Every four years, political party conventions convene to nominate their respective party’s candidate for President and Vice-President. These events very much resemble a giant party combined with business, specifically, the party platform—more on that below.
Ok, I admit it. I’m a political party watcher, having done so since I was a tot. There’s a single picture in my mind of a black and white television screen with the state signs waving in the air and the name, “Adlai Stevenson.” Don’t laugh. The confetti, balloons, and the excitement must have made an impression. I was hooked. Usually, people who have an avid interest in American civics and citizenship find their passion for it at a young age. American values, I say, are often caught rather than taught.
Let’s review or discover for the first time, some convention basics.
The first Democratic National Convention was held in 1832 (about 44 years after the Constitution was ratified). The first Republican National Convention occurred in 1856. They were rather raucous affairs. Choosing a candidate was done at the convention, not beforehand, as it is today. For example, the Democrats voted 103 times to get a 2/3 majority vote for their candidate, John W. Davis in 1924. Republicans voted 36 times in 1880 before choosing James Garfield as their nominee.
Convention planning is a business. No doubt, you have heard much about this in the 2020 election year. Due to the pandemic, changes and more changes have occurred involving location and accommodation changes. Months of planning and preparing have been reduced to plans B and C instead of plan A.
Whose convention is first?
It is the party that does not have a member of their party as President.
According to the Federal Election Commission, “national nominating conventions are funded through contributions made to the national party committees’ convention accounts. Certain supplemental services, however, may be provided by the host state and city governments and by groups such as retail businesses and labor organizations.”
It is not free for delegates. They pay for some or all of their expenses.
How are delegates chosen?
It depends on your state. If you are interested, I highly recommend doing an internet search for the rules for how the Democrat and Republican delegates are chosen in your state.
What events should I watch for at the convention?
-Speeches! What to look for: who is speaking, when are they speaking, what are they saying, why are they saying it. Try to hear the keynote address (usually given by a prominent party member or an important up and comer), the nominating, and the acceptance speeches.
-The Party Platform states the political party’s goals and where the party stands on the issues; “planks” are the party platform’s individual parts. It’s important to read the platform the parties have just adopted. It can and often does change every four years. This tells you what you may/may not hear in the speeches.
The nominees for President and Vice-President are presented to the American people, along with their family members. There is a show of unity in each party as the final months of the campaign begin.
How will a virtual convention differ from conventions in the past? We will soon find out. Expect each party to broadcast to the television audience rather than to several thousand delegates in the room. Reserved more than raucous. News coverage after the nightly coverage of the convention. The use of social media will play a more prominent role in the convention, which means the American people will play a more significant role than in the past.
I’ll miss the traditional party-like atmosphere of the conventions. Yes, even the balloons and confetti ?
What have you learned that may be new information in this Simple Civics 101 lesson? Will you take an active interest in the conventions? If so, what part will garner your attention? The Democratic and Republican platforms? The speeches? The novelty of a virtual convention? Let us know in the comments below.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.??
*Next on Simple Civics 101, we will take a look at the basics of special interest groups