Political Conventions

February 23, 1972

Report Outline
Approach of the 1972 Conventions
Development of Convention System
Proposals for Reform or Abolition
Special Focus

Approach of the 1972 Conventions

Uniqueness of the American Nominating System

The making of the president, 1972, already has begun. In precinct caucuses, in county, district and state conventions, and in primary elections beginning March 7 in New Hampshire, Democrats and Republicans are choosing or shortly will choose delegates to their national conventions. The Democrats will convene at Miami Beach on July 10 and the Republicans at San Diego on Aug. 21 to adopt party platforms and select nominees for President and Vice President. To the millions of Americans and foreigners looking on via television, the conventions probably will appear to be the usual confusing mixture of drama, tedium, and frivolity. Just as predictably, political commentators will complain that the convention system is unwieldy and ought to be reformed or replaced. The parties, however, will start to lay plans for the 1976 conventions even as they gird themselves for the 1972 presidential election campaign.

American national conventions, Theodore H. White has noted, “are a political phenomenon which most foreigners and many Americans fail to understand—for it is uniquely and particularly American, drawn from no handbook of political theory, designed by no master philosopher.” The American convention system essentially is an outgrowth of the constitutional separation of legislative and executive powers. In such parliamentary democracies as Britain and Canada, where the two powers reside in the national legislature, the main function of party conventions is to discuss and formulate policy. Only rarely are they called upon to choose a party leader who might later become prime minister.

In the United States, on the other hand, “conventions are bodies whose only real justification is that they present. men who will take over. the executive powers of the United States.…” In addition, the nomination gives “to the candidate the formal leadership of the party for four years, the command of the national party machinery, such as it is, and, for at any rate the months of the presidential campaign, allow[s] the nominee to make party policy and ignore or interpret with practically complete freedom, the declaration of policy, the ‘platform,’ that the convention presents to the voters as its formal program of action.”

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Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
Sep. 11, 1926  The Future of the Direct Primary
Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
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