Real drama expected at US political conventions

By Christina Barron

Mississippi Delegate Johnnie P. Patton and her decorated hat during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo / Bonnie Jo Mount, Washington Post
Mississippi Delegate Johnnie P. Patton and her decorated hat during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo / Bonnie Jo Mount, Washington Post

This year's presidential campaign has been anything but dull. The excitement has been leading up to what's happening in the next two weeks: It's political convention time. The Republican Party is meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, this week to officially nominate its candidate. And the Democratic Party will meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the next week to do the same thing.

You probably know that Americans voted in primary elections and caucuses in the past several months to help pick one candidate for each of the two major parties. Donald Trump won the most votes of all the Republican Party candidates, and Hillary Clinton had the most among the Democrats. So if we know who the two main candidates are, you might ask why you should be interested in the conventions.

Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post reporter who has covered political conventions since 2000, says you may like the balloons and funny hats, but there's much more to get your attention.

"This election is a reality show, late-night talk show and political campaign all rolled into one," he told KidsPost. "Especially at the Republican convention in Cleveland, you never know who might take the stage to speak. Celebrities? Athletes? Celebrity athletes? It's must-see TV!"

Long before television was invented, these large gatherings were a big deal. In the 1830s, when conventions began, voters didn't know in advance who would be the nominee. Sometimes the delegates had bitter disagreements. In 1860, the Democrats needed two conventions to choose candidate Stephen Douglas. Republicans that year picked Abraham Lincoln at a single convention, but on the third vote. The worst by far was the 1924 Democratic convention: 16 days and 103 votes before John W. Davis became the nominee.

In 1968, there were intense arguments at the Democratic convention over the Vietnam War. But the bigger news happened outside the convention hall. Several thousand war protesters battled with police, and dozens on both sides were injured.

In the past 40 years, conventions have had very little drama. There are usually a few dozen speakers to rally the delegates - and the TV viewers - around the nominee. There are votes on the party's platform, or priorities. And on the final day, the nominees give an acceptance speech that reveals what they believe about important issues.

But this year seems to be different. Clinton opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn't officially given up his campaign. He wants the Democratic Party to support his ideas. And Trump has made comments that have turned some in the Republican Party against him.

So tune in and see for yourself how these disagreements are resolved. But also try to spot the funny hats.

Words to know

• Delegates: Party members representing each state, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories who choose the candidate.

• DNC: Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the Democratic Party.

• Keynote: The most important speech at the convention, other than the nominee's speech.

• Nominee: The candidate the party chooses to run for president.

• Platform: The party's position on various issues.

• RNC: Republican National Committee, the governing body of the Republican Party.

- Washington Post

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