Political Conventions:Why Should We Care?

Published by Andre Showell on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Andre Showell

When it comes to political conventions, the term “party” has more than one meaning. Democrats and Republicans pull out all the stops to formally endorse their presidential nominee in a spectacular show of party unity, but do they still hold the same significance as they used to years ago?

“Historically, things tended not to be as certain in terms of the individual. Today, many of the decisions about the two parties are known before the conventions ever begin, but conventions are still the place where party platforms are developed,” says political scientist Wilmer Leon, Ph.D.

Gary Flowers, president of The Black Leadership Forum, believes conventions can help to inform our opinions about a candidate and the policies they propose. “In other words, what are the policy platforms that that party espouses that it would like to see made into law? Secondly, what are the interests and the rules around how candidates get elected? And lastly what is the tone that the candidate wants to set for American politics?”

Conventions are historic, and African-Americans have, at times, made a huge impact. From the Democratic National Convention of 1964 that featured activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who challenged Mississippi’s all-White delegation, to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s rousing address to the nation during his 1984 presidential run, Blacks have made their presence known at the conventions.

Experts advise that you pay attention to the line-up of speakers because they provide a good indication of the party’s political stars of the future.  “Current President Obama was the keynote speaker in 2004, when many Americans had not heard his name before, but after his speech they knew that there was a rising star,” said Flowers.

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