In the age of COVID-19, can we do without national conventions?

Politics

(WTRF) – It’s an all too familiar campaign sight. Crowds clad in red, white and blue and roaring as their candidate promises victory in November.

Rallies and campaigns have become a staple of the election process, but with COVID-19 and people wary of crowds, are these gatherings even necessary?

40 years ago they were probably much more essential than they are today.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

With the purpose of nominating a party’s candidate for President, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions look much different in modern times.

The way the system has turned is that we do now know in early summer or spring who the nominee is going to be and that helps avoid people of the same party attacking each other too much.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

Since we know former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will be facing off, this year won’t be a true nominating convention.

The advent of negative campaigning and push for a shorter primary have changed the feel of political conventions.

In fact, Poffenbarger said the last time a true nomination convention happened was probably the 1976 RNC with Gerald Ford facing off against Ronald Reagan. That year it came down to the delegation from West Virginia that pushed Ford over the top for the nomination.

It was a tight primary election and you have to announce as a delegate who you’re going to vote for. If say Ford had had the votes, it would have gone to what is known as a contested convention where the party itself can pick whoever they want to to be the nominee.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

If it’s not essential for nominating purposes, then what’s the point of a modern convention?

It’s a show, designed to get a party’s platform to the people and launch the next generation.

I think a perfect example of this was when Barack Obama made a speech as a state senator from Illinois. That speech in and of itself, the convention brought national attention to him and catapulted him all the way to the Presidency.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

With the possibility of COVID-19 keeping away the crowd, Poffenbarger said moving the event virtual is still practical for either side.

The Democratic National Committee already announced their plan to hold a nearly all virtual convention in Milwaukee in August.

This isn’t the only gathering in the time of election season.

What about rallies?

In terms of the political process, Poffenbarger said they aren’t essential either, especially if you’re President Trump.

He has the trappings of the office of the Presidency, which again Joe Biden does not, so in a lot of ways I would think not holding rallies benefits him because Biden can’t hold rallies.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

Poffenbarger also explained they have become a tool to gain media attention.

The more your name’s out there, the better, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.

John Poffenbarger, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davis & Elkins College

With this quickly becoming the year of virtual campaigning, be prepared to see a lot of political adds online and on your social media.

While they are cheaper than television advertising, Poffenbarger said he doesn’t know if it changes the outcome of the election, but he thinks people will get tired of seeing them.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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