to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Shirley Griffith.
I'm Steve Ember. This week, the Democrats meet to nominate Barack Obama for
president and his choice for vice president. The announcement Saturday of his
choice of Senator Joe Biden of Delaware included an Obama campaign text message
Next week is the Republican nominating convention. John McCain
is expected to announce his running mate this Friday.
Today on our program we
look at the conventions and their history.
Democratic National Convention opens Monday in Denver, in the western state of
Colorado. Organizers of the four-day event expect fifty thousand people.
Denver, a kilometer and a half above sea
level, is called the "Mile-High City." The last time Denver hosted a
national political convention was the Democratic convention one hundred years
ago. Denver residents brought snow from the Rocky Mountains so the delegates
could have a snowball fight.
The Republican National Convention will
take place from September first through the fourth in Saint Paul and
Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the Midwest. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are known as
the Twin Cities. Party leaders expect forty-five thousand delegates, party
officials, media people and others.
last hosted a national political convention in eighteen ninety-two, and that year
it was also the Republicans.
Political protests are expected during
both conventions. Denver has established a protest area. Activists say the area
is too far from the convention to be meaningful.
people think the possibility of protests may increase television ratings for
the conventions. But viewing of the conventions has fallen over the years.
Broadcast TV networks now limit their live coverage mainly to the major
speeches in the evening.
on Monday night in Denver will include Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, and House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
American political parties hold
conventions every four years to nominate candidates for president and vice
president. But the conventions are also a time to take care of other business.
Party members approve a campaign platform -- a statement of goals and positions
They also elect the party's national
committee and approve rules for the nominating process for the next election.
They listen to speeches. And they get to enjoy entertainment, parties and four
days of national attention.
leaders used to choose presidential nominees. It became clear that a new system
was needed. The first national convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland, in
eighteen thirty-one. It was held by a party that no longer exists -- the
first Democratic convention took place a year later, in eighteen thirty-two.
The modern Republican Party was not formed until the eighteen fifties.
One of the rules approved at that first
Democratic convention was the two-thirds rule. It required a nominee to receive
the votes of two-thirds of the convention delegates. The two-thirds rule lasted
for just over a century, until nineteen thirty-six. Now, only a simple majority
is needed to nominate a candidate -- Democrat or Republican.
rule approved at that first Democratic convention was the unit rule. It
required all the delegates in a state to support the winner in that state.
Democrats ended the unit rule in nineteen sixty-eight. The Republicans,
however, continue to use the winner-take-all system in some states.
nominating process at the convention involves a huge gathering of delegates,
grouped by states and territories. One by one, each delegation is called to
announce its votes.
In the past, many ballots were needed to
choose a candidate. Between ballots, political deal makers would negotiate with
the delegations for support. For example, it took fifty-nine votes to choose
Senator Stephen Douglas as the Democratic nominee in eighteen sixty.
a "dark horse" would appear. This is a candidate who has little or no
support at the start of the convention but wins the nomination.
point to James Polk in eighteen forty-four as an example of a dark horse
candidate. Polk's name was not placed into the voting until the eighth ballot.
The Democrat was nominated on the ninth vote, and Americans elected him
president that November.
presidential nominating conventions bring news media from around the world. But
the meetings are now carefully directed and the results of the balloting are no
longer a surprise.
took place following the nineteen sixty-eight Democratic convention in Chicago.
At that time, many Democrats supported Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. He
was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War. But Vice President Hubert Humphrey
won the nomination because he controlled a majority of the delegates.
say anger about the situation was one of the reasons for the rioting that took
place at the Chicago convention. The Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, went on
to defeat Humphrey for the presidency.
During the convention, Democratic Party
officials appointed a committee to find a new way to choose nominees. Until
then, the results of state primary elections were advisory only. Delegates did
not have to follow the wishes of party members in their state.
nineteen sixty-eight, the Democratic and Republican parties decided to make the
primary results binding on delegates.
primaries and caucus meetings can now decide the nominees long before the
conventions. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, for example, secured
enough delegates in March to receive his party's nomination next week.
Yet, as this year's Democratic primary
season showed, there is still room for a long and lively campaign.
awarded to a candidate based on state results are called pledged delegates.
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois won more of them than Senator Hillary Clinton
of New York. But he did not win enough to secure the nomination with pledged
will give him the majority to be nominated this week is the promised support of
"superdelegates." These are hundreds of party leaders and elected
Democrats who have the right to vote as they wish. The party created
superdelegates in the early nineteen eighties.
the Democrats will still place Hillary Clinton's name in nomination, calling it
a way to honor her. The plan, jointly announced this month by the Obama and
Clinton campaigns, is part of an attempt to unite the party. Senator Clinton
will also speak during the convention.
convention will close Thursday night with Senator Obama's acceptance speech.
The speech has been moved to Denver's outdoor football stadium which holds more
than seventy-five thousand people.
last time a major presidential candidate did something like this was at the
nineteen sixty Democratic convention. John Kennedy gave his acceptance speech
at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Conventions include a keynote speaker.
Being chosen to give one of these speeches can help bring a rising politician
to national attention. Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic convention in
Boston four years ago. At that time he was a state senator running for the
United States Senate.
year the keynote speaker for the Democrats will be former Virginia governor
Mark Warner, a current candidate for the Senate. He will speak Tuesday night,
the same night as Hillary Clinton.
leading Democrat who has announced he will not attend the convention is John
Edwards. The former candidate in this year's presidential campaign recently
admitted that he cheated on his wife.
Republicans, opening-night speakers next Monday will include President George
W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Also on the list is Senator Joe
Lieberman of Connecticut. He was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee with
Al Gore in two thousand. Senator Lieberman is now an independent who has been
talked about as a possible running mate with John McCain.
Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and presidential candidate, will give
the keynote speech on Tuesday. Cindy McCain, the candidate's wife, will speak
the next night.
So will Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal,
the nation's first governor whose family comes from India.
McCain will give his acceptance speech next Thursday on the last night of the
McCann is a political science professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette,
Indiana. He says convention speeches are a way to begin the party's general
election campaign. If done well, he says, they will present the issues in a way
that will help the party gain support between now and the election, on November
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve
I'm Shirley Griffith. For VOA coverage of the conventions, and for transcripts
and MP3s of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com. And join us again next
week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.