In the modern age, supporters of both political parties will aways attempt to make a case for their respective candidates. Oftentimes, the characteristics of each candidate are placed at the forefront to attract individuals to either side of the political aisle. Before each political party officially nominates their political candidate, they commence several days of “political party propaganda.” While neither party will outright admit their political conventions are propaganda. The signs of propaganda are all there: an “us versus them” mentality, coupled with outright alienation of the other side while suggesting your side possesses the proper skills and motives that make them appropriate leaders. While political conventions occur on both the state and federal levels, the political conventions that occur each presidential election cycle shine a poor light on the sad state of partisan affairs in the United States.
Every four years, before the November presidential elections, citizens of the United States are greeted with a great piece of political theater in the form of National Political Conventions. Political theater is by no means a new concept in the modern age of political partisanship. Nelson Pressley for The Washington Post discusses this matter in his article titled, “Notes on political theater: The perils of spectacle.” He writes, “In the public sphere, ‘political theater’ is synonymous with ‘empty show.’ It’s a gesture. Posturing. Grandstanding. Sound and fury, likely to be signaling no genuine idea but certainly indicating a play for power.” (1) His analysis regarding political theater paints a bleak picture regarding the true intentions of political theater used in the modern context. His analysis, while seemingly harsh, presents an accurate representation of how the world operates in a constant state of political theater.
Political conventions are not only a party’s propaganda show, but they also strongly influence how political parties choose to define themselves in aligning themselves with certain politicians. For example, the neoliberal establishment of the Democratic Party chose a political figure that was at complete odds with the upcoming progressive movement that is extremely popular among young people. This political figure was the former governor of Ohio, John Kasich. (2) Progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were not given as much time to speak as the former Republican Governor, which angered the progressive base of the Democratic Party, spelling trouble for the future of the Democratic Party as they continue to forsake their young voter base.
The United States has two main political parties, and each has its own political conventions before November presidential elections. The Democratic National Convention held its mainly virtual convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while the Republican National Convention also held a mostly virtual convention in Jacksonville, Florida. While both conventions occurred primarily online, the locations of political conventions oftentimes are key battleground states, with both Florida and Wisconsin being labeled as “swing states.” The goal of these political conventions is to increase publicity for that particular political party. Through increased publicity, these political parties aim to increase their public image in order to establish themselves as the preferable party in any given political election.
Political theater not only defines political parties as being power-hungry with no genuine behavior, but also defines voters as mere spectators in an audience for a theatrical performance. While the United States has a political show in the form of political conventions as well as political debates, it is by no means the only nation that establishes itself as a nation founded on politics as a form of theater. Indeed, politicians are mere performers that, during election season, consistently present themselves in a fashion that is ideal for their voter base. Ultimately, once elected, they return to Washington D.C., destined to once again be unproductive until it comes time for their next election.