The nation’s major political parties are wrestling with this sea-change in how Americans consume television. Once-every-four-years presidential conventions have already made concessions. Because almost all of the drama is removed from the process, they’ve had to turn to other methods.
For months, we’ve known Mitt Romney would leave the Republican National Convention in Tampa with the nomination in hand. For even longer, it’s been a sure thing that this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will call on Barack Obama to serve a second term in the White House.
So, what replaces the actual tension of who will the parties nominate for the presidency? The viewers are treated to themed nights where the speakers hit upon carefully tested phrases that sell their man as the one who should sit in the White House. The villain is always the same — the other party and their man. That’s how these glorified pep rallies like it. Sweeping music, inspirational slow-motion video of the candidate smiling before his fawning admirers, base-rallying red meat to fire up the crowd and, in the case of the Republicans last week, an empty chair are designed to create momentum, to leave a lasting impression that will carry a campaign forward to November.
Don’t get us wrong; the election of the next president is very important. The nation faces real problems. Voters can send a message that it’s time to address our pressing needs with more than press conferences and unrealistic posturing. These issues matter, though we should point out they are receiving only the most surface of treatments during the conventions.
Where is the drama of these conventions? Why should 15,000 journalists turn up to cover events where practically everything is known before it happens?
Signs indicate that Americans are wondering these very things. They are changing the channel. During the recently concluded RNC, viewership was way down from the Republican gathering four years ago. Don’t be surprised if this week’s DNC has similarly disappointing ratings.
How you gonna keep ’em tuned to politics when there’s one Kardashian or the other cavorting on another channel?