by Melissa Brunner
Last week, your final hour of prime time programming on CBS was a chance for the Republicans to take center stage with their national convention, officially annointing Mitt Romney as their Presidential nominee. This week, it's the Democrats who take over the tube, officially saying they want Pres. Barack Obama to stay in the White House for a second term.
The one hour each night which the major networks devote isn't the only change the conventions have seen over the years. Years ago, the networks devoted several hours of coverage each night to the parties' big events. Until the 60s, the conventions also held a lot more suspense since that's when the candidates actually were chosen. These days, of course, we know months in advance.
The question for you is whether you believe the conventions still matter. Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer recently told the Washington Post that yes, they do. He says it's a long-form way for you to see what each party is all about and to see how the candidates perform in the spotlight. In particular, he cited Ronald Reagan's 1980 acceptance speech as unifying a divided GOP. A USA Today editorial agrees, saying the conventions are a wakeup call to uninterested voters to start paying attention and an uninterrupted chance for each candidate to make their case to those voters. USA Today also cited a poll that 14 percent of voters eight years ago said they made up their mind on who'd get their vote during the political conventions.
If those are the pros, the cons might be added up in dollars and cents. It's not just generous party donors who foot the bill for those conventions - you and I chip in, too. Congress set aside $100 million for security and $18 million for each party to fund this year's conventions.
The end result of the political back and forth is certainly important. We are selecting the person who will be our country's Commander-in-Chief the next four years. But what do you think of how we get there? Will you be watching (or did you already watch) the political convention coverage? What value do you believe these gatherings hold today?
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