There are good reasons for that. The problem with the national conventions--Democratic or Republican--is that the political professionals have bled the life from them.
Once upon a time, the conventions were places where people fought out in the open about policies, principles, visions, and candidacies. It was messy and it was riveting. Not messy and riveting in a Jerry Springer or Survivor-way, though.
Nor did the conventions display the sort of deliberately-impolite games of mutual assault that pass for news programming much of the time these days. No calculated pseudo-outrage. It was real. One only has to remember Abraham Ribicoff's speech at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when he incited the wrath of Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, accusing the Chicago police of practicing storm trooper tactics against the war protesters that had assemble there. The debates at past conventions were genuine and the stakes were authentically high.
Today, conventions are set pieces, pep rallies with sound bites, occasions when everybody smiles for the cameras and tries to appear united for the fall campaign. It is good that the slovenly appearances of delegates to the early-television era conventions have been replaced by people who appear to have bathed, changed their clothing within the previous forty-eight hours, and seem not to be hungover. But media consultants have thrown the baby---democracy in action---out with the bath water.
The parties would do well to get rid of the conventions altogether, along with the expenses associated with them. After all, the free TV exposure they get from them isn't really worth their effort. A shrinking audience, composed of partisan devotees and political junkies (like me) are the only ones likely to be tuning in....and I can't even vouch for me this year.
Instead, the parties could purchase a series of live broadcasts in which the candidates interact with voters and answer their questions. Although I abhor living in this era of reality TV, such a format change might very well reach today's disillusioned voter.
[PS: This isn't the column on God's will that I promised to try and complete and post today. I hope to complete it after I preside over a wedding this afternoon. I originally wrote this post as a comment on Chip Taylor's Miscellany blog. I've made a few minor changes here.]