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Opinion: Will California Ever Get Another Convention?

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Opinion: CA Conventions More Fun

Conventioneers arriving in Los Angeles would get to hang out at the Staples Center, like these fans who awaited the Kings parade on June 14, 2012, in downtown LA.

The weather in Southern California this week is warm and dry and beautiful. Much more comfortable than Charlotte, where the Democrats will hold their national convention next week. And not dodging the path of a storm, unlike Tampa, where the Republicans are gathering this week.

It's enough to make you wonder: what does California do to get a political convention back this way?

We're the perfect convention state -- San Diego (which hosted the GOP in 1996), LA (which hosted in 2000 and 1960, the historic JFK convention) or San Francisco would be perfect hosts. Delegates would like to come here. There's plenty of media nearby. And our weather isn't all that humid in late summer.

So why not?

The obvious answer is that our elections in this era are too close to make California attractive as a convention site. Presidential races are decided in a dozen or so swing states. And California, now solidly in the Democratic column, isn't one of them. The parties have decided that it's worth going to places like Charlotte and Tampa to reach voters in important swing states like North Carolina and Florida.

So how do we get back in the convention game?

The short answer to that is: money.

If a California city were willing to cover the costs of a convention, it might lure back one party or the other. Of course, California ciites don't have much extra money, and conventions can create all kinds of headaches, financial and otherwise.

Los Angeles, which hosted the last national political convention (the Democrats in 2000), spent years dealing with litigation resulting from confrontations between cops and street protestors outside Staples Center.

All of which means that California has almost certainly hosted its last convention for quite a while.

At the risk of sounds like the blue state snob I am, this switch away to lesser cities in lesser, if more competitive states, is a loss for the country. A national political convention used to be big and classy -- like a fine steakhouse.

Today's political conventions are like a stop at Applebee's.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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