Lucky Joe Nocera! The Times' business writer and opinion columnist was away during the Republican convention and missed the... um ...fun. Oh sure, he admits, he checked in once in a while for the big events, the big speeches. He corrected his earlier impressions of Paul Ryan.
Here's some of what he noticed.
As usual, journalists vastly outnumbered the delegates. As usual, the thing was so finely scripted, Eastwood aside, that there wasn’t a whole lot of genuine news to report. As Jeremy Peters put it in The Times, “Today’s media labor to enliven coverage of what typically are endless hours of preordained events.” The decision by the major networks to cut back coverage to an hour a night is not irrational. ...NYT
And Ryan. And money.
I, for one, saw with my own eyes that Paul Ryan, whom I had viewed as a wrongheaded-but-essentially-honorable conservative, was willing to turn his back on his supposedly courageous positions the minute his own ambition was at stake. Mea culpa.
On the other hand, from the moment Romney picked him as his vice-presidential candidate, Ryan began displaying that side of himself. And I wound up thinking, do we really need three days and nights (and it would have been four if not for the hurricane threat) for the Republicans to “frame” their “narrative” and “humanize” their candidate? I think not. We certainly don’t need taxpayers to be footing the bill. This year, each convention is costing the government $18 million and change — plus another $50 million in taxpayer-financed security. I heard the security was really tight....NYT
Both conventions (since 1968, Nocera says) are so heavily scripted as to be dispensable. They're no longer great raucous gatherings where the give-and-take of democracy takes place before our very eyes. The outcomes are predetermined.
...Old-style conventions, for all their flaws, demanded compromise that is essential for governing. Nor were the party bosses willing to throw their weight behind candidates who were too far outside the mainstream.
The primary system has allowed the two parties to be captured by their more extreme elements. Compromise is now a dirty word. Centrism is for losers. Conventions now enforce the views of the hard-liners.
“The real problem is that you have voters who are really intense — and you are not going to capture them with your convention,” said [Henry] Brady,[dean of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy]. “And the voters who are less intense, the undecideds, are probably not watching.”...NYT