What’s The Point Of Conventions?

As the conventions approach, journalists are taking part in the great quadrennial August tradition of either defending these outmoded gatherings or suggesting changes.

In the era before modern Presidential primaries, conventions were where Presidential nominees were chosen and party platforms decided. Now, they have a mix of spectacle and carnival. Carefully staged and artfully choreographed speeches telegraph a campaign’s messaging for the fall. These are then followed by late night parties where celebrities and lobbyists hobnob with politicos (apparently the hot tickets in Charlotte this year will be parties hosted by Jay-Z and Google respectively).

The problem is that this is all funded by taxpayers and dominates the news with miscellany. (The first 100 stories about possible GOP shenanigans in Tampa’s famed strip clubs were fine, now it’s starting to get played out). Even the Ron Paul supporters trying to wage a factional battle at the convention—which is supposed to be the actual purpose of these party gatherings—are trying to make their efforts as low key as possible.

At this point, conventions are merely an obsolete vestige of an earlier era in politics. They serve no real purpose, other than a simple gathering, but that’s fine. After all, dentists and comic book fans have conventions, shouldn’t politicians too?

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Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.