Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 10, 2012

Some convention claims ring hollow when put to test

So are you still feeling that post-convention euphoria?

Are you able to contain your excitment, your sense of exhilaration?

If not, join the club. As expected, this year’s Republican and Democratic national conventions were long on rhetoric, while short on substance.

I imagine that’s how it’s supposed to be. After all, the main purpose of the conventions is to rally the troops, the party faithful who will take their marching orders and proceed toward that hoped-for victory in November.

This is a time of passion, not policy.

But because of the widespread publicity they receive, conventions also represent opportunities for the parties to reach out and try to grab the attention of the larger population, the folks who aren’t necessarly enthralled by one party or the other.

Indeed, public opinion polls record “bounces” in polling data for parties and their presidential standard bearers immediately after conventions. But typically, that bump in the polls quickly fades, suggesting that by the time Election Day rolls around, the impact of conventions is non-existent.

Today’s national politicial conventions are little more than showpieces for the main candidates and their supporters. The goal is to present a unified front, with no controversy or dispute.

It wasn’t always that way. Conventions used to come with uncertainty, including floor flights over planks in party platforms, and roll call votes involving candidates.

Today, however, having Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair constitutes convention drama.

The predictable nature of conventions helps to explain why a declining percentage of the population bothers to watch. And it’s probably why many of the speeches included partisan declarations that were decidedly lacking in the truth. Such statements rouse the folks on the convention floor, but they run afoul of those now ever-present fact checkers.

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