Commentary
10:37 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Commentary: Michigan and the GOP convention

If you watch much of the Republican National Convention this week, you’ll be in a tiny minority, even though the delegates are nominating a Michigan native with a famous name for President.

In fact, you may have to work hard at finding a network that carries very much of the convention. If you are under forty you may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when all the networks offered gavel-to-gavel coverage of every minute of both major parties’ conventions. They thought it was their civic duty.

Plus, there really was a time when the nominees were chosen at the conventions -- or there was at least the chance of an upset.

These days, however, the nominee is determined well in advance. The last time a convention began with any suspense about who it would be was in nineteen-seventy six, when Michigan’s Gerald Ford edged out Ronald Reagan. The last time a Republican convention took more than a single ballot to pick a candidate was in nineteen forty-eight, before most of us were born.

Conventions in the old days sometimes took days. There were also fierce, nationally televised fights over position statements -- nicknamed “planks” in the party platforms.

None of that seems to happen any more. As far the Michigan delegation is concerned, Governor Rick Snyder’s welcome reception at the Florida Aquarium yesterday afternoon may have been the highlight. After all, they did have a “Dive with the Sharks” attraction. The next biggest hit may be State Party Chairman Bobby Schostak’s bon voyage brunch at a place called Cha Cha Coconuts. But these conventions are still worth paying attention to, even in the waning days of a too-quickly ending Michigan summer.

Despite what sometimes seems a lot of coverage, most people still haven’t paid a lot of attention to the presidential campaign.

That‘s possibly because they have lives and jobs. The vast majority of the voters Mitt Romney needs didn’t vote in any Republican primaries this year, and have never voted for him.

His acceptance speech this week will be his biggest opportunity up to now to introduce himself to the American people, and come across as a credible president. Paul Ryan, his choice for vice president, is far less well known. Voters need to see the man who, if elected, will be, as the cliché accurately goes,  a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the nation.

Nobody knows right now who is going to win this election, which is now only ten weeks away. The one thing the candidates totally agree on is that it is terribly important.

To the extent people do watch these conventions, they serve another function, that of the biggest audition stage in the world.

If Romney doesn’t win in November, the odds are that he won’t be considered again in four years, when he will be almost seventy. So, who would be next? National conventions are a chance for both parties to showcase future talents. They are also a sort of tribal gathering place, for politically like-minded people from across the nation. We expect this week to be not very exciting.

But if there’s any hard and fast rule in politics, it is that no matter what, you never can tell.