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in U.S. politics, a gathering of delegates to nominate candidates for elective office and to formulate party policy. They are held at the national, state, and local levels.

Organization and Characteristic Features

The organization of a national convention is the responsibility of the party's national committee, which begins making arrangements for the accommodation of hundreds of delegates and the administration of the convention at least a year in advance. Delegates have been chosen by a variety of methods, including primary elections, party caucuses, state and local conventions, or state and local committee meetings, but the majority are now chosen by primaries. Although the two parties follow the same basic pattern of basing representation on the population of the state and the party's strength within the state, the Democratic party introduced a series of reforms after the 1968 convention that modified its traditional delegate selection system. Quotas, assuring proportional representation for women, youths, and blacks, were used for the 1972 convention but later modified in favor of a general commitment to gender equality and minority representation. Balloting at both the Republican and Democratic conventions is by states. The unit rule, forcing all of a state's votes to be cast by the majority for one candidate, was abolished by the Democrats in 1968; it had been in effect since 1832. Although today the acceptance speech of the nominee is the recognized climax of the convention, it was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt flew to Chicago to accept the Democratic nomination in 1932 that a nominee accepted the nomination in person.


State conventions for nominating candidates were first held in the early 19th cent. The first national convention was held by the Anti-Masonic party in Baltimore in 1831. Formerly the candidates for president and vice president were selected by a party caucus, i.e. a meeting of influential members of Congress, and they favored their colleagues. In 1832 the Democrats nominated Andrew Jackson at a national convention. The Republican party held its first national convention in 1856, when John Frémont was chosen as the presidential candidate.

Candidates were often selected only after many ballots had been taken. This was especially true of the Democratic party, which, until 1936, had required successful nominees to win two thirds of the delegates' votes. Thus, Stephen Douglas was nominated on the 59th ballot in 1860, Woodrow Wilson on the 46th ballot in 1912, and John W. Davis on the 103d ballot in 1924. The difficulty of gaining agreement on a candidate at conventions led to a unique feature of the American political scene: the dark horsedark horse,
in U.S. politics, a person unexpectedly chosen by a major party as a candidate for public office, especially for the presidency. A presidential dark horse is usually chosen at a party national convention and often has acquired only a local or limited reputation at
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—a candidate with little or no formal support before the opening of the convention, who succeeded in gaining the nomination. Since 1960, however, national conventions have tended to ratify front-runner candidates increasingly determined by delegates won in primaries and state caucuses, rather than select from among evenly matched rivals. National political conventions have thus changed from their initial function as nominating mechanisms into mobilizers of party energy for the upcoming campaign.


See P. T. David et al., The Politics of National Party Conventions (rev. ed. 1984); Congressional Quarterly, Guide to U.S. Elections (2d ed. 1985); B. E. Shafer, Bifurcated Politics: Evolution and Reform in the National Party Convention (1988).

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  1. any existing regularized social practice or accepted rule or usage. For the most part in sociology, the term is not used in a sense that departs greatly from everyday usage.
  2. in politics specifically, an established precedent in, or expectation of, procedures in political office, e.g. that the prime minister can call an election. Such expectations or conventions are not promulgated as written laws or formally stated rules, and thus are sometimes a matter of interpretation or dispute.
  3. in the US, the political assemblies convened’ to select presidential candidates.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000


1. US Politics an assembly of delegates of one party to select candidates for office
2. Diplomacy an international agreement second only to a treaty in formality
3. Bridge a bid or play not to be taken at its face value, which one's partner can interpret according to a prearranged bidding system
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
The first is, that the convention must have enjoyed, in a very singular degree, an exemption from the pestilential influence of party animosities the disease most incident to deliberative bodies, and most apt to contaminate their proceedings.
alternatives: ratification by state legislatures or state conventions.
It is certainly true that limited conventions allow a national
Wesseh, and Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo vow to work with their colleagues at the Liberian Senate to enact the Geneva Conventions or GC 70 Domestication Convention into law before or upon their return from break.
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Hey, Texplainer: How do I join in on the action at the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian party conventions? Essentially, how do I get hyper-involved?
These meetings, conventions and events are planned in the Wenatchee Valley in the next month.
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-- As the 2012 presidential conventions get underway in Tampa, Fla., a Gallup analysis of 15 elections from 1952 to 2008 shows that in all but three instances -- 1988, 1992, and 2004 -- the candidate leading in the Gallup poll conducted just prior to the first convention (the "pre-convention poll") has won the November election.
Kyrgyzstan is a party to 12 international conventions on environmental protection, said Director of the State Agency for environmental protection and forestry of Kyrgyzstan Sabyrjan Atajanov at the seminar on effective implementation of Kyrgyzstan responsibilities on environmental conventions held on August 9, 2012.
The norms that govern an international trade contract can be found in: a) international conventions applicable to the specific type of contract; b) in the absence of an international convention or for aspect which are not regulated, by an applicable convention or if the specific convention is eliminated through the will of the parties, by national law designated by the parties or by the conflictual norm; c) in the same circumstances as those already presented, by international commercial usage (in order to cover the deficiencies in international conventions or applicable national laws).
While family entertainment has been lacking in the downtown area for many years, our former Convention Center used to provide plenty.