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Political Conventions

Outside of Hurricane Isaac coverage, the news and social media was saturated with commentary and footage from the Republican National Convention this past week in Tampa, Fla.
Prominent Republicans took the the stage to rally support for the party and convey their goals for the future of America. Party conventions were originally the last determining factor for establishing who would be the candidate for the respective parties in the general election.
Today, candidates are decided well before the conventions, leaving it to be more of a formality.
This begs the question: Is it worth it?
Costs for these conventions are upward of $100 million. Each.
To put that in perspective, in 1980 the cost of the conventions combined was $16 million.
Some of the funds come from appropriations by Congress, meaning a hefty price tag for taxpayers who may or may not know their money is going toward this. Reuters reported that in the 2004 election year, private interests accounted for about 77 percent of the total cost, leaving taxpayers with the rest of the bill.
In tough economic times, these expenses seem excessive.
At such a high cost, they must have an important purpose, right? Well, it’s safe to say they do not have the purpose that was originally intended.
Thanks to 24-hour news stations and Internet sources, we’ve now peeled back the political curtain and get up-to-the-second information on the candidates.
If the candidate misspeaks, the media is there. If the candidate falls behind in the polls, the Internet updates his ranking. If a prominent figure endorses someone, it was in yesterday’s paper.
The candidates and the American public know who will get the nomination long before the conventions takes place.
The votes of the delegates and superdelegates merely formally declare who the official candidate is in a flashy, expensive way.  
Before we write off the conventions as an unnecessary expense, however, let’s consider that although their original purpose has been diminished, they might still be important.
American voters have become increasingly apathetic toward politics.
These conventions get conversation going, whether over controversial agendas that spark debate or over inspiring speeches, such as Ann Romney’s, that spark pride in voters who are otherwise critical or simply don’t care. For all the pomp and circumstance, it draws people in, getting them to care if only for just a moment.  
We should have social media filled with talk relating to politics and the future of our nation.
If we are truly a nation “for the people, by the people,” the people need to be involved and invested.

Anna Rush is a second-year law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.