Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
As the Republicans assemble in Cleveland, the task for RNC Chairman and the presumptive nominee Donald Trump is how to keep this generally most boring of events in the quadrennial presidential election contest–except for political junkies– compelling for most Americans. (The same will face the Democrats the following week.) It is no mean challenge even for a premier showman like Trump. For most Americans, even the prime time feature speakers will not attract much attention, with the possible exception of Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday night.
Trump has announced his vice presidential selection and that too was a “missed” event for most people. As all newsaholics know, never make major newsworthy announcements on weekends. (Having decided to defer the Pence announcement scheduled for Friday after the tragedy in Nice, Trump could just as well have waited until Monday; except that Pence needed to know whether to remove himself from the Indiana gubernatorial race.) Weekend news is always totally forgettable and un-watched or overtaken by tragedy, disasters, or sport triumphs. Baseball no-hitters and the tournament finales will gather more attention than weekend political news. It is for this reason that once nominated— probably in the midst of the Democratic convention so as to steal some of Hillary’s limelight— Trump may well start to announce his proposed Cabinet nominees. Not to be outdone, Clinton could well announce her vice-presidential selection this week so as to distract attention from the Republican Convention.
The only excitement from Cleveland this week other than bells and whistles will occur if there is noise or trouble on the streets of Cleveland. Matters could get seriously and quickly out of hand outside the Quicken Loans Arena if some of the Trump supporters take umbrage at anti-Trump rhetoric that might emerge during the early days of the convention. (Fortunately for the RNC most—if any—of that will occur during the credentials, rules, and platform discussions which will never make it to prime time. Meanwhile to insure peace and tranquility in the streets, the head of the Cleveland police union has asked Governor Kasich to declare a state of emergency in Cleveland and suspend the law permitting open carrying of weapons in Cleveland during the convention.
Viewers should watch for reaction from regular delegates to the fact that they are being wined and dined much less than usual. Since many previously, regular corporate sponsors have declined to attend this year’s Republican convention as a sign of protest to the presumptive nominee, the consequence for the delegates will be less partying; which could make for a rather disgruntled bunch.
Conventions have become so obviously staged TV events, that delegates, demonstrations, speeches, etc., are all factored into a very strict time fixed script. In addition, the entire podium and platform are shaped to best accommodate TV cameras and not the concerns or interests of the delegates. It is as if the assembled multitude are secondary, despite the fact that conventions are under-watched. In addition, with the accessibility of all important speeches and newsworthy events available almost immediately on-line or whenever anyone feels moved to listen or watch, real-time does not truly matter.
The one very serious event that could totally disrupt and remove public focus from either convention would be another horrific human tragedy, terrorist event, or international incident. Either one of the two conventions would then revert to a contest between Obama and the two nominees trying to address a crisis while also scoring political points; something which could become humiliating for one or more of the candidates as well as the nation.