Nominations & Conventions


Like political parties, conventions are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. However, they play a key role in American politics. Conventions mark the transition between two important periods of presidential campaigns: the nominating process and the general election.  Conventions have evolved over time, with modern reforms occurring in the second half of the 20th century, especially in the Democratic Party.  The McGovern-Fraser Commission, created by Democrats in the wake of the 1968 convention, created a way for voters to participate directly in the nominating process.  Republicans followed with their own reforms, but at a slower pace.  As Republicans won most of the presidential contests in that period, they saw little need to change their processes.

The convention is the event, held every four years, that nominates candidates for president and vice president.  It also creates a party platform that outlines the party’s positions on major issues.  National party conventions are important for many reasons.  First, they allow party members to debate and resolve conflicting positions on major issues.  They also serve as a major political rally, bringing thousands of party elites and ordinary members together in one location.

Critics believe that with advances in communications technology, modern conventions could be one-day events in the nation’s capital, instead of the traditional four-day affairs.  This would eliminate many of the costs associated with travel. However, it is unlikely that either party would do this alone, so conventions will likely continue for the foreseeable future.