If so, this particular patient had a lot of contributing factors to its demise. For public consumption, both major political parties claim that they plan to hold their national conventions as now scheduled and in the traditional format. Donald Trump wants to return to massive rallies well before the Republican convention in late August, as he frequently lets everyone know.

DNC chair Tom Perez insisted as recently as this past Sunday that Democrats still plan on their big party in Milwaukee. Perez told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week that he can’t wait to showcase Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates to a national audience:

RADDATZ: Mr. Perez, just quickly, do you still expect to hold an in-person convention?

PEREZ: We do. And we’re not going to put our public health head in the sane, but I’m optimistic that we can do so, because we’ve put it off for five weeks.

We’re working with all of the public health experts, state, federal, local. And I’m excited about Milwaukee. I’m excited about Wisconsin. I’m excited about this election. And I’m excited about making sure that Joe Biden has an opportunity to show what he’s fighting for.

Biden’s had all the opportunities in the world to do so from home, but … that hasn’t exactly gone well. He clearly needs better producers, and if there’s one thing that conventions do well, it’s put on a show. In fact, that may be all they do, which is why people in both political parties have begun to question whether this American tradition should continue at all.

That didn’t start with the pandemic, either, but the present crisis has provided a catalyst for reconsideration. The New York Times reported last night on the rumblings that this might be an anachronism from a bygone era — a bit of nostalgia over party power that may also have become bygone:

Yet even before the pandemic, a more fundamental debate was playing out: Has the American political convention become a ritual holdover from another age?

For all the organizing, money, time and energy poured into a four-day extravaganza of parties, speeches, forums, lobbying and networking, there is a strong argument that they have become among the less consequential events on the political calendar.

Yes, candidates get their prime-time perch to speak to the nation. Party delegates debate obscure bylaws and approve a platform that is likely to be forgotten the moment the final gavel is dropped. The events can provide a lift in the polls, but there is no shortage of convention nominees, John McCain and Michael S. Dukakis among them, who can attest to just how ephemeral that boost is.

In an era where people got their news in print, or even when they got it from the Big Three TV networks, conventions mattered. In today’s media marketplace, where people get news from a nearly infinite variety of sources and candidates can connect through any number of them, what precisely do conventions provide? The McCain example might be even more significant, since that was the first cycle where online engagement really changed the course of an election, after a brief glimpse of the potential in Howard Dean’s doomed 2004 bid.

The generational gap matters here too, the Times argues:

And in interviews with over a dozen emissaries and operatives from both parties, there was a strong view, especially among younger generations, that the value of conventions has flagged as the rules of politics have changed.

“Our political memories have become so short that we can barely remember Trump’s monthslong impeachment saga, let alone a weeklong infomercial for our party’s nominee,” said Zac Petkanas, an aide on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. “The dirty little secret of politics is that 80 percent of what everyone thinks is important in campaigns doesn’t matter one little bit.”

He said that any obsession with conventions reflected a “1990s perspective” divorced from Trump-era news velocity.

And the problem was even apparent in the 1990s too. Faxes and e-mails had sped up the news cycle by that point to where a convention’s impact had petered out long before anyone cast a ballot. An explosion of entertainment and news options on cable had preceded the Internet by that point. The national shared-experience value of the major-party conventions probably had dissipated in the 1980s. The 1976 Republican convention, in which Ronald Reagan fought and narrowly lost to Gerald Ford, was likely the last one that resonated for any length of time.

So what replaces the conventions? A massive Zoom call ain’t gonna cut it from a PR perspective. Perhaps one option would be to operate them in a telethon format, where candidates appear from their home venues, and smaller and more manageable groups around the country provide a live-audience atmosphere as a town hall event. That at least would be interesting, if perhaps a bit dangerous for the candidates involved.

This year, though, this format appears dead as voters don’t even want to go to retail outlets, let alone massive crowded arenas where God-knows-what gets passed around the attendees. And perhaps it’s a good time to stick a DNR note on it and send conventions to the past, where they probably belong.