Presidential Nominating Conventions: What You Need to Know


Every four years, the Democratic and Republican parties each hold their National Conventions. These take place after the presidential primaries and are the official venue where the party selects its candidates for president and vice president. You might have wondered before if these conventions are codified in law or simply tradition. Let’s take a closer look.

Origins of Nominating Conventions

No political parties are actually part of the US government in a formal sense. They are private organizations with their own regulations and practices independent of the US Constitution. While they operate within the bounds of law, they’re not part of the government themselves. many politicians join political parties for the increased profile and resources it can give them for elections, but it’s not necessarily required to run for office.

The original nominating conventions were held by the Federalist Party in 1808 and 1812 as a way to determine who the party would back for the presidential election. For the first 150 years of their existence, the conventions were an opportunity for the party’s leaders to debate and decide on who would lead them for the upcoming election.

Modern Era

In the modern era, though, both major parties use a series of primary contests in all 50 states to pledge delegates to their candidates. When the convention starts, it’s already well-known who in the party will be nominated for president and vice president. As such, modern conventions are more about the party platform, functioning as media spectacles for the party to show off their up-and-coming members.

Given their size and economic impact, the modern-day conventions have become something of a badge of honor for host cities. Everywhere from Las Vegas hotels to convention centers in New York have played host to the sweeping political events. Not unlike potential host cities for the Olympic Games, these metro areas court political parties to choose them for the next convention.

Are They Necessary?

Historically, these party conventions were a formal process by which a political party selects its candidate for president. These days, however, the conventions are mostly still around today because of their role in energizing the party. The nominees are determined in advance, but the party’s message is amplified by a big, showy event.

A huge convention that celebrates a party’s accomplishments while focusing on its future is great for any organization. When talking about an organization that requires the majority of votes to stay in power, such a public spectacle is clearly a vital aspect of their success.