Politics

Why Political Conventions Still Matter

Important business will go down in Tampa and Charlotte. You just won’t be able to see it.

The made-for-television national political conventions have become increasingly boring and long spectacles. But these carefully choreographed productions remain hugely important to the parties and their candidates.

The reason: What goes on in the back rooms, well out of sight of the television audience, matters most to the success of a campaign. That's where top campaign operatives and interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, labor and the Chamber of Commerce outline their endgame strategies and glad-hand the fat cats who write big checks to the campaigns, super PACS and political parties.

They share secret information on a need-to-know basis with some state organizers and operatives, but they make every word to loyal foot soldiers sound as if it is the most important thing they will hear all week. It's a time-tested ploy that pumps up the troops and makes them feel as if they have a foot inside the campaign war rooms.

The message to big donors is different. They're warned of doom and potential failure if they don't pony up more cash and urge their friends to do the same. The campaigns warn that their candidates will be outspent and outgunned if they don't get a fresh set of checks ASAP and that they won't be able to do the bidding of the special interests if they lose the elections.

The conventions are scheduled as late in the summer as possible to officially kick off the fall campaign season with momentum. The Democratic bash in Charlotte, N.C., for example, will stretch beyond Labor Day this year.

The late events give the parties a better chance to keep faithful followers engaged. They are the people who will make thousands of phone calls on behalf of their candidates, knock on doors, pass out literature, register new voters, solicit donations, fill the seats at rallies and drive others of like mind to the polls.

If there is a real narrative to follow this year, it's not what will happen, but rather who isn't going. With each passing week, an unprecedented number of GOP and Democratic candidates announce that they'll skip the parties in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte and stay home to campaign. These candidates market their truancy as a badge of honor, telling voters they would rather be with them than rub elbows with the party machinery.

Others aren't there because they're not wanted. Former President George W. Bush is a good example. With President Obama's campaign painting GOP candidate Mitt Romney as an unflattering throwback to the Bush era, Bush's decision to stay home was welcome, but calculated, news for GOP organizers. Sure, Bush was invited, but the Romney campaign was aware that he wouldn't accept. Like the rest of the convention, it was part of the script.

So, barring a surprise such as a truly spontaneous protest from supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the conventions will be virtually news free.

This isn't to say that the conventions should be eliminated. But it might be time to consider limiting them to two or three days. Without question, a candidate's acceptance speech is critical to setting the tone for the final two months of the campaign. The keynote address and nominating speech should be part of the process, too.

Beyond that, there seems to be a lot of room for slimming down the process.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
Resist the Impulse to Buy These 14 Holiday Gifts
shopping

Resist the Impulse to Buy These 14 Holiday Gifts

Don't let those holiday sale promotions persuade you into buying something now that will be much cheaper later.
November 18, 2021
The Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio: All 41 Warren Buffett Stocks Ranked
stocks

The Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio: All 41 Warren Buffett Stocks Ranked

The Berkshire Hathaway portfolio is a diverse set of blue chips, and increasingly, lesser-known growth bets. Here's a look at every stock picked by Wa…
November 16, 2021

Recommended

The Biden Tax Plan: How the Build Back Better Act Could Affect Your Tax Bill
Politics

The Biden Tax Plan: How the Build Back Better Act Could Affect Your Tax Bill

Depending on your income, the Build Back Better Act recently passed by the House could boost or cut your future tax bills.
November 22, 2021
Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors
Economic Forecasts

Business Cost Outlooks for 2022: Eight Key Sectors

What’s in store for all sorts of business costs in 2022?
October 12, 2021
The Most Expensive Natural Disasters in U.S. History
Economic Forecasts

The Most Expensive Natural Disasters in U.S. History

Wind, water, fire and drought have all wreaked havoc on the United States. What’s been the worst?
July 1, 2021
3 Reasons Not to Fear the Biden Tax Hikes
Politics

3 Reasons Not to Fear the Biden Tax Hikes

A lot of people are getting all worked up over President Biden's plan to raise taxes. Here are some reasons to chill.
May 3, 2021