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Time for party conventions to go virtual

Today the Republican National Convention was supposed to start in Tampa, Fla. But for the second time in a row, the Republican convention has been delayed.

In 2008, the GOP convention was delayed one day because of another hurricane. The hurricane was not going to hit the convention city, Minneapolis, but the wise directors of the convention decided it was a bit unseemly to have a celebration while a part of American was underwater, literally. This year, Hurricane Isaac has derailed the start of the convention again by a day.

During the 2008 convention, I took the extra day to experience the Minnesota state fair. I ate the fried Oreo cookies and pet every animal available. It was a great opportunity for insight into the good people of Minnesota. This year’s cancellation gave me the extra time to visit Winter, the famous dolphin who was rescued after being trapped in netting. She could not swim in the regular way, and after trial and error was given a prosthetic tail. She is also the star of the movie “Dolphin Tale.” Visiting Winter and getting to pet “Hope,” another dolphin, has so far been the high point of my visit to Tampa. The good people of Clearwater Marine Aquarium do not only rescue aquatic creatures the make sure that a percentage of donations go to helping foster children. It is a great program and helped me to restore my faith in people even amid the negative politics that we have seen this year.

As I was petting Hope, the dolphin, I realized that what we really want as Americans is to be with our families, and to spend time with others doing positive and friendly things. Then I thought back to the hurricane that is making its way up the coast of Florida as I am writing this. The cost of this storm/hurricane will be substantial. It will most likely not come near Katrina proportions, but still substantial. My mind immediately raced to the cost of both the Democratic and Republican conventions this year.

It is enough to make any taxpayer get heart palpations, and that is only the cost to the federal taxpayers. For starters, there is the security cost, estimated at about $50 million per convention. Hard-working Americans pay those costs. Then there is what Congress votes to give to both parties to run their conventions. This election cycle, each party was given more than $18 million, bringing the grand total to $135 million!

There is no need for this. The infrastructure is already in place. The GOP has made it easy to access the entire convention online, and that allows people to see it unedited. The GOP Radio Row mavens have arranged a Skype platform so guests can join shows that are not at the convention. This begs the question: Why can’t Conventions be held totally virtually? It would save a ton of money, and no hurricanes will be able to disrupt the proceedings.

We have all kinds of virtual meeting vehicles now, so why must our political process be so costly in human time and money?

Can’t we just put politicians we want to hear from in a room so they can tell us what they want to tell us? Or have political conventions become about access and donors? That is just fine for the fat cats, but don’t ask the American taxpayers to pay for the political process. The time has passed in these days of economic cutbacks to have these grand events paid for by hard-working Americans.

I have enjoyed seeing Winter and visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, but it would have been great to visit Clearwater as a tourist. Conventions need to move to the Internet, and it’s time to let the taxpayer have a break from “advancing the political process” at the cost of millions of dollars to all of us.