Getting the Deliberation Out of the Way

I don’t know what proportion of Political Animal readers actually remember the days when national political conventions were semi-deliberative affairs. It’s been a good long while; 1976 (Republicans) was the last time there was any real doubt about the nominee, and probably the last real convention drama (good or bad speeches aside) was the announcement of Dan Quayle as the vice presidential candidate by the GOP in 1988.

Still, for all the stage management and gradual compression of events, there have been some formalities that remained sacred, including the actual nomination of candidates on the penultimate day. But this year, fearful in equal measures of human and natural disruptions, the GOP is going to go ahead and get the pro forma roll call vote out of the way on the first night, according to the New York Times‘ Jeff Zeleny:

Mr. Romney will be elevated as the party’s standard bearer on Monday – not Wednesday as previously expected – to keep the official business of the roll call delegate vote from competing with broader themes of introducing Mr. Romney. Officials also are keeping an eye on a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac and considering concerns about a possible disruption from Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention next week.

It is a change in the script from previous conventions, where the formal nomination usually takes place on the second to last night of the convention. It is a formality, and Mr. Romney will still deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday evening, but the change is significant and an effort to keep the convention focused tightly on Mr. Romney.

“The roll call will take place on Monday,” said Jim Dyke, a convention spokesman, who dismissed suggestions that the schedule had abruptly changed. “We will go through the roll call in alphabetical order all the way through.”

Since the broadcast TV networks have already announced they’re skipping the first night as irrelevant, that means Romney will already be the official nominee before network coverage even begins. So technically, all you’ll be seeing on the tube is the manufactured post-convention froth.

We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when the “roll call of the states” was the real climax of conventions, and candidates were able to stage “spontaneous demonstrations” that sometimes lasted hours. Any spontaneity in Tampa (or Charlotte) will be quickly put to sleep.

Anybody with fond or unhappy memories of the “old days” of less stage-managed political conventions is welcome to post them in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.