ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Better late than never

<p>New York Times</p><p>President Trump announced on Thursday that, in deference to the pandemic, he was canceling the portion of the Republican National Committee’s nominating convention scheduled to take place in Jacksonville, Fla., late next month.</p><p>“We won’t do a big, crowded convention, per se — it’s not the right time for that,” the president said during his daily coronavirus briefing, noting that he “felt it was wrong” to have hordes of people heading into “a hot spot.” Mr. Trump added he’d told his advisers, “There’s nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.”</p><p>Better late than never.</p><p>Mr. Trump’s coronation party originally was planned for Charlotte, N.C., which is where much of the convention’s official business will still take place. In June, however, the president relocated all the flashy bits, including his acceptance speech, to Florida, after North Carolina officials refused to guarantee him the overcrowded, non-socially distanced spectacle he wanted.</p><p>Florida, however, is now in the throes of a Covid-19 spike. The state reported on Thursday 10,249 new cases and 173 deaths, a record. Bringing thousands of conventiongoers into the mix would have been a recipe for more tragic outcomes.</p><p>Instead of an arena full of cheering fans, Mr. Trump must content himself with “tele-rallies,” other virtual events and maybe some smaller gatherings. This is surely a bitter pill for the president, who draws energy from large, adoring crowds. But this moment of crisis also provides his party — both parties, for that matter — with an opportunity to reimagine and reshape their conventions into something more engaging and possibly more relevant to the American public.</p><p>The convention of conventions is overdue for an overhaul. Why not make necessity the mother of reinvention?</p><p>Much of what goes on at national conventions is not meant for consumption by the general public. Once upon a time, serious nominating business was conducted at these gatherings, but those days are gone. And for all the quadrennial chatter about the possibility of a brokered convention, the parties knock themselves out to avoid that kind of drama, even in cycles with ugly primaries.</p><p>Nowadays, conventions are in large part extended reunions, awash in booze, food, music and elbow rubbing between elected officials, lobbyists, activists, operatives, celebrities, fund-raisers, journalists and other players. They are, in some ways, politics at its swampiest.</p><p>The parts produced for at-home viewers are dominated by speeches — many of them boring, vapid or even frightening, with an eye toward whipping up the party faithful. The lineups typically feature political stars, up-and-comers the party wants to spotlight (Barack Obama in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1988) and members of Congress. Former primary rivals often appear as a show of party unity, and members of the nominee’s family are trotted out. Then there are the celebrities brought in for a dash of pizazz, like Meryl Streep, and Katy Perry. (Such appearances don’t always go over as planned, as when Clint Eastwood conducted a much-mocked chat with an empty chair at the 2012 Republican convention.)</p><p>There has got to be a better way.</p>