National political conventions ain’t what they used to be.
Once upon a time, they were events where deals were cut that made or broke careers, fights broke out and factions struggled for control of the party’s soul. The switch to a reliance on primaries and caucuses to select delegates pledged to particular candidates pretty much precludes suspense.
Conventions have become coronations. Mitt Romney sewed up the Republican nomination long before Tropical Storm Isaac was named, much less threatened to swamp Tampa before turning toward Louisiana and growing into a hurricane. And there was never any doubt President Barack Obama would be the Democrats’ nominee. ...
Conventions used to be like carnivals; now they resemble infomercials. And their predictability is bipartisan.
It wasn’t always this way.
GOP delegate and former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party Susan Richardson Williams of Knoxville recalls going to the 1964 GOP convention in San Francisco. On the convention floor, conservatives backing Barry Goldwater battled with moderates supporting Nelson Rockefeller for the GOP nomination. Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton launched his own bid for the nomination but came up short.
It was “a really raucous convention,” Williams told the News Sentinel, and “literally what you would think of as smoke-filled convention rooms and halls. People were lobbying delegates for their votes.”
The contrast between that contentious convocation and this year’s precision-tuned affairs is striking, and shows that conventions have become anachronisms. Not only are the nominations a foregone conclusion, but the development of party platforms is an exercise in irrelevancy. The winner will rip out inconvenient platform planks at will. ...
Conventions have become pep rallies. There is value in that to both parties — energizing party loyalists to sway undecided voters during the final push to Election Day could make a difference in a close race — but the value diminishes every four years.