Presidential Conventions “Firsts” And What You Need To Know

Shoot Date: 
Friday, July 22, 2016

This year were expecting the historical nomination of our nation’s first female candidate for President at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and we've certainly had entertainment from the Republican presumptive candidate Donald Trump at the Republican convention in Cleveland. But presidential conventions have been full of firsts, lasts, and surprises.

Our system originally used state, not national conventions, for the presidential elections. The purpose for changing to national conventions was to unify the party by nominating and confirming the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and clarifying the party platform and rules together. And of course mark the end of the primary and beginning of general elections. The first Democrats national conversion was in 1832. in Baltimore. First national republican convention was 1856 in Pittsburgh.

Nowadays we pretty much know who the candidates are going into the national conventions, but it hasn't always been that way. One interesting thing about the first Democratic national convention, for example, is that’s also when the Democrats began using what was referred to as a 2/3rd rule, meaning that a candidate needed 2/3 of the convention votes in order to get the nomination. That rule often resulted in multiple contentious ballots and on some occasions, the two major candidates essentially cancelling each other out and a “dark horse” third, surprise, candidate being nominated instead. The 2/3 rule also made it virtually impossible for northern Democrats to get the nomination without support from southern Democrats.

But, in 1936, the Democrats changed to 2/3 rule to a mere majority rule. And, since the 1980s, the Presidential nominee has more or less been known before the convention. Not only that, but candidates seem to be been selected earlier and earlier each cycle. Interestingly, the lack of drama and conflict at national conventions may also have led to less public interest over the years.

Of course, this is the first year that we’re going to see a woman being nominated by a major party. Women got the right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920. Four years later, in 1924, women were given the right to equal representation at national presidential conventions, first by the Republican party.

But it wasn’t until 1972 that new quotas were set for women and minority delegates at the Democratic national convention and debates were opened up to controversial topics like abortion. 1972 was also the year Pat Nixon spoke at the convention, the first Republican first lady and the first first lady at all to speak since Eleanor Roosevelt. Not only is that commonplace today but, regardless of which side of the aisle or candidate you support we all have in common the fact that, once again were sharing history as its being written now in Philadelphia as we witness the first women actually nominated to be a presidential candidate.

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