Political Conventions

August 8, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 28
Have they outlived their usefulness?
By Tom Price

Introduction

Every four years national political conventions bring out the party faithful — and the fanciful hats. Ohio delegate Ruby Gilliam attends the 2004 Democratic gathering in Boston.  (Getty Images/Scott Olson)
Every four years national political conventions bring out the party faithful — and the fanciful hats. Ohio delegate Ruby Gilliam attends the 2004 Democratic gathering in Boston. (Getty Images/Scott Olson)

The Democrats and Republicans share a fundamental goal for their upcoming national conventions: to produce scripted television shows that will boost their candidates' prospects in the general election without showcasing any intra-party squabbling. Under that scenario, convention delegates seem to have nothing to do but cheer Barack Obama and John McCain, whose nominations were virtually assured before the conventions began. If the important decisions are made before the conventions begin, ask some politicians, political scientists and critics in the media, why bother to hold them? Convention supporters argue that the gatherings are needed in case a nomination isn't settled beforehand. The conventions also make decisions about party rules that can affect which candidates get nominated. And conventions are the one time every four years when the parties become truly national organizations, with delegates and activists from around the country mingling face-to-face.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
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
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Campaigns and Elections
Party Politics