WMU News

Unconventional conventions

Aug. 2, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Compared to the political nominating conventions of days past, today's conventions are more about style than substance, according to Dr. John A. Clark, associate professor of political science at Western Michigan University.

"The conventions used to be the most important things parties did," he says. "In the past, travel and communication were more prohibitive and it was the only time the parties had a national meeting of their leaders. They chose a presidential nominee but also conducted other important business such as determining party policy on issues."

Clark says that the nomination of the presidential candidate has now become a de facto function of the primaries and that party policy is established by the parties' national committees and elected officials long before the national convention. As a result, these conventions have become more focused on image than ideals.

"The conventions give the parties a chance to present themselves anew and influence voters in a fresh way," he says. "The conventions give us an indication of how the campaign will be run and what issues will be significant. Because not everyone in the voting public has followed the primaries and events leading up to the convention, it gives voters a chance to focus in on these issues and candidates without having to know how the parties arrived at them."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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