Yes, I want my infomercial.
Look, I understand why the networks don’t cover the national political conventions. They’re no longer part of an important political process, and they haven’t been for some 40 years now. They are infomercials, and the delegates mostly function as extras. I can certainly understand why the broadcast networks feel comfortable leaving almost all of that to the cable networks.
I really wish they wouldn’t. Sure, they don't choose the candidate the way that the pre-reform conventions did. But so what?
First of all, there’s no way that you can gather that many activists, political professionals and politicians in one place and not have a whole lot of fascinating stories to tell, many of which will help the American people understand what each of our major political parties are about in 2012. Isn’t that news? There’s also the platform, the ticket, the other candidates the parties want people to know about (and all those candidates they don’t want people to know about), the donors, the party-aligned groups and what they want … aren’t all of those things news? Sure, you could tell quite a lot of those stories without the conventions, but so what? It’s a good excuse.
The other half of it is that, yes, anything that the networks take directly from the podium is pure infomercial, but again: so what? The networks take presidential speeches (at least a few of them), and they used to take presidential prime-time mews conferences live; those are and were set up by the president to show off his strengths, but that’s okay; citizens in a democracy should hear what their leaders have to say. And, during campaign season, they should hear what the candidates have to say. Yes, it’s propaganda, but label it as such and let everyone see it, not just those who seek it out.
I don’t know that I’d support forcing the broadcast networks to do it, but I think they should.