By Alan Pell Crawford
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill won’t be attending the Democratic convention in September. That brings the total of Democrats in Congress skipping the tiresome and costly event to eight, which includes, besides McCaskill, two other senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.
This news is more interesting than what it says about the President and his chances for re-election. It means that, whatever their motivation, high-profile officeholders don’t even need to go to their conventions. That means they see their conventions for the increasingly hollow events that they are. They knows that other party leaders have already made the decisions that, in years past, you might have expected to have been debated at such a gathering. It might not speak well for our democracy that no real business is conducted at a convention, but at least everyone knows that now.
The next step, of course, is to pull the plug altogether on these overly produced commercials. The Democrats are already discovering that they are having a hard time paying for their Charlotte confab and are leaning on labor unions for contributions they forswore when they decided they wouldn’t take money from corporations. Labor isn’t crazy about this, because North Carolina is a right-to-work state, and its hotels aren’t unionized.
Unions can withhold their dollars, but taxpayers can’t. Congress—dominated, if you hadn’t noticed, by Democrats and Republicans—has appropriated $100 million for the conventions, to be provided through the beloved Department of Homeland Security. This is on top of the $18 million each of the parties receives for other convention-related expenses.
If the Democratic and Republican leaders want to get together, listen to speeches all day and drink at “hospitality suites,” that’s perfectly fine. But they should do it on their own dime. Then see how many show up.