Conventions are a Waste of Time – and Money

I watched the red, white and blue balloons showering down on delegates as the Republican convention in Tampa climaxed last week, and I wondered how much they cost. What a waste, I thought. How could they find the money for all those balloons when so many American children are going hungry?

OK, so I am no fun. Just an old grouch.

Life is more than bread and butter, isn’t it?

But, even so, don’t you think it’s time to reconsider the value of those conventions? What did the one in Tampa achieve? Apparently not much. One justification for the conventions is the exposure it gives politicians – on TV, on the internet, in the press. The expectation is that the party’s presidential candidate will get a big boost in the polls.

Now, the pundits are saying it didn’t happen. Not with the Republican convention, anyway.  We’ll have to see what the Democratic convention, which opened in Charlotte, NC, today, does.

I bet it isn’t going to give President Obama a big boost. After all, what’s to watch? Where’s the suspense? We know who’s going to be nominated, don’t we?

And we, the faithful, know pretty much what everyone will say. But, of course, we will dutifully, even reverently, applaud the ringing rhetoric and revel in the eye-candy pageantry. And we will vote for the Democrats. Again.

But wouldn’t we have voted for them anyway?

You betcha!

I imagine diehard Republicans are the same. Nothing Barack Obama, or any other Democrat, says in Charlotte this week is going to change their minds.

There was a time when conventions were big news.  And they had some promotional clout. Steve Kornacki reminds us in today that “Michael Dukakis famously walked away from Atlanta with a 17-point lead in 1988, and Bill Clinton literally doubled his support — from 28 percent to 56 percent – in one national poll after his party’s gathering in 1992.”

But things have changed.

Kornacki reports that polls show Mitt Romney got a negligible “bounce” from last week’s shindig. “Overall, the Real Clear Politics average shows Obama ahead by 0.1 points,” he points out.

He suggests that:

Maybe we’re entering a new, more polarized and less fluid era of politics, one in which most voters know what side they’re on and aren’t as likely to shift back and forth between the parties as they used to be.

And he adds:

There’s a lot to be said for this, since both parties are more clearly defined ideologically, demographically and geographically than they were a generation or two ago. The liberal northern wing of the GOP is essentially extinct, and the conservative southern wing of the Democratic Party is heading that way. This seems to be filtering down to voters, who are increasingly unlikely to split their tickets on Election Day.

I don’t see any “maybe” about it. I read or heard that the vast majority of voters already have decided who to vote for. I think it was something like 43 percent for Obama and 43 percent for Romney. That leaves 14 percent undecided (if my math can be trusted). And I doubt those folks watch party conventions on TV. I wonder how many of them even know who the candidates are.

Reaching those undecided voters will be challenging. I bet they’re so turned off by the conflicting “facts” and the gridlock in Congress that they tuned out long ago. I wouldn’t want to be one of the party strategists trying to figure out how to win this one.

But surely there are better ways to deploy their resources than buying balloons?

Click here to read Kornacki’s article.