National political party conventions filled with last minute deal-making and contentious debates over partisan ideologies may now be a thing of the past, to be replaced by mere pep rallies offering feel-good get-togethers and plenty of fund raising opportunities.
In the Republican National Convention, which ended yesterday, George W. Bush’s campaign successfully kept the more contraversial right-wing elements of his party off-stage, an attempt to emphasize his moderate message of inclusiveness. Relatively few people, however, decided to tune in for the carefully crafted festivities.
Despite the successes of similarly contrived reality-based television shows like “Survivor” and “Big Brother” in drawing sizable audiences, the Republican National Convention did poorly garnering ratings.
Only 5.9 million people were watching ABC’s convention coverage between 10 and 11 p.m., compared with the 10.1 million viewers who tuned in to a rerun of NBC’s lukewarm “Third Watch,” according to Nielson Media Research. CNN drew only 1.2 million viewers during its three hours of coverage.
Newspapers like The New York Times and news analysts such as National Public Radio’s Daniel Schorr — who refused to even make the trip — have ridiculed the Grand Old Party’s convention as purely a public relations event. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Journal devoted some of its convention coverage to humorously deciding which party will throw the “best bash.”
Although Democrats scored high for their popular musical choices: Sheryl Crow, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Enrique Iglesias and Los Lobos, Republicans did equally well by choosing predominantly traditional American fare. While Democrats will be eating smoked duck and lobster empanadas, Republican convention goers will be consuming beer and pretzels, fried alligator, buffalo wings and philly cheesesteaks.
But with the purpose of the primary — picking the party’s presidential candidate — having all but been decided months ago, it seems that Democrats and Republicans simply hope to out-party one another.
Some Republicans, however, want to change when states can run their primaries, so that presidential nominations are not secured five months before the national convention. And for a moment, it appeared as if Republican committee members liked the idea of returning some drama to their conventions. But George W. Bush, well aware of the consequences of such an alteration if the Democrats do not do likewise, let it be known just before the final committee vote of his displeasure with the motion, essentially killing the proposal, which found overwhelming support in preliminary votes.
The plan would have put restrictions on how early each state can host their primaries depending upon their size, or number of delegates. So, small states like North Dakota and Delaware with few delgates would be among the first, and states like California and New York would be held just before the national convention. Then, proponents argue, every vote would count, unlike this year when Republicans and Democrats knew who their presidential candidates would be before most of them had voted.