its basic functions.”
The GOP convention in Cleveland could provide that convention reform. The Washington Post reports: “ ‘This is not going to be your typical party convention like years past,’ said Trump spokesman Jason Miller. ‘Donald Trump is better suited than just about any candidate in memory to put together a program that’s outside of Washington and can appeal directly to the American people.’”
The article continues quoting the presumptive nominee: “ ‘My children are all going to be speaking: Ivanka, Tiffany, Don, Eric. They’re going to be speaking,’ Trump said Friday during an appearance at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. ‘My wife is going to be speaking at the convention. We’re going to have a great time.’”
On the Democratic side the article states: “Along with Clinton and her eventual vice presidential pick, there are sure to be speeches from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and, of course, the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.”
Some will see a huge difference of Trump having his family speak while Clinton will have elected leaders speak while others may note that she too is having her own family speak.
The divide in the country will continue, but the election goes on.
The official transition into the General Election campaign occurs when the candidates become actual nominees. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be raised, likely more than the $1 billion spent in the 2012 cycle.
The airways are public and it is vital that the nuts and bolts of the convention are covered and seen. The cost of that transparency (which only CSpan actually does) is four days each of free advertising and lots of talking heads and hyperbole. The era of Infotainment continues.