Among the first-responders — of a sort — at the rain-plagued Republican National Convention was a prominent liberal Democrat.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, gave interviews in Tampa to respond to some of the GOP attacks from the platform. But among his remarks was something that will be repeated this week in Charlotte — the obsolescence of the 180-year tradition of American political conventions.
“I wonder about conventions as part of our political process,” Durbin told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. “It’s a pretty expensive undertaking and time-consuming undertaking, and the day may come, in the world of social media, that there’s another way to do this.”
Durbin’s comments are hardly unrepresentative of the leadership in both parties. Earlier, House Speaker John Boehner commented that a four-day convention — as it turned out, three days for the Republicans because of Hurricane Isaac — might be overkill.
“What used to be gavel-to-gavel coverage on all the network news and some suspense and wonderment, it’s a lot different story now,” said Boehner, R-Ohio.
While candidates might win the nominations much earlier than in the past, there still might be a gathering of faithful for candidates to accept the nomination of their party. However, it might well be a weekend.
What is given up with a shorter meeting? Probably some exposure of up-and-comers in the party, but also the interaction of the people, not just delegates but activists and lobbyists and others, of the grassroots.
In an era when the nation is closely divided, the parties rely on the intensity of support of the faithful to win key elections. Face-to-face meetings at a national convention are one way of promoting that sense of joint enterprise that social media may not be able to match.