PHILADELPHIA — America’s political conventions should last for two days each at the very most. And they should happen in the fall.
As I mentioned yesterday, it is hot here, and all the journalists are tired and miserable. I generally like—or at least do not actively dislike—both liberal politics and the city of Philadelphia, and yet, this week, I hate both of those things. It doesn’t have to be this way. I believe in a better future for our children (bloggers): short conventions held at a reasonable time of year, when it is nice out.
There’s no reason for conventions to still take four days. These things are only four days long because they have been fours days long for many years. They have remained four days long, decades after the era of the contested convention, mostly because the parties enjoy getting lots of free television airtime.
But the networks barely cover these things live anymore. Even cable news interrupts half of the prime-time remarks with panel discussions featuring the same pundits who would be talking about politics on cable news even if there weren’t a convention happening. The parties may think they are better off with longer conventions than shorter ones, but I think they are wrong, and also I don’t care what they want anyway. Did I mention how hot it is?
Two days is more than enough time to adopt a party platform and officially nominate a candidate. Two nights is enough time for four major addresses: The nominee, the running mate, and then two other people who will probably be current or former presidents, or perhaps the nominee’s spouse or other close family member. All the state representatives and mayors and small-state governors who want to talk can talk during the days. We could stretch it to three prime-time speeches a night if the parties want to highlight a couple unknown rising stars, but that’s it. That’s all anyone needs. What would we be missing exactly? Eric Trump and Demi Lovato?
My proposal would also save journalism, or at least cut down on travel expenses.
I’m concerned I haven’t emphasized enough how hot it is, and how miserable I am. Conventions shouldn’t happen at the absolute peak of summer. I’ll be honest, this part of the proposal is mostly about how I really hate walking around in 100-degree weather, but there is also a public good argument to be made for moving them. Holding them in April or May would get these damn things over with and let the general election get underway, but if we’re dreaming big here I’d rather they be held in late September—or even October!—as part of a move to radically shorten the entire campaign cycle. Under my proposal, any state that holds a primary or caucus—actually, fuck it, if we’re doing this I’m also banning caucuses—before June should be penalized by having all their delegates sent to Philadelphia in late July. What I’m trying to tell you is that it’s very hot.
Unlike my bold plan to make these things two days long, which no one could possibly object to unless they are Andrew Cuomo and they were excited to give a big speech this week, this proposal might engender some good-faith opposition. As horrible as our two-year-long election cycle is, the length of it does have a few advantages, like giving insurgent candidates time to develop serious challenges to bigger, better-funded names. That is how we got Obama instead of Clinton!
But also most of the time that doesn’t actually work, as John Edwards, Bill Bradley, and Howard Dean could tell you. Also all three of those guys basically sucked anyway, and in the case of Edwards not even the lengthy 2004 campaign cycle was enough time for the full magnitude of his sucking to be reported out.
Finally, should the conventions really be held in different cities every time? I have previously argued that the Olympics and the Super Bowl and the World Cup should all be held in the same place every time, in venues designed solely to host those events, in regions where they will not disrupt normal city life and force massive public spending on boondoggle facilities. Political conventions, with their massive security and the effective week-long suspension of various civil rights within and near the huge security perimeters, are sort of similar. But they generally don’t require the construction of any new infrastructure, if they were only two days long it would be much easier on the host cities, so I’m inclined to let the parties continue moving them around. But within reason: They should be held in places where two days of convention proceedings would not hugely negatively impact the lives of actual residents of the city, and also they should be held in cities with places to eat a decent inexpensive lunch near the arena that isn’t a fucking Aramark vendor in a tent selling $4.50 bottles of water when it’s 104 fucking degrees out.
This is my platform. Please vote your conscience.