Someone just wasted a lot of money.
But then it’s not just the money that's wasted, is it? When I looked at the faces in the convention crowd, I didn't see Republicans and Democrats, Northerners and Southerners, delegates and super-delegates. Instead, I saw tens of thousands of roundtrip airfares and as many or more rental cars. And for what?
Originally intended to facilitate the choice of a candidate by delegates from far-flung states, these conventions have evolved into something entirely other, but, nevertheless wholly American: A product launch.
The major political parties can no longer afford to indulge in the messy, unpredictable nominating conventions of the past. The election cycle has elongated while the news cycle has collapsed on itself. Like celebrities and big corporations, politicians have got to manage their brands. And that means driving news coverage. A successful convention does that.
While it might be good for business, it's a bad model for the 21st century.
Last year, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) in the U.K. came to the Carnegie Council for a discussion of Climate Change and the Green Economy. He made several points, but the one that stuck with me related to business travel.
I was just thinking on the way over here, sitting in a business class absolutely filled with business people – all exhausted, all away from their families, all going to business meetings. When is this going to stop? Of course the reason it can’t stop is if you are pitching for a contract and there are five of you competing, and four of you fly, and one of you tries to do it remotely, then you’re going to lose. When is business going to get to the stage where they say, “Actually, we only want to talk to people virtually.”Both the Democrats and the Republicans tried to sell their conventions as "the greenest convention ever." But that is just preposterous. A green convention would be one where all the delegates stayed home, watched the speeches on YouTube, and cast their votes via secure online connections. Seems like it would be easy to do.
Unfortunately, if one party tries it and it flops, then like the business travellers in Taylor's example the other will feast on that failure.
I know somebody has to lose. But do they have to waste so much doing it?