Magazine article The American (Washington, DC)

Conventional Wisdom: Karlyn Bowman Offers a Handy Guide to America's Political Conventions Both Past and Present

Magazine article The American (Washington, DC)

Conventional Wisdom: Karlyn Bowman Offers a Handy Guide to America's Political Conventions Both Past and Present

Article excerpt

In September 1831, the Anti-Masonic Party held the nation's first political convention in Baltimore. One hundred and sixteen delegates attended from 13 states. The Democrats held their first convention in 1832 and the Republicans in 1856, making the 2008 Democratic national convention the party's 45th, and the Republicans' their 33th.

The Democrats will hold their convention in Denver from August 25 to 28, and the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul from September 1 to 4. In 1908, when the Democrats held their political convention in Denver, it was the first major party convention to be held in a Western state. William Jennings Bryan was easily nominated. In a reminder of the durability of political preoccupations, the Democrats attacked a government in the grip of "favor-seeking corporations" and sought to ban corporate campaign contributions. Minneapolis's first convention was held in 1892. That year, both parties debated the merits of free trade, with the Republicans more supportive of erecting barriers than the Democrats.

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The Republicans also supported "all wise efforts to lessen the evils of intemperance." The Democrats opposed "all sumptuary laws."

On the surface, this year's choices of Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul seem surprising. In the past 40 years, Colorado has voted only once for a Democratic candidate for president (Bill Clinton in 1992). Minnesota has voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every election since 1972-the longest streak of voting Democratic for any state. Expected demographic change helps to explain the choices: Colorado's growing Hispanic population may make it more competitive in presidential elections in the future, and Republicans hope to build strength in the upper Midwest and expect Minnesota to be a swing state.

At a Glance Planning for the 2008 conventions began before the 2004 conventions ended. Thirty-five cities bid for the Democratic convention and 31 for the Republican one.

Expected attendance: 35,000-45,000 (delegates, visitors, press)

Expected press: 15,000

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DENVER AND MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

Colorado

Population rank: 22 of 50
Governor: Democrat Bill Ritter Jr.
U.5. Senate: 1 Republican, 1 Democrat

Makeup

White            72%
Black             4%
Hispanic         20%
Asian             3%

Vote in 2004

Bush             52%
Kerry            47%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

The Costs

Republican convention

1948       $1,756,126
1968       $4,492.320
2004     $154,000,000

Note: Table made from bar graph

Minnesota

Population rank: 21 of 50
Governor: Republican Tim Pawlenty
U. … 
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