Every four years our country produces the summer spectacle of party political conventions, going through the nominating process that ultimately produces the two major party candidates for President of the United States. Every year from 1856 to the present, one of the two men nominated by the Republican or by the Democratic Party has then been elected or reelected President in November.
This year is bound to be different in some respects, but likely with the same result: one of the two will be elected President. The differences from past conventions are striking; for the first time, one party’s nominee is probably going to be a woman, Hillary Clinton. On the Republican side the result is less certain, and the convention itself may be embroiled in a controversial choice among Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or perhaps somebody else – a choice that might split the party temporarily if not permanently. For the first time since the Republican National Convention in 1976, a major party may have an open convention – one whose result is not predetermined before the convention even starts.
Many who are interested enough to vote every four years probably don’t know how political conventions work. As a newcomer to the process myself I am still learning, but have learned this much – not about national conventions but about our own South Carolina political conventions, at least on the Democratic Party side. Let me share with you how this works from the perspective of Edgefield County.
First, there were delegate elections at the Precinct level. Since voters don’t register by party, basically anybody who voted in the Democratic Primary was welcome to attend meetings in each Precinct and elect officers and delegates to the Edgefield County convention. That convention happened a few weeks ago. All of the accredited Precinct delegates attended, as well as several newcomers to the process. At the County Convention we elected delegates and alternates to attend the state convention. Like every county, we had the opportunity also to propose resolutions to be considered at the state convention. The Democratic State Convention will occur this weekend, and will include electing delegates to the national convention – delegates who are pledged (at least on the first ballot) to support the candidate who won the primary election back in February – Hillary Clinton. Unlike the Republican national convention, it is very unlikely that there will be a need for a second ballot.
The reason I’m going over all this is to invite everybody – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or those too new to the process to have decided yet – to come to the Democratic state convention, which really is an “open” convention: it’s open for you, the reader, to attend. Only accredited delegates can vote, but voting isn’t really where the drama will be. The drama will be to see for yourselves how these decisions are made, to hear from “real people” of every race and income level in our state what issues they consider to be important issues, and for all who attend to meet people who agree – and some who disagree – about issues, in order to advocate for compromises that actually work. There will be an Edgefield County table near the entrance where anybody can register to sit in the convention hall – voting delegates and alternates in one area, guests in another. Come join us if you can. Like me, you will be sure to learn something in the process. Where? At the convention center, 1101 Lincoln Street in Columbia. When? Starting promptly at 9:00am this Saturday, April 30th. Delegates and alternates need to arrive early, in order to be credentialed to vote. Come join us, it will be both interesting and fun!