Bill Whalen

California should host all national party conventions

California last hosted a national party convention in 2000, when Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore famously locked lips with his wife, Tipper, onstage in Los Angeles.
California last hosted a national party convention in 2000, when Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore famously locked lips with his wife, Tipper, onstage in Los Angeles. Associated Press file

As we’re in the calm between the two storms of the party conventions, here’s a halftime report.

California’s GOP delegation survived four days by the shores of Lake Erie. It wasn’t easy, as the Golden State contingent was housed at an African-themed resort in bucolic Sandusky that featured both an indoor water park and the threat of a norovirus outbreak.

For those not familiar with northern Ohio, it meant a 120-mile round trip to see Donald Trump live and in person – the equivalent of overnighting in Napa and having to set up shop every day at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

Not that California Democrats relish their Philadelphia freedom. The delegation led by Gov. Jerry Brown will stay at the Marriott downtown, a 30-minute subway ride to the arena where Hillary Clinton will accept the nomination.

That sounds reasonable, even if Marriott doesn’t always Feel The Bern. Three years ago, the hotel chain was sued for allegedly conspiring to keep some properties union-free. Maybe that’s why the California delegation’s website had these snippy words: “This hotel was chosen … without consultation from the State Party. Delegates are free to seek alternative accommodations although the choices will be limited.”

This begs a question: Is California, despite its glamour and financial clout, getting shortchanged come convention time?

The answer: Yes.

It’s been 16 years since either party held a national convention in America’s nation-state. Democrats gathered in Los Angeles in 2000, while Republicans were in San Diego in 1996.

Prior to that, the Golden State hosted four national conventions between 1956 and 1984. That’s six California conventions in the last 60 years – just one-third the total amassed by Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Pre-jet age, Chicago, the site of 10 conventions, was a more practical hub for a nation that rode the rails.

So let’s talk economics instead.

It will cost about $4,000 out of pocket for every California Democrat to stay four nights in Philadelphia. But that’s small potatoes.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Californians have donated more than $5.3 billion to campaigns, candidates and committees since Al and Tipper Gore’s lip-lock at Staples Center in 2000.

The math is the stuff of income inequality – billions in political donations taken out of California, but in return maybe one or two conventions likely to pump about $200 million apiece into a local economy.

To level this playing field, let’s make California the permanent home of both conventions, starting in 2020.

In the spirit of Melania Trump, I’ll confess it’s not an original thought. Recently, a Smith College economist suggested that Los Angeles become the perma-host city for the summer Olympics because only a city of L.A.’s dimensions has the economic strength and infrastructure to handle the $20 billion undertaking.

So why not apply the Olympic standard to presidential politics? California has the cash and infrastructure.

Keep the conventions here, and we’re also spared the hypocrisy of climate-change liberals taking private jets across the country.

Holding Republican conventions in San Diego is a reality check the party needs. Kevin Faulconer, the mayor of America’s Finest City, is anti-Trump, debates on Spanish-language television and has an economic partnership with Tijuana at the top of his agenda.

Besides, California conventions can promise two things that most states can’t. Delegates won’t drop like flies in a humid climate, and each day’s session will be over by sundown.

Those in favor of the motion to bring the parties west, say “aye.”

Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow and former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson. Whalen can be reached at