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The Death of Conventions

Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, while playing a bit better than Romney’s a week before in Tampa, was viewed by far fewer people than his corresponding speech four years ago:

The Nielsen company said 35.7 million people watched the final night of the Democratic convention on Thursday between 10 and 11 p.m. Eastern time. That’s when the president delivered his nomination acceptance speech.


Four years ago, Nielsen said candidate Barack Obama’s speech was seen by 38.3 million. But that estimate did not include PBS’ audience, which no doubt pushed the audience over 40 million.

That American audiences are abandoning these events is not a sign of apathy or alienation from politics, but rather a sign of good sense. As we’ve written, conventions are no longer political events in the original sense but scripted and staged performances—vestigial organs of a bygone era.

When old rituals lose their purpose and their power, they gradually fade away. Cycle by cycle, this is happening to political conventions in the U.S. It’s a natural process and part of the American political process adapting to a new age.

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