Assessing Party Conventions

For Immediate Release

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020;
or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Assessing Party Conventions

WASHINGTON - GWENDOLYN MINK

Co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of the forthcoming Feminism and Inequality, Mink is scrutinizing various portions of the Democratic Party platform on her blog. She was featured on IPA's recent news release titled "Is Obama Clinton 2.0?."

ELIZABETH SANDERS

Sanders is professor of government at Cornell University and author of Roots of Reform and the forthcoming Presidents, War, and Reform. She is at the American Political Science Association Convention in Boston.

She said today: "Conventions used to matter much more, before the era of rules reform began in 1972. Through the early 1960s, you used to have actual debates about party policy and direction. The Democrats in 1968 decided to change their rules in a way that had momentous consequences. And the Republicans, who also changed their rules, though less extremely, displayed at their 1976 convention an open struggle for the soul of their party -- between the old Northeast/Midwestern moderates and the upstart Southern and Western conservatives who now dominate the GOP.

"This year we are [seeing] the more typical pep rallies within parties whose nominees have already been decided by 50 different state processes, with two sets of delegates that have become quite polarized (in significant measure because of the post-1968 rules changes that have selected delegates much more liberal, or conservative, than the two parties' rank and file, or elected officials). ...

"Increasingly, the rules have allowed for 'lone wolf' candidates to emerge, who might not be really tied to the party, but have consummate ambition and access to a fundraising apparatus outside the party. Also, I've found that when you have presidents who don't come out of a party structure centered on elected officials, they tend to be more war-like. They emphasize -- and distort -- the 'commander-in-chief' role rather than the role of a party leader dedicated to fulfilling a mostly domestic program. ..."

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