This week Riding the Tiger will feature daily updates live from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL by Robert Saldin, Associate Professor of American Government and Politics at the University of Montana and a former Miller Center Fellow.
TAMPA, FL -- A hurricane has prompted the Republicans to cancel the opening night of their convention…again. Four years ago, with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, the GOP scrapped day one of their convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Not that anyone seemed to notice. Most first night speakers were simply reassigned to Tuesday. And with the star power backloaded into the final two nights, it wasn’t clear that anything substantive was lost. This time is different only in that the Republicans find themselves in the storm’s path.
But with tonight now an official a no-go, it’s hard to find anyone here in Tampa who is too upset by the cancellation, even—or, perhaps, especially—among the delegates. After all, the restaurants and bars are still open, and the hundreds of parties throughout the bay area are proceeding as planned. Many attendees are enjoying some time on the beach in between rain showers. And the television networks had never been planning to show up for the opening night. Of course, the mood could change considerably if evacuations are announced or additional nights of the convention are curtailed or cancelled. But as of now, the assembled partisans continue their party, now unburdened by tonight’s session at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Which raises the question: What’s the point of these conventions in the 21st Century? Decades ago, party conventions played a substantive role in the presidential selection process, but now they’re routinely derided as overly-scripted, phony, campaign commercials.