Political Conventions Without Crowds? Here’s What America Will Lose

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On Monday, August 17th, the 47th Democratic National Convention kicks off in no particular place, on a string of video broadcasts, without a live audience or an army of journalists or a whirl of parties awaiting the delegates afterward. The following Monday, the Republican National Convention ends not with a bring-down-the-house floor speech by Donald Trump, but with a quiet click when the president stops talking into a camera and someone presses “stop.”

Thanks to Covid-19, the nation’s quadrennial moments of political theater are, for the first time, entirely virtual.

Is there any reason to mourn the absence of the traditional political convention? Will there be a single tear shed for the staged balloon drops, the roll calls with all the suspense of a Soviet Politburo vote, the voice-vote endorsement of a platform that the nominee will feel free to ignore?