Mocking the conventions

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2016

At my college, Washington and Lee University, we host a mock convention before each presidential election. Student representatives from each state predict how their state will vote, and, after tallying the votes, we choose our nominee for the out-of-power party.

Before the convention, students parade around the city on floats designed to represent each state’s signature identifiers, wearing costumes that embrace the state’s typical “look.” During the convention, we gather in our historic chapel to watch politicians and television hosts give speeches, before announcing our choice for nominee.

It’s a chance for students to be politically active, and it’s a great tool for predicting the eventual outcomes of the primaries.

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It’s also an opportunity for college students to dress up in ridiculous state-themed costumes and imbibe to shocking levels of excess.

After witnessing the 2016 Mock Convention, I thought the real thing could not be anywhere near as ridiculous.

I was wrong.

For those who have not been watching the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, it has been some of the best entertainment of the year.

There have been accusations of plagiarism, speeches by washed-up z-list actors, emotionally fraught grieving mothers, police chiefs and many, many silly hats.

We’ve heard the opinions of people as varied as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr.

As far as television programs go, this election’s coverage is second only to Game of Thrones in its political intrigue and quest for power. Both candidates are yet to deploy any dragons, but there are still more than three months until the election, so anything is possible.

Regardless of your political beliefs, it is difficult to watch a party convention without an audible groan of displeasure and a roll of the eyes.

But we tune in anyway, partially out of a sense of democratic obligation, and partially to witness the strange videos and speeches that make up most of the event.

But the weirdest part of the conventions is the fact that they really don’t matter.

Conventions began in the early 19th century as a way to choose the party nominee for president. Delegates met to discuss the potential nominees, with the conventions often featuring heated arguments. However, this process of selection was regarded as un-democratic and rife with corruption. This resulted in the current system of nomination through primaries and caucuses, allowing the people of the party to choose their own nominee.

Now, the party convention is little more than ceremony. It allows party brass to express platforms in vague platitudes, and it gives Scott Baio some inexplicable time in the spotlight.

But for many of us, it’s as fun to hate-watch as any guilty-pleasure reality show. We know it’s bad, and we know it sure isn’t making us any smarter to watch, but we tune in, because it seems fun to be morbidly entertained and slightly disgusted by what we’re watching.

We watch it for the same reason we watch any other cringe-inducing reality television show: so we can look at the people and think, “Thank God I’m not them.”

So put your feet up, grab your popcorn, and get ready to watch the whole painful thing. And if you think you’ve had enough, just wait.

The Democratic one starts next week.

Henry Luzzatto is working as an intern for the Suffolk News-Herald this summer. He is a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy alumnus and a rising junior at Washington and Lee University. He recently named his car “Pikachu.”