National conventions are political circuses without the dancing elephants and trapeze artists, but there is the usual assortment of speakers who we have trouble taking seriously even if they are not dressed like clowns.

This year some of the levity may be downplayed as conventioneers gather to wrestle with divisions both within and between the major parties as the nation must confront mounting violence that has paralyzed entire communities.

We might recall actor Clinton Eastwood’s rambling discussion with an “empty chair” at the last GOP convention whose comic routine had the delegates twisting uncomfortably in their seats.

But as Donald T. Trump takes center stage in Cleveland which he is not likely to relinquish for more than short periods, we can be sure that, underlying the fanfare, there will be a less jocular tone to the proceedings which brings together many GOP loyalists not entirely enamored with his impending nomination.

In fact the absentee list reads like a Who’s Who of the Party!

Both immediate past GOP presidents have opted out; Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney will be at home; former Sec. of State, Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Lindsay Graham, will not be present.

Other VIPS such as Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Marco Rubio (Fla), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Mark Kirk (Illinois), and Pat Toomey (Pa) will be mowing their lawns or heading for recreational sites with their families.

Future stars are customarily paraded out for their national debuts such as Pres. Barack Obama was when he gave a riveting keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention then an obscure Illinois state legislator which launched him into national prominence.

Nikki Haley, the personable South Carolina Governor, pegged for higher office has declined an invitation to speak as has Ohio Gov. and former candidate, John Kasich,  who will not be attending, and House Speaker, Paul Ryan, will be wielding the gavel despite misgivings about the man he will be introducing.

Typically the Party eminences are given prime time speaking slots to rally the faithful and extoll past achievements.

The speaker “B” list includes Trump’s wife and four children; Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin; actor and former underwear model, Antonio Sabato, Jr.; Tom Barrack, co-founder of Colony Capitol;  PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and  others who lack household names.

This convention has all the makings of a fraternity bash that could get out of hand if the nonconformists, Trump opponents, party malcontents and protestors do not exercise discipline—something which Trump rallies have failed to always demonstrate as he campaigned.

The fact that so many party dignitaries are giving the convention the widest berth speaks to the angst and fears which Trump’s highly unorthodox candidacy has generated.

Many of those running for re-election to the U.S. Senate (there will be 24 GOP seats at stake compared to 10 for the Democrats) are not prepared to jeopardize their careers in behalf of a nominee who could be a heavy drag on the tickets. A turnover of just 4 seats would swing the majority back to the Democrats.

This has cast a shadow over the convention which none of the most noble and high-minded speeches will change.

You do not win elections at conventions—if successful you only highlight the strengths of your party and focus on the virtues of returning incumbents to office.

If this requires wholesale denunciation of the messages the Messenger-in-Chief will be conveying for the next 4 months, seeking refuge can get tricky.

For GOP House members there is also plenty of apprehension as they must defend seats that have been marginalized with the exception of the Deep South by Trumps tirades.

Given the fiercely partisan environment which Trump, the Tea Party and the ultra-conservatives have created, there is hope that the ticket splitting which formerly gave protection to local candidates even as their states voted differently nationally could again be in play.

If Trump were to lose with polls showing him currently at an all-time 70% high unfavorability rating among all voters, Republican candidates will be seeking shelter from the fall-out.

Hillary Clinton does better but is still higher than she would like to be at a 56% unfavorability rating.

Trump’s unpopularity does not seem to faze him. In fact it only stokes his fires the more so. His lack of self-control appears irreversible and the attempts to given him constructive advice which could bring some degree of professionalism to the campaign is seen as an impediment.

The public has slowly become so immunized to the bad behavior that any momentary lapses could be blown up to reveal a sudden virtuous turn that is more likely to reflect a more serious character disorder than realized.

However there is little chance that normal convention etiquette will replace crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics that feed Trump’s monumental ego and the millions of followers who mindlessly feed off it.