Presidential Nominating Conventions

By Jerilyn WatsonDelegates to the Republican and Democratic parties are holding conventions this summer. They will officially nominate their candidates for the presidential election in November. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Ray Freeman. The story of presidential nominating conventions is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

More than two-thousand delegates to the Republican Party are in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for their party's nominating convention. Delegates will spend four days listening to speeches. They will vote on policy issues. And they will nominate Texas Governor George W. Bush as their candidate for president. Governor Bush is the son of former President George Bush. The delegates also will nominate Governor Bush's choice for vice president, former defense secretary Richard Cheney. Former American military chief Colin Powell and Governor Bush's wife Laura are speaking to the convention Monday night. Later in the week, Governor Bush, Mr. Cheney and other party leaders will speak.The Democratic Party will begin its nominating convention on August Fourteenth. Almost five-thousand delegates will meet for four days in Los Angeles, California. They will nominate Vice President Al Gore as their presidential candidate. The delegates also will nominate Mr. Gore's choice for vice president. President Clinton will speak on the opening night of the convention. So will his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is a candidate for the Senate from the state of New York. The democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates will speak later in the week along with other party leaders.Officials in Philadelphia and Los Angeles have increased security for the conventions. They are concerned because thousands of demonstrators are expected to protest in both cities. The demonstrators will protest about a number of social and economic issues. These include the environment, health care, homelessness, workers rights and world trade. The officials fear a repeat of the violence that took place last year in Seattle, Washington when demonstrators protested during the meeting of the World Trade Organization.The Republicans are meeting in Philadelphia only three weeks after several police officers beat a man suspected of stealing a police car. Critics say the incident raises concern about the ability of the police force to keep order without violence.

In Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union successfully brought legal action against the city and its police. The organization forced the city to drop plans to restrict protesters to one area near the convention center. A federal judge said the city's plan violated the free speech rights of the protesters.

(MUSIC BRIDGE))Political conventions are colorful and costly events. About thirty-thousand people attend. These include state delegates and party leaders. Every state and territory sends representatives, including the District of Columbia. About fifteen-thousand news reporters and others interested in politics also attend the convention.

The convention center is decorated with red, white, and blue flags and balloons. The floor is always crowded with people. Big video screens show the faces of the people giving speeches.America's two major parties have held these colorful nominating conventions for the past one-hundred-fifty-eight years. For many of those years, the conventions were dramatic political theater. A document called the party platform was often the center of dispute. This document states the party's positions on issues. One of the major activities at a convention is to vote for, or against, this platform. At some conventions in the past, delegates argued about the platform. However, political experts do not expect this to happen this year.In the past, party leaders at a convention spent hours meeting privately to propose candidates. Sometimes no one could be sure who the compromise candidate would be. Conventions of the past offered conflicts, excitement and surprises.

In recent years, however, convention delegates instead of party leaders choose the presidential candidates. This year, we have known for months who the candidates will be. This is because the candidates started competing for the nomination many months ago. The candidates were decided after state primary elections and meetings called caucuses held this past winter and spring.During the Republican and Democratic primary elections, people vote for convention delegates who support the candidate of their choice. These delegates must obey their promise to vote for that candidate at the national convention. However, if no candidate receives a majority during the first vote, delegates are released from this rule. They may vote for any candidate.

In the past, delegates sometimes voted many times before they chose a candidate. For example, in Nineteen-Twenty-Four, delegates at the Democratic convention voted one-hundred-three times before they chose a candidate. For more than forty years, however, neither major party has needed a second vote.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Television networks began broadcasting the whole Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions in Nineteen-Fifty-Two. Today, however, not as many people want to watch the conventions on television. This is because there is no longer much surprise or excitement like there was during earlier years. So America's main television networks are broadcasting only a few hours of the two conventions. Cable television stations will be broadcasting more of the conventions.This year both parties are placing new importance on bringing their activities to the public through the Internet computer system. The Republican Convention website reports on issues. It also permits computer-users to feel they are taking part in convention activities. For example, they can immediately react to events by electronic mail.

The Democratic Convention website will provide live video reporting of delegate meetings, parties and other events. Recently, Democrats used the convention website so people could to write their own suggestions for the party platform.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))America's smaller political parties do not receive as much attention as the major parties. But they also nominate candidates for president.

Their candidates are usually called "third party" candidates. This year, a number of third parties are nominating candidates for president. For example, Ralph Nader is a longtime activist for the environment and other causes. He will run for president as a candidate of the Green Party.

The Reform Party was launched eight years ago to offer another choice in addition to the Republican and Democratic candidates. Members of the party will choose their candidate for president at the Reform Party convention August Eleventh.Some Americans believe all the political parties have failed to deal with the nation's most important issues. These people are holding what they call Shadow Conventions." The Shadow Conventions are taking place in the same cities at the same time as the Republican and Democratic conventions. Writer and political observer Arianna Huffington and a coalition of public-interest groups planned the events.

People attending these Shadow Conventions will discuss three issues they say the other parties have failed to deal with. They will discuss the growing imbalance between rich and poor people in America. They also will discuss what they call the failed war against illegal drugs.

And the man who lost the Republican nomination for president to Governor Bush will speak about another issue. Senator John McCain will talk about the influence of money on American politics and campaign finance reform. He also will attend the Republican Convention.

((STARS AND STRIPES INSTEAD OF CLOSING THEME))This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Jim Sleeman. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.