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states and territories. Every commonwealth is allowed two delegates for each of its Senators and Representatives in the Congress of the United States. For example, New York has two Senators and thirty-seven Representatives-thirty-nine in all --and it is entitled to seventy-eight members in the national convention. The four delegates corresponding to the representation of the state in the United States Senate are known as delegates-at-large, and the others are called district delegates.3 In addition to the regular delegates, there is an equal number of alternates, chosen in the same manner, and authorized to serve in case the former are prevented from attending.
In prescribing the methods of electing delegates, the calls of the Democratic and Republican parties differ fundamentally. The former regards the state as the unit of representation, and Teaves it entirely free to decide how the delegates shall be chosen. The Democratic delegates apportioned to any commonwealth, therefore, may be selected entirely by the state convention, or by a combination of district and state conventions. The Republican party, on the other hand, definitely stipulates that the delegates-at-large shall be chosen at the state convention and the other delegates at congressional district conventions. Special provisions are made for the territories, and for the states that prescribe nomination by direct primaries."
The purpose of the national convention is threefold. It formulates the principles of the party into a platform on which the appeal is made to the voters during the ensuing campaign.
'The number of delegates assigned to the territories and dependencies varies from convention to convention. For example, the District of Columbia was allowed by the national committee four delegates in the Republican convention of 1904 and two in 1908.
2 It should be noted that according to this rule party strength is not represented at all. For example, in 1904, Mississippi, in which there were only 3168 Republican voters, sent 20 delegates to the Republican convention, and Michigan, with 216,651 Republican voters, sent only 22 delegates. This, of course, helps to prevent each party from becoming sectional in character. It is partially offset by the Democratic rule requiring a two-thirds vote to nominate. Below, p. 172.
3 That is, of course, where delegates are chosen by districts.
Readings, p. 168.
See Readings, p. 161, for details as to methods of electing delegates, and below, chap. xxx, for direct primaries.
It nominates candidates for the presidency and the vice-presidency, and appoints committees to notify both nominees. Finally it organizes a new national committee charged with carrying on the campaign and acting for the party for four years - until the next national convention is held.
The National Convention at Work
The convention usually assembles in some enormous building where the thousand delegates, and perhaps eight or ten thousand spectators, are seated. Each delegation is arranged around the banner of its state, and has a chairman to direct its part in the convention. Some of the more important delegations are accompanied by brass bands, and often carry curious symbols and transparencies. In the audience are usually gathered the most active politicians who are not serving as delegates, enthusiastic partisans from all over the country, and interested visitors attracted by the spectacular affair. It is indeed a cool-headed politician who is not swept off his feet by the excitement of the hour. Bands play popular airs; party heroes are greeted with prolonged cheering as they appear on the scene; wire-pullers rush here and there among the delegations making and extracting promises; all are apparently intoxicated with enthusiasm and boisterous party zeal.
The convention is called to order by the chairman of the national committee,' and before any business is transacted, prayer is usually offered. Clergymen from different congregations are chosen for the several sessions, so as to avoid offending religious susceptibilities. The first business is the reading of the call for the national convention by the secretary of the committee, and the chairman then puts in nomination the temporary officers, who have been selected by the committee before the meeting. Usually these nominations are accepted without question, for the business of the temporary organization is largely formal. The temporary chairman, it is true, makes an address appropriate to the occasion, which is often regarded as the "keynote" to the proceedings, but he is not called upon to make any important decisions from the chair which may affect either the platform of
'The order of business, of course, varies from time to time in details, but this general description is substantially true of all conventions.
the party or its nominations. When the temporary officers are duly installed and the speech of the chairman is delivered, the rules of the previous convention are adopted until the permanent organization is effected. The first day's session is then concluded by calling the roll of the states and territories, each one of which appoints one member for each of four great commit tees of the convention: the committee on credentials, the com mittee on permanent organization, the committee on rules and order of business, and the committee on resolutions or platform
After the second session of the convention is called to order by the temporary chairman, the reports of the various committees are heard, not necessarily in any fixed order. The committee on credentials is charged with the important work of deciding questions of contested seats. All notices of contests between delegations are filed in advance with the national committee which makes up the temporary roll. These documents relative to the several disputes are passed on to the credentials committee, which holds meetings and prepares reports for the convention. Sometimes these contests are very exciting; for the policy of the party on national issues and the fate of candidates may be decided by the admission or rejection of certain delegations. Generally speaking, however, the report of the majority of the committee on credentials is accepted by the convention.1
The next important report is that of the committee on permanent organization, which names the permanent chairman, the secretary, and other officers of the convention. This report is also generally approved without debate, but there have been occasions on which the convention has refused to accept the nominees of the committee. The permanent chairman is duly installed, makes a long speech, and is presented with a gavel. The rules, under which he controls the assembly, are reported by the committee on rules, and are, in principle, those of the House of Representatives with some modifications. The chairman is constantly called upon to decide points of order of a highly technical nature; he must prevent the convention, which sometimes bursts out into storms of applause lasting more than an hour, from degenerating entirely into an uncontrolled mob;
1 It sometimes happens that, to avoid open rupture, both delegations from a state are admitted each member having one-half of a vote.
he is often compelled to choose from among five or ten speakers trying to get the floor at the same time; and it is, therefore, important that he should be master of the rules of procedure, and capable of prompt and firm decision.
On the second or third day, the convention is ready for the report of the committee on resolutions, which is charged with drafting the platform. This committee begins its sessions immediately after its appointment, and usually agrees on a unanimous report, but sometimes there is a minority report. The platform is not often a statement of the particular things which the party proposes to do if it gets into power; it is rather a collection of nice generalities which will serve to create good feeling and unite all sections around the party standard. It usually contains, among other things, references to the great history of the party, interspersed with the names of party leaders, and denunciations of the policies and tactics of the opposite party. Frequently a platform will refer to matters that do not concern American politics primarily, such as the persecution of the Jews in Russia or the struggle of Ireland for home rule. Such resolutions do not imply that the government can or will do anything positive on such matters, but they serve to appeal to the imagination and sympathies of certain classes of voters. The report of the committee on resolutions seldom meets opposition in the convention, for care is taken by the committee to placate all elements. It is only when there is some very contentious matter, such as the free silver issue in 1896, that there is likely to be a divided report from the committee or any debate on the floor. After the adoption of the platform, the new national committee is chosen.1
About the third or fourth day, the chairman announces that the next order of business is the calling of the roll of the states for the presentation of names of the candidates for President of the United States, and the roll is called in alphabetical order beginning with Alabama. If a state has no candidate to present, it may defer to another further down on the list. This is what happened in both conventions in 1904. When Alabama was called upon in the Republican assembly, the chairman of the delegation said: "The State of Alabama requests the privilege
1 See below, p. 173.
and distinguished honor of yielding its place upon the roll to the State of New York.". A representative of the state which is thus named thereupon places a candidate in nomination, in a speech full of high-sounding phrases and lofty sentiments.' The first speech may be followed by speeches seconding the nomination, from the representatives of various delegations scattered over the House, if the chairman sees fit to recognize them." The nominations may be closed without calling the full roll of the states, or the calling of the roll may be resumed and each state heard from, as it is reached in regular order.
When the nominations are made, the vote is taken by calling the roll of the delegations, and the chairman of each announces the vote of his group. According to the theory of the Republican party, each member of a delegation may cast his vote as he pleases, although as a matter of fact the delegations are often instructed by the conventions of the states from which they come. The Democratic party, however, does not recognize the right of the individual to vote as he pleases in the convention. It nott only permits the state convention to instruct its delegates, but also authorizes the majority in each delegation to determine how the entire vote shall be cast - and cast that vote as a unit.3 For example, the state of New York has seventy-eight representatives in the national convention, and if forty of the delegates agree on the same candidate, the vote of the entire number is cast for him.
This practice, which is called the application of the "unit rule," is justified by Democratic leaders on the ground that the state, not the congressional district, is the unit of representation; and that greater weight is given to the delegation of a state, in negotiating with the other delegations, by reason of the fact that it can cast the entire number of votes. That is, on account of his ability to deliver the entire vote of the New York delegation, the leader of that state, for example, is able to demand more consideration in the distribution of political favors than if he could only deliver a portion of the vote. The unit rule, therefore, gives more power to the organization of the state than the system of allowing divided delegations. It should be noted, however,
1 See Readings, p. 164, for an extract from a nominating speech. 'This is, of course, usually fixed up in advance.
3 See Readings, p. 167.