National Party Conventions - Functions

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National Party Conventions:
Formal Functions Informal Functions
Choosing the party's presidential candidate: Promoting party unity:
Conventions have lost this function in the modern Most important function of all
day because most delegates arrive at the Internal part wounds need to be healed before the
convention as `committed delegates', and so the general election campaign begins: divided parties
ballot is already a foregone conclusion when the do not win ­ convention = opportunity to heal
number of delegates is known. wounds within the party.
Instead, people argue that conventions no 2008 Democratic convention, the party seemed
longer choose candidates, but confirm who the united despite the bitter rivalry between Obama
presidential candidates are and Clinton during the primaries ­ Clinton endorsed
Last time presidential candidate was in any real Obama at the Convention
doubt was in 1976 between Ford and Reagan However party unity was not rebuilt at the 1992
Because there is rarely occasions where a Republican convention. Bush remained at
candidate doesn't win an absolute majority in the loggerheads with primary election rival Buchanan ­
first ballot, this function is now performed by Bush was defeated later that year.
primaries, not conventions
In the 15 elections between 1956-2012 there
were no occasions where a second ballot was
needed to choose presidential candidates.
Choosing the party's vice-presidential candidate: Enthusing ordinary voters:
Significant function which the modern-day Must enthuse the ordinary voters via the television
convention has lost Golden moment to gain attention from the
No longer the forum for the announcement of the ordinary voters during the convention is when the
running mate newly adopted presidential candidate delivers his
However... it is the first time the running mate gets acceptance speech, traditionally on the
so speak ­ not completely lost? convention's final night
Deciding the party platform: Enthusing the party faithful:
Document containing polices that the candidate It is vital that the party faithful in all the 50 states
intends to pursue if elected as president feel enthusiastic and committed as they prepare to
Put together by the Platform Committee who hold fight for their party candidate
hearings around the country during the first 6 The convention provides an ideal opportunity to
months of the election year. enthuse the party faithful through speeches as
In 2008, the Democrats held more than 1,600 well as through appearances by the past
`listening sessions' in communities across all 50 champions and heroes
states. 2012 ­ Bill Clinton gave an inspirational speech and
National committee presents the draft platform to brought the delegates to their feet, clearly having
delegates at the National Party Convention enthused the party faithful to return to their states
Debates may occur at the convention on and work for Obama's re-election
various parts of the platform (`planks')
however, heated debates o policy issues are

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Old Sir

A very useful, clear and concise outline of the functions of the national party conventions held by the two principle parties in the years of presidential elections. Students might wish to add the knowledge here to case studies of the process of campaigning for the parties' presidential nominations.

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