March 03, 2004
First, congratulations are due to Senator John "Johnny the Chin" Kerry on his Super Tuesday victories and his apparent lock on the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
Now that there is little or no doubt concerning the identities of the major parties' candidates for President, let me address a humble request to broadcast and cable television news organizations: Please, let's just give the national party conventions a miss this year, shall we?
It has been decades since anything newsworthy (or much of anything else) was actually decided at a convention, and the entire affair has become little more than an extended episode of Bad Theater: one self-important spokesperson after another mouthing the same predictable platitudes, each party ostentatiously displaying its supposed "diversity" and "inclusiveness" and "caring" as if anyone is likely to be fooled. I will grant you that we should perhaps be given live coverage of each presidential candidate's acceptance speech -- those are the traditional starts of the "real" campaign, after all -- but for the rest of it: spare us, please.
If I were running one of the parties, I would be actively working to keep television coverage of my convention to a minimum. Each party will be so focused on "firing up the base" that there's more risk of driving voters away -- as Pat Buchanan and his fellow culture warriors did for the Republicans in 1992, or as Walter Mondale did for Democrats with his solemn promise that he would raise taxes if elected in 1984 -- than there is a likelihood of converting the unconvinced. There is still plenty of time after the conventions are over for pursuing those elusive swing voters. Why take the risk of losing them from the outset through an excess of party zeal?
In a speech to television critics back in January, Dan Rather opined that the day was coming when live convention coverage would dwindle to virtually nothing. NBC is already planning to roll out its Fall lineup during the week of the Republican Convention -- and I'm reasonably certain that the group America will want to see in New York that week is more likely to be Donald Trump and his Apprentices than it is the President and my fellow Republicans. Broadcast decisionmakers: listen to Dan Rather's sage counsel, learn from NBC's example. Just step away from the conventions, and no one will get hurt.
Heck, we all get most of our news from weblogs now anyway . . . .