OK, so the balloon drop and the confetti that traditionally end the two presidential nominating conventions are just the coolest thing ever — the culmination of four days of delegates in silly hats, floor fights that voters (thank goodness) never get to see, the occasional speech of a lifetime, and loads of parties best not reported on.
Several thousand delegates are fair game for the 15,000 accredited media representatives all crammed into a giant arena decorated for just the right camera angles, where a nominee who has been picked months earlier will graciously accept the party’s nomination.
This fun-packed charade was the grand American institution of the national political convention before the age of COVID-19.
It was an institution that even the major broadcast networks realized back in 2004 had a limited audience as they began scaling back nightly coverage, cutting what had been three to four hours of nightly broadcasting to a little over an hour — and that for a dwindling audience.
Now let’s please, please, please allow this dreaded virus to be the excuse both parties need to put this rollicking, pointless coronation ceremony out of its misery.
Democrats, led by their all-but-certain nominee, Joe Biden, engaged in several days of public hand-wringing over what to do about their convention, originally planned for mid-July in Milwaukee. Thursday they announced its postponement until Aug. 17, the week before the Republican convention.
Biden telegraphed the move a few days earlier when he told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show,” “I think it’s going to have to move into August.”
Seriously? Because bringing together thousands of people in a confined space a month later will be so much more sensible? Even as epidemiologists warn that the virus may indeed become cyclical in nature — reappearing months later.
Biden did say in another interview on MSNBC, “We should listen to the scientists.”
And if nothing else, there is the health of the party’s potential 77-year-old nominee to be considered.
The Democratic National Convention’s Twitter feed notes, “Ensuring the safety of convention attendees and our host community is, and always will be, our top priority.”
As we continue our countdown to the 2020 Democratic National Convention scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, WI, we’re faced with the unprecedented challenge as a country of responding to #COVID19. In this climate of uncertainty, we wanted to share an update on planning: pic.twitter.com/OMoS5hThIA— 2020 Democratic National Convention (@DemConvention) March 14, 2020
Of course, there is no such angst at the moment among Republicans — they of the party whose nominee wanted the country back up and running by Easter but changed his mind after listening to his coronavirus response team.
Republican convention organizers are still running their countdown to the Aug. 24 event set for Charlotte, N.C., on their website. The only hint that anything might be amiss is that a media walk-through planned for April 15 will now be done via teleconference.
Does Donald Trump want another of those rip-roarin’, chest thumpin’ mega-rallies to signal his nomination to a second term? Well, in the immortal words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha!”
But at what cost in lives to his own people?
Political conventions are and always have been like spring break for political junkies — and, yes, that includes those of us in the media who enjoy the national schmooze-a-thon as much as anyone.
But, speaking of Palin, no one seemed to notice or care when the 2008 GOP convention was shortened by a day because of a possible hurricane bearing down not on Minneapolis, the site of the convention, but on the Gulf Coast. Partying delegates wouldn’t make good optics when another section of the country is suffering.
For some candidates, of course, conventions have simply proved disastrous. Ask then-Democratic presidential nominee Mike Dukakis, who picked the undisciplined governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton, to give his 1988 nominating speech, which ran so long it pushed the actual nomination out of prime time. Barack Obama’s 2004 keynote gave him far more “bounce” from John Kerry’s nominating convention than Kerry’s “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty” speech ever did.
And then there was that magical moment in 2016 when Bernie Sanders’ delegates stood and turned their backs to Hillary Clinton as she accepted the nomination.
Yes, conventions have always been a time to rev up the ground troops for the tough campaigning days ahead — give them that confetti-filled moment of bliss to carry them into November.
But COVID-19 and confetti will make a volatile combination this year. Let “the gentleman from the great state of Texas, home of the Alamo and Longhorns football” announce his delegate count via Zoom.
Somehow our great democracy will muddle through.
Rachelle G. Cohen can be reached at Rachelle.Cohen@Globe.com.