Television news channels are betting on big audiences for the Republican National Convention, which begins in Cleveland on July 18, and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, which begins two weeks later. “They will be two of the most interesting conventions in modern political history,” Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, told Crain’s Cleveland Business—which reports that CNN is charging $40,000 to $100,000 for a 30-second ad during the conventions, compared with its usual prime-time rate of about $5,000.
The parties, and their host cities, may have mixed feelings about the new interest in what had become fusty events where spontaneity went to die. Even if Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton can manage comity inside their respective convention halls, the TV cameras may find conflict outside, where groups opposed to the nominees have vowed protests and civil disobedience. Cleveland originally imposed a 3.3-mile “no protest” zone around the arena where the Republican convention will be held. After a federal judge rightly ruled that plan unconstitutional, the city shrank the heightened-security area, but protesters will still be kept out of sight of convention attendees.
The host cities should allow nonviolent but visible demonstrations as close as possible to the convention halls. Protest is an indispensable part of democracy, and it serves as a safety valve for those who do not feel represented in the halls of power. The presidential election itself is not sufficient as an opportunity to be heard. We need vigorous debate now in order to make an informed choice in November.