I’ll save you the guesswork. On July 21, Donald Trump will become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. On July 28, Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee.
Trump’s pending coronation won’t please elected Republicans who put the nation’s welfare above party loyalty. Nor will it please demonstrators who in all likelihood will storm around parts of downtown Cleveland to protest the nomination of someone who has gone out of his way to denigrate Latinos, blacks, Muslims and immigrants.
Clinton’s nomination won’t please Bernie Sanders’ delegates and others who want big money out of American politics. Nor will it assuage other anti-establishmentarians who may demonstrate outside the convention center in Philadelphia.
But these will be sideshows.
So why have the conventions at all?
First, because they’re perks awarded to people who worked hard for candidates during the primaries — just as top sales reps in companies are awarded trips to national sales conventions. They’ll enjoy circulating on the convention floors, exchanging gossip and business cards and taking selfies.
And they’ll feel important when they hear party leaders, heads of state delegations, members of Congress and occasional celebrities tell them how critical it is to defeat the opposing party in November, how strong their nominee will be, and what makes America great.
Second, the conventions will generate prime-time TV infomercials featuring celebrities, heroes and former presidents (Bush 1 and 2 say they won’t appear at the Republican one) and, most importantly, the nominee on the last night. All will speak about the same three themes, although Trump will talk mainly about himself.
Intermittently, TV anchors and their pundit panels will offer trivial or cynical commentary, what they’ve heard everyone else say.
The third reason for these conventions is to ingratiate the big funders — corporate executives, Wall Street investment bankers, partners in major law firms, top Washington lawyers and lobbyists, and billionaires. The big funders will travel either to Cleveland or to Philadelphia (or both) in their private jets and be discretely whisked by limo to the VIP suites of downtown hotels.
Each party will try to make these big funders feel like the VIPs they’ve paid to be, letting them shake hands with congressional leaders, Cabinet officers and the nominee’s closest advisers, who will be circulating through the skyboxes like visiting dignitaries.
The three conventions — for delegates, for prime-time audiences at home and for big funders — will occur simultaneously, but will occupy different dimensions of reality.
Our two major political parties no longer nominate people to be president. Candidates choose themselves, they run in primaries, and the winners of the primaries become the parties’ nominees.
The parties have instead become giant machines for producing infomercials, raising big money and rewarding top sales reps with big bashes every four years.
That Donald Trump, the most unqualified and incendiary person ever to become a major party’s nominee, and Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most qualified yet least trusted person ever to become a major party’s nominee, will emerge from the conventions to take each other on in the general election of 2016 is almost beside the point.