California delegate Don Genhart fashions his cowboy boots at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
If you try to spot California's top Republican elected officials on TV (those are state legislators since there aren't any statewide elected Republicans) at the national convention in Tampa, you may be looking in vain.
The Sacramento Bee reports that just two Republican legislators are confirmed attendees. Their main reason: this is the busy, last week of the legislative session. So they need to be in Sacramento.
But there also seems to be something of an enthusiasm gap for going to the stormy Florida Gulf Coast.
Writing at Zócalo Public Square (where I'm an editor), Mike Madrid, a California-based Republican strategist, explains why he's not going, and in the process covers many of the reasons for skipping the gathering that I've heard from other California Republicans.
One big reason: those who don't play the party game and aren't always on message don't have a place. Writes Madrid:
Truth is, I wasn’t invited. I’m a Republican by registration and a political strategist by profession, but it’s been years since I worried about becoming a delegate, joining the right mailing list, or taking sides in an intra-party skirmish. If you’re not completely controllable, don’t expect an invitation.
A second big reason: the conventions aren't about reaching the broader public or changing minds:
Campaigns are stoking this sort of rhetoric because undecided voters have left the building. According to one recent poll, they make up around 3 percent of the electorate. Swing voters won’t swing the outcome anymore. That means national conventions aren’t about persuading people in the middle; they’re about riling up the base. As if the country needs more of that.
Of course, national conventions haven’t decided anything of substance for generations. But they were important as infomercials. Because they were targeted at the flexible middle, which used to be at about 20 percent, nearly all Americans felt they should at least tune in (or pretend to tune in—no longer an option with the major TV networks declining to cover most of the convention). Conventions marked a time to start forming an opinion on where we were going to go next as a nation. Today, no one’s changing his mind about these things.
Essentially, the convention is a TV show for the already converted.
This sort of thinking is a problem for the very idea of conventions. If important players like Madrid don't want to go, there's less incentive for other people to go, since the big draw of conventions is the ability to network with other people.
Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).