- “it would more advantageous to hold the convention in the middle of October just prior to the November elections.”
- “The heat in Las Vegas in July is keeping many who would like to participate from attending.”
- “We have also received numerous emails from people who were forced to decide between family vacations and attending the convention.”
To make the point bluntly their stated reasons for moving the convention are bullshit, and CNN buried the real reason this is happening in the story which was “moving back the date allows other Tea Party groups to attend the convention.” In other words they’re two weeks from their event and they’ve got no attendees and no interest in it.
This should be a juicy media story about the staying power of the Tea Party movement. Are they going to keep it going or does the excitement fizzle out at some point? That’s pretty much the first question I’d be asking if I were a reporter covering the Tea Party and this crossed my desk.
But just to drive my point home let me talk a little bit about what would be involved moving an event like this. It’d be a Herculean task that you wouldn’t try simply because you wanted to influence the elections or deal with some attendees complaining about the Vegas heat (when they’d likely rarely leave the hotel anyway). The only reason you’d take this sort of extraordinary action two weeks out is if your event was in imminent danger of completely failing due to lack of attendance and media attention.
Just some of the many things that’d be involved if you chose to do this would be:
* Re-booking all of your speakers, some of whom you might have specific agreements with and might not be available on your new date. So there’s a chance they lose some of these speakers in the fall. If you’ve paid speaking fees, as Tea Party events have traditionally done, you might forfeit those.
* All of your attendees are going to have to change their hotel reservations, flights, and scheduled time off. It’s not a trivial commitment for someone to go to a convention like this. People make plans to take time off work (unless they are attending professionally), deal with their kids, schedule other vacations around this, and lay out a non-trivial amount of money to travel. Most airlines don’t have the friendliest policies about changing your flights, but the main problem is the hassle with rearranging your schedule. So it has to be a big deal to put all your attendees through this, and you’re going to get some attrition and a big brand hit for doing it.
* Renegotiating with the hotel can put you in a bad position with respect to your costs for the event. July vs. October are two completely different periods in the convention lifecycle in Las Vegas. So who knows what concessions they sacrificed by doing that. You’re also in a time period where the hotel might assess you large damages for blowing a hole in their room revenue.
* You’ve got to renegotiate with all your vendors. Some of them may be forgiving and others you might incur a contractual penalty this close in, especially if they’ve already purchased/rented equipment and made commitments to hire staff.
* If you’ve got any products that are on their way like programs, lanyards, bags, etc then that’s all out the window and will need to be changed.
I could go on, but I think that gets the point across this is a big deal.
I’ve thought for a while that most of this Tea Party stuff was nothing more than puffed up astroturf and this pretty much proves it. Without conservative donors spending $100,000 to get Sarah Palin to attend or Fox News dedicating tens of hours of coverage to promote events you’re not left with a whole lot. There’s no real movement there, no real organizing being done.
That’s the story we should be hearing in the media, but you’re not going to hear it. At least not for a little while longer. But the boomlet of the Tea Party is on its way out, it’s just a matter of time before that becomes conventional wisdom.
Meanwhile Netroots Nation is holding our 5th convention in Las Vegas from July 22-25th. It should be as exciting as ever and more importantly it shows that progressives organize to build lasting structures, not cash in on their members for a quick buck.