Advertisement Close

Arab America Picks a President: What happens at the conventions and how can you be a part of it?

posted on: Mar 2, 2016

By Fred Shwaery/Arab America Contributing Writer

The candidates have been picking up convention delegates from the state caucuses and primaries. Super Tuesday has come and gone. Whew! There are more states still to vote before the conventions.

What happens at the conventions and how can you be a part of it?

First, congratulations to those of you who will be delegates and alternate delegates! Mabrouk!

Cleveland will host the Republican National Convention from Monday, July 18 through Thursday, July 21 and Philadelphia will host the Democratic National Convention from Monday, July 25 through Thursday, July 28. At the end of these conventions, America will have its final candidates for president and vice president for the Republicans and for the Democrats.

That’s it – four days to pick the presidential candidate?

Lots more goes on over those four days. The evening events are made for television. They will include prominent speakers (remember then state Senator Obama) such as governors and senators, a few mayors and others. They will rally the delegates to the causes in the party platforms. The platforms lay the groundwork for the campaigns going forward.

As in any convention, there will be some party business, too. Party sub-committee members will meet during the day on a wide variety of issues such as veterans’ affairs, seniors, and young voters. Since the candidates will be in town, don’t be surprised if you see them popping in to sub-committee meetings.

Though the convention schedules will be finalized in July, they go something like this. For the first couple of nights, the delegates will hear speakers that the party wants on television. Then the delegates will nominate and vote for the vice president and, more dramatically, for president. Each state will try to outdo each other when casting their votes: Madame Chairman, the great state of Delaware, home of the greatest vice president in American history, proudly casts it votes for the next president of the United States of America…

The finale is on Thursday night when the nominated candidate for president accepts the nomination and delivers a rousing speech. The excited delegates travel home to bring the campaigns to Main Street.

Try to get to your convention. You’ll enjoy every minute of it! The parties strive for diversity in their conventions. Think of different ways to get involved. Sure, there is ethnic diversity but you might have a couple of ways to get selected to participate. Veterans, women, people with disabilities and on and on. You might fall into a couple of categories and that can help you get selected as a delegate or alternate or in some other capacity.

The Democratic Call to Convention and the Republican Call to Convention are long documents loaded with the official information on the conventions. Skip to the sections on delegates and alternate delegates. There, you will read about the diversity of and the numbers of delegates per state. The state parties will have more detailed information about your state’s delegations. You’ll find nuggets of information you can use such as the Democrats having many more delegates than the Republicans and the Republicans having many more alternate delegates then the Democrats.

It’s very likely that you can get into many of the events even if you are not a delegate. Here’s a tip–the delegates get together by state to discuss the day’s events. Contact your state party ahead of time and make a contact from whom you can get tickets. Go to their hotel and talk with party officials who might be able to give you an extra event ticket.

You can work at the conventions or you can be a volunteer. Both conventions are looking for a lot of people to make these conventions a success. Here’s how you can find out more about convention jobs and volunteer opportunities at Republican jobs, Democratic jobs, Republican volunteers and Democratic volunteers.

These positions, while short-term, will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the inner workings of political life at the top level. You’ll make lots of contacts and show American political officials what a group of dedicated, trustworthy people we Arab Americans are.

And if you don’t get to the conventions, there will be many convention watch parties around the country. Call your local Democratic or Republican committees or check their Web sites for information on these parties. Then, get out there and work for your candidate!