Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So You're Watching the DNC: Politics for Dummies

As I've said, I know very little about politics, and they say if one person has a question there are probably a bunch of people that have that same question. So I present you with the first in what will probably a series: Now and Later's Politics for Dummies. Learning is fun when we do it together!

Chapter 1: Let's Get Started
We're all watching the Convention now, but there's a lot that went into getting that spectacle up and running. First, the Democratic National Committee has to pick delegates and then it has to organize the events, the speakers, and the general fabulosity of the Convention. Various cities submit proposals and then the Committee selects a city based on whether or not it's built to accommodate all those people. Delegates and alternates are chosen according to rules decided on by Committee to account for things like affirmative action and inclusion. Each state has its own delegate selection plan, chosen based on population and strength of democratic voting.

Chapter 2: The Delegates
There are two types of delegates at the convention: pledged and unpledged. Within the pledged delegates there are district-level delegates, at-large delegates, and pledged leader and elected official [PLEO] delegates.
-District-level delegates: the first to be chosen in each state, these delegates are elected from different districts [usually congressional]. The delegates must support a candidate or can choose not to. Those that don't are called 'uncommitted'.
- At-large delegates: after the primary or caucus in a state, at-large delegates are elected to represent a candidate in proportion to how many votes they received. These are the last delegates that are chosen.
- PLEO delegates: these delegates are state-wide delegates who support a candidate that are chosen based on the state-wide vote. PLEO delegates are usually mayors, state elected officials, state legislature and other local, county, and state Party leaders.
Unpledged delegates are generally referred to as 'super delegates' on the news. These delegates make up about 19% of the delegates at the Convention and include former democratic governors or congress members, members of the DNC [all DNC members are super delegates], and "distinguished party leaders". All delegates are registered voters that identify as Democrats and are involved in a candidates' campaign.

Chapter 3: The Platform
The Democratic National Committee unveils its National Platform for every election at the Convention. Through a lengthy series of meetings and committees, the Platform Standing Committee drafts what it gathers Democrats like and don't like. Read this year's platform HERE, the title of which is "Renewing America's Promise". The main planks of the platform, which, if you've been watching TV lately, you have a pretty good sense of are: A Strong, Respected America; A Strong, Growing Economy; Strong, Healthy Families; and A Strong American Community [pinched directly from the DNC website]. This, of course, is only the bare bones bit and of course the Democrats have planned a multifaceted attack. The damn thing is 94 pages long, but the link is there for you the peruse so as to get into the finer points of Democratic strategy. From what I saw, though, it looks pretty good.

Chapter 4: At the Convention
And now the main event: four days of inspiration [we hope]. On the first day of the convention, delegates have to report the Rules Committee to iron out any last kinks and hear from the Credentials Committee, which addresses seating issues. Typically, Tuesday night at the Convention is about debating the issues and the tactics that should be included in the platform. Wednesdays are about the formal nomination and seconding of the candidate and the roll call of the states. Usually, the presumptive vice presidential nominee speaks on Wednesdays. Between the 50 states, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa, there are 4,419 votes up for grabs, made by 4,440 delegates. The numbers don't quite match up because some of the delegates outside of the contiguous United States have only a half vote. A candidate needs the majority of the votes to get the nomination; right now, it takes 2,210 votes to get it. Thursday, the final night of the convention, features the official nomination of the presidential and vice presidential candidates and the presidential candidate's acceptance speech. The whole thing is called to a close until the next four years.

Most of my information came from the DNC website and here. I know this is super late, but I'd started this a couple days ago and just ended up getting really busy. Enjoy, and go watch the speeches tonight!

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