Research paper topics: How do political conventions work?

It is official. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will serve as the presidential candidates of their respective political parties. The announcements at the Democratic and Republican conventions came as no surprise since the two were the popular candidates in the polls. But prior to the conventions, there was discussion of a possible contested convention or brokered convention.

Learn more about how political conventions work. (Credit: Northeastern)

Learn more about how political conventions work. (Credit: Northeastern)

If you’re looking for interesting research paper topics, consider looking at how the Democratic National Convention (DNC) or Republican National Convention work, or addressing what the conventions do to make a candidacy official.

How do political conventions work?

When the political convention system was set up, it was where party representatives gathered to update the party platform and to measure how the candidates held up against the party’s ideals. “They used to be where party leaders decided amongst themselves who would be a nominee, and presented that nominee and their qualifications to the voting public to be measured in the general election,” wrote Eric Ravenscraft in his July 18, 2016, LifeHacker post, “How Do Political Conventions Work?” Ravenscraft continued, “Now, they’re used to gain attention for their issues and rally their base.”

The modern voter base participates widely in primaries and caucuses. For Republicans, the primaries and caucuses award candidates who carry a state with a certain number of pledged delegates at the convention. For Democrats, the delegates are earned in the primaries and caucuses, but the superdelegates—all sitting Democratic members of congress, Democratic governors, and additional party leaders—are essentially free agents whose votes aren’t determined.

In order to please the voter base (and hopefully win the general election), the superdelegates typically support the popular candidate. One important compromise that was made at this year’s Democratic National Convention Rules Committee, was that the DNC voted to decrease its number of superdelegates in the future that resulted from a proposal by party progressives.

But it gets a little more complicated in races as highly contested as the 2016 primary races were. Some Republicans—largely in an effort to oust Donald Trump as the nominee—made an effort to pass a clause that would give pledged delegates the option to vote their conscience rather than by popular vote (it was defeated). Bernie Sanders supporters hoped that the superdelegates of the DNC would sway against Hillary Clinton at the last minute (they didn’t).

Brokered or contested conventions

If Donald Trump hadn’t managed to secure the majority of pledged delegates before the Republican convention, it would have become a contested convention. If Bernie Sanders hadn’t withdrawn his candidacy and thrown in his support to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic convention would have become contested. Essentially, if no candidate arrives at convention with the majority of the pledged delegates, the convention is considered contested. The delegates have a first vote, and if there is still not a clear candidate with the majority, things get complicated.

“If there’s no winner, more than half of the delegates immediately become free agents,” CNN Politics blogger Gregory Krieg wrote in his “7 things you need to know about a contested convention,” posted April 7, 2016. “This is when the convention moves into its ‘brokered’ phase and the campaigns begin to vigorously compete for their support on a second ballot.”

A brokered convention means that there’s potential for lots of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes in order for the convention to come to a conclusion on their nominee. Delegates have to make a choice on how to vote, depending on whether their candidate remains in the race and whether the laws of their state allow them to become unbound.

Each state’s rules are different: Pennsylvania entered the Republican convention with 54 unbound delegates of their 71 total; California, however, doesn’t release any of its 172 delegates until after the second round of voting.

A time for speeches

With the candidates largely decided by the primaries and caucuses, the conventions serve as an opportunity for many party leaders (and hopeful leaders) to make speeches and fire up the party members for the general election. The 2016 DNC was historic for a different reason: it marked the first time a female candidate for president had been chosen to represent a major party.

“The idea that I’m going to be here when the first woman president is nominated is overwhelming,” Clinton supporter Martha McKenna said in Herine Lucey’s July 27, 2016, Charleston Gazette Mail article, “Democratic National Covnention; Clinton Officially Nominee; First Woman to Represent Major Party in US History.” Regardless of the general election results, Clinton’s nomination has broken a glass ceiling for women.

For more on U. S. Presidential Elections, visit Questia.

What interesting research paper topics could you draw from the Republican convention or the Democratic convention? Share your ideas in the comments.

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