Quite possibly the most symbolic event that occurred during the past two weeks of partisanship unbound in Tampa and Charlotte was Clint Eastwood's one-man play with an empty chair.
While the chair was there to represent President Obama, it could just as well as served as a stand-in for the vacuous proceedings that were engaged in by the Republicans and Democrats at their respective conventions.
Let's face it -- these things are boring. There's no reason for excitement. everything is predetermined, cut and dried. Even Obama's TV ratings for his Thursday night acceptance speech was in at least a 9 percent recession from his 2008 appearance, though he still pulled in 5.4 million viewers than GOP nominee Mitt Romney did the Thursday before.
At one time, a political convention had some meaning. Now, the nominations are tied up, sealed and delivered months before the party, which is about what these gatherings have turned out to be. They may be productive for elected officials and delegates to network and get a glimpse of an Eastwood or a Scarlett Johansson, but otherwise they're little more than slickly packaged political advertising pretending to be news.
And there's little truth in the advertising. There are plenty of examples from both conventions, but here's an obvious one as an example. In Obama's acceptance speech Thursday, he said: "I'll use the money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work -- rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it's time to do some nation-building right here at home."
That would be a very impressive trick if it could be pulled off. As Democrats have been fond of pointing out in reference to their brethren across the aisle who purport to be fiscally responsible, the United States has waged these long wars with borrowed money.
So, to change that funding from war to domestic projects, the borrowing would have to continue, which makes the paying down the debt component a bit befuddling ... unless the plan is to borrow money to pay on the debt. If you get a cash advance on your Visa to pay your MasterCard bill, you're not going to make much actual progress.
But with speakers at both conventions playing to friendly crowds, there weren't a lot of questions asked regarding the details.
These are rubber-stamp events that are holdovers from a time when they had some purpose of existence. And for these partisan medicine shows, the taxpayers of the United States shelled out about $36 million -- half to the Democrats and half to the Republicans.
At the very least, that should stop. With the way Super PACs and the political machinery involved generates money by the millions, the taxpayer funding is a drop in the bucket. But it's a drop that could be better spent on teachers, food programs, roads, the military ... frankly, just about anything else.
The Senate has already passed a measure that would eliminate the taxpayer subsidy for these conventions and the House has passed a bill to eliminate the entire Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Neither the Senate nor the House is expected to get much done between now and Nov. 6, but maybe they could get together and work this legislation out so taxpayers won't foot the bills for goody bags, limo rides and makeup artists for celebrities.
To paraphrase Eastwood, it'd make our day.