WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — National political conventions are now, by design, more spectacle than substance.
Gone are the days of smoke-filled back rooms dominated by party bosses cutting deals and lore of stuffing ballot boxes.
We’ve arrived in the gilded age of glitzy conventions bursting at the seams with gaudy videos and polished stages.
No frills, no fuss
Ronald Reagan’s nomination acceptance speech at the 1980 RNC convention in Detroit was a far simpler affair than those planned for 2016.
The candidate stood on a narrow platform, closely circled by delegates and fellow GOP leaders.
Nancy Reagan sat in a chair just off to her husband’s left, within the camera shot, in an understated peach gown tied in a bow at the neck.
The camera cuts to former President Gerald Ford sitting in the audience during applause lines, slightly slouched and unsmiling.
California’s former governor was at the center of the action, but not the sole focal point.
He flubs lines and doesn’t miss a beat. Reagan seems entirely unbothered by the occasional imperfection.
That’s because the event wasn’t a display of choreography; it was a genuine political rally filled with real people excited to see their party’s presidential pick.
Today’s RNC and DNC conventions bear little resemblance to the grit of 1980, much less previous years plagued by all-out brawls to win the nomination.
Washington is often called Hollywood for ugly people, and, befittingly, today’s conventions could easily pass for an Oscars telecast.
Lights flash. Video walls shine. Candidates glisten.
President Barack Obama’s 2008 team erected a partial coliseum, for crying out loud.
In short, convention stagecraft has undergone a makeover worthy of the last name Kardashian.
2016: Glossy, glitzy, gaudy
Before convention speakers even set foot on sprawling stages, pre-produced videos introduce their life stories and hearts’ desires.
Once front and center, featured guests are treated to first-class set designs that maximize their stature.
Donald Trump knows a few things about showmanship and hopes to visually stun audiences during his Cleveland convention to be held July 18-21.
RNC leaders rolled out pricey plans for a 1,711 square foot video board, 647 specialty moving lights, and two “blades” running the length of the stage to hide thousands of wires.
Hillary Clinton’s team hasn’t yet unveiled its plans, but will surely include flashy elements to jazz up her Philly convention held July 25-28.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales