Getting Ready for the Conventions

Getting Ready for the Conventions

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

In less than three weeks, on Monday July 18th the Republican National Convention will open in Cleveland and one week later the Democratic Convention will commence in Philadelphia. Behind the scenes one week before the festivities begin the various convention organizing committees—credentials, platform, and rules–will hold their formal meetings to prepare for the actual convention. It is now, however, that the plans and drafting are being finalized for both Conventions. It is in this regard that a few items are worth noting on both sides.

For the Republicans, the platform committee will have some substantive discussions between Trumpites and the more conservative party delegates but in all likelihood that debate will not create any dramatic scenes on the convention floor. With respect to the party rules and credentials issues there may be a bit more excitement. If indeed efforts develop to attempt to change the convention rules—something that actually is within the purview of the committee and the Convention–and thereby free delegates to vote their conscience and deny Trump the nomination, events in the Quicken Loans Arena may be the most exciting event in Cleveland since 1813 when Commander Oliver Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.  Should there be a confrontation on the rules, there is no predicting what the outcome might be in a convention floor fight the following week?

On the Democratic side the credentials discussions in committee should be relatively quiet. In the rules committee there will undoubtedly be some discussion about how future Democratic Party convention delegate selections will be conducted. Will the party move further away from the use of caucuses; eliminate altogether “winner take all” primaries; eliminate super-delegates; etc. Some of these issues may be resolved to placate and quiet the Sanders supporters, but most of these matters will probably remain for a special committee to be formed by the DNC to meet after the election to resolve these issues.

With respect to the platform committee recommendations there will undoubtedly be some debate between the Clinton and Sanders delegates over numerous planks, including taxes, economic reforms, campaign finance, etc. Some will be resolved, some will be compromised, and some will be sent to the convention floor for debate. The Clinton team, for example, expecting some push back from of the Sanders delegates on the Middle East–support for Israel plank with a move for support for Palestinian rights, has announced it will seek a clear statement of Party opposition to BDS boycotts. Such a move might calm opposition within some circles of the pro-Israel Democratic community to the Sanders’ sponsored planks.

At the end of the day the Republican Convention probably will be very high on theatrics and extravaganza with substance and content not receiving as much focus as ad hominem attacks. The Democratic Party will probably be more boring except for the vice-presidential nominee selection, unless Sanders or his delegates seek to undermine a more orderly format. There also could be a dramatic Obama speech which might launch the Clinton campaign.

While there are always unknowns and surprises, with Trump involved nothing would be beyond him. The final interesting note is that the fact that there is no break between the conventions one following the other and both in July, suggests that the public will be supersaturated with politics when August arrives. Post-convention polling bumps, therefore, may well have minimal impact. 

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