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The Roles of National Conventions in United States’ Presidential Election

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Introduction – The Aim and Mission

National convention is the gathering of all political stake holders belonging to a political party in a move towards presenting a unified candidate of sound integrity for the next presidential (national) election. Such a candidature must be formidable enough to successfully withstand the rigor of electorate assessment (on a broad scale) towards winning for his belonging party. In the United States, political convention is supposedly held every four years among parties. The convention is organized to fulfill two primary aims. Firstly, to field in numerous nominees in the forthcoming presidential election.

The fielding proceeds with the selection of the most credible aspirant. Secondly, the importance of a national conventional does not rule out the task of selecting statements of “party principles and aims”. Such would be adopted by the political party as the standing rules governing the nomination into the next election in view (about four years time). It is rather saddened to note over the decades that the major roles played through the inauguration of solidarity national convention are fast defeating its purposes.

The sense of relevance is fast decaying and disappearing as if it never served well in the past usage. The present status of national convention is sorely becoming a sight of ‘ceremonial and ugly scene’. Experts have argued that the changes in the election rules and guidelines coupled with the unguarded ways our politicians go on campaigning has brought the nation a change of focus away from the good returns of national convention.

Key Players

The two major parties well known for a popular national convention are the Democratic national Convention and the Republican National Convention. Other minor parties include Socialist party U.S.A., Libertarian Party, constitution party among others. They equally hold national convention to democratically elect their nominees for representation at the presidential poll.

History of National Convention in breif

The first successful presidential candidate of Republican Party of the United State was nominated in the 1860 Republican National convention, that was the great Abraham Lincoln. In 1912, the republican conventions had it tough with William Howard Taft who lost to Theodore Roosevelt even in his own home state of Ohio.

Importance/ the Roles

The growing importance of a national convention was evident far back in 1992 when Pat Buchanan was delivering speech at the 1992 republican national convention in Houston, Texas. The speech was severely criticized for separating “liberal and centrist voters who might have otherwise voted for the moderate nominee, George H. W. Bush.”(Online, n.d)

National convention in its importance presents a candidate as a party symbol of unity. Such event announces whoever had won the ‘party ticket’ as the presidential nominee in a national election. The running mate is alongside announced. The political intrigues as such moment of semi-final decision is at its climax for that political party where vested interest got their main man. The process is of great importance as it thus provides a platform to resolve divisions and disunity before the publicly announcing an agreed aspirant with majority vote to run in the upcoming presidential election.

Further in the role, national convention exposes the entire public to a party’s disorderliness and hence, unfitting for the vying crown. A scenario is that of 1960 Democrat’s national convention, when the winning uncertainty of J. F. Kennedy was publicly blown. At the scene, the party was far from being united at the arrival of Kennedy. He lacked the majority backing until series of off-the-scene negotiations of ‘wheeling and dealing’.

That he eventually won the election in a very close result says much about the importance of a party consensus being glorified not at the expense of lives through unnecessary chaotic exposure to the public. There is power in unison. In the absence of a national convention where such dramatic negotiation is hidden from the media, crisis would have erupted due to lack of public caution and exposure of bad public manners and uncivilized citizens canvassing for a niche in the corridor of power. Such a brokered convention involving Kennedy’s national convention in 1960 is a damaging won if the series of rowdiness displayed behind the scene was to be released to the media.

Furthermore, it is important to note that national convention exposes ‘negative campaign’ modus where some intending nominees really do not have anything to offer the nation but rather castigating the opponents. Such campaign is solely central on watering opposition’s policies and figure publicly, thereby, gathering an aura of public hatred around the opponents. The ladder of leadership requires accurately focused individuals who will not be unnecessarily selfish at the detriment of economic buoyancy. An open national convention publicizes such candidature for an outright disqualification by the masses. Ultimate power belongs to the people!

In annuls of history, the Democrats has a labeled episode of the most dangerous convention held in 1968. The party nominee, Hubert Humphrey, had not won a vote in the primary election before an unholy imposition as the presidential nominee simply because he had the support of a retiring incumbency. The media got more coverings of the riots that ensued outside the convention, displaying an open show of lawlessness. The election got the democrats in the second losing position as a result of the open shame. Imagine the absence of national convention to assist in the revealing, more havoc would be wrecked if such political party assumes the thrown.

Similar episode occur in 1972 party convention where the media exposed shambling organization of the Democrats’ national convention in the nomination of George McGovern). They failed to learn their lesson at the first instance. Richard Nixon eventually won on a landslide victory, to the Republican glory. (Ambrose S. report- “The Democrats gave an appearance of being anti-religion and pro-drugs, anti-profit and pro-welfare, anti-family and pro-abortion, anti-farmer and pro-migrant worker, anti-Saigon and pro-Hanoi, anti-armed forces and pro draft-dodgers.” ).

The role of national convention in the determination of vice president cannot as well be over emphasized. The choice of “running mate” is crucial in recent years. Emphasis is now being laid on the assessment of the qualities of the vice presidential candidates. Parties want to sell their two candidates as having singular “dream ticket”. Irrespective of the age difference, the background, the sex or race, national convention will favor candidate with formidable team driven passionately with a dream, vision and focus. National convention displays their level of compatibility and competence in an open media.


Over the decades the political parties have learnt their lesson, they will continue to learn. The image a convention display goes in a way to perfect the electorate final decision in which party and the candidate to settle for. This is a direct reflection of whose hand their pending future would be safe to submit. Open national convention has done more repairs to political landscape of United States.

Thompson (ed.), Margaret C. (1983). Presidential Elections Since 1789. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 65.
Congressional Research Service. Presidential Elections in the United States: A Primer. (Washington, Congressional Research Service, April 17, 2000).
Ancona, Vincent S. When the Elephants Marched Out of San Diego: The 1972 Republican Convention Fiasco, The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1992, Volume 38.

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