John McCain and Barack Obama, the men who would be President—well, one of them. After their knighthood at their respective party conventions and the November 4, 2008 elections, all roads lead to the White House, or it’s back to the old hometown.
On August 25 to 28, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) will return to Denver, Colorado, after a century. The first DNC in Denver in 1908 was the first convention by a major party in a western state, and was the first national political event to accredit women, with five credentialed as delegates or alternate delegates.
On the other side, an estimated 45,000 delegates, alternate delegates, party officials, volunteers, members of the media and convention guests will troop to the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1 to 4. It will also be the second time for the party to convene in Minneapolis, when the Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison in 1892.
Democrat or Republican?
As is usually the case, America’s eyes are set on the two major political parties in the US. In the upcoming 2008 US Elections, for the first time, two sitting senators will run against each other—Obama (Democratic) of Illinois and McCain (Republican) of Arizona.
These two major parties used to be one—the Democratic-Republican Party, formed in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other influential opponents of the Federalists. However, since the split of the Republic Party in the election of 1912, the Democratic Party has consistently positioned itself as the left of the Republican Party in economic as well as social matters.
In 2004, USA Today reported that the Democratic Party was the largest political party, with 72 million voters (42.6 percent of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation. Also, since the 2006 midterm elections, it was the majority party for the 110th Congress, holding an outright majority in the House of Representatives as well as control.
In the early 1850s, the Republican Party was born from the hands of anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that the government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. With its first official meeting held on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan, the name “Republican” was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House.
Republicans ruled mostly during the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. The White House was in Republican hands under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush. During the last two Presidents’ terms, the US became the world’s only superpower, winning the Cold War from the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from Communist oppression.
JFK and the making of a president
Conventions, nominations and elections always create a certain drama and complexity in choosing a leader for a great nation. But perhaps one of the most interesting highlights through time was the election of the late John F. Kennedy.
Despite his youth, JFK was able to capture the Democratic nomination in 1960 at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and then went on to win one of the closest presidential races in US history. He won the nomination by getting a series of state primaries, overcoming the traditional assumption that a winning candidate must have the support of entrenched party leaders from states with large blocs of electoral votes. The Republican nominee, then Vice President Nixon, was older and more experienced, led in the polls after the national conventions.
But a series of televised debates, watched by an estimated 70 million Americans (about 2/3 of the electorate) gave JFK an edge. Although Nixon and JFK had appeared as equals, issues about experience and maturity seemed to fade from the campaign. Studies would later show that of the 4 million voters who made up their minds as a result of the debates, 3 million voted for JFK.
JFK was elected president with a popular vote margin of 118,550 out of a total of nearly 69 million votes cast. He was the youngest elected president, the only Catholic and the first born in the 20th century.
In 1963, the world mourned his death after he was shot in Dallas, Texas while his car drove slowly past cheering crowds. JFK’s brief time in office stands out in people’s memories for his great leadership, personality and accomplishments.
On November 4, 2008, votes will again be cast. Once again, the fate of the United States and its people will depend on one person, one leader. Whoever it will be—a Democrat or Republican—the change he brings is hoped to deserve the nation’s votes and to become the springboard towards the country’s continued progress and a much improved economy. (With research from rnc.org, gop.com and demconvention.com.)