August 20, 2020
Technological advances have transformed how we watch and how we elect our presidential candidates. The first Presidential election spanned across two years, from December 15, 1788 to January 10, 1789. George Washington was unanimously elected, and John Adams became Vice President by securing the next highest total of electoral votes. The process changed in 1804 with ratification of the 12th Amendment, which allowed the electors to vote for both President and Vice President.
The process changed dramatically with the 1960 presidential election. This was the first election in which fifty states participated and the last where the District of Columbia did not. It was the first election where an incumbent was ineligible for a third term because of the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment. Kennedy defeated Nixon in a 303 to 219 Electoral College victory and is considered to have won the national popular vote by 112,827, a margin of 0.17 percent. Kennedy’s campaign skills decisively outmatched Nixon’s, who campaigned in all fifty states while Kennedy focused on the populous swing states and relied on Johnson to hold the South. The campaign featured the first televised debates, and many believe the persona projected on this new medium resulted in the close victory.
I have been intrigued by the presentation for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this year. The pandemic forced the DNC to hold a virtual convention. The DNC bought out a mixture of A-List celebrities, everyday Americans, and party activists, including disgruntled Republicans, saying they were voting for Biden. One of the most interesting times during these two-hour nightly events was what has been in the past the most boring. The Roll Call vote on Tuesday featured innovative comments and backdrops by the states electors while submitting votes for the two candidates (if you did not catch it, Biden won). I read an article from the RNC saying they watched the process intently while plotting their own strategy. It will be interesting to see what they learned.
THOUGHTS: Many past conventions by both parties have been long drawn out affairs centering around boring speeches from presidential want-a-bes. The pre-taped comments by a mixture of people presented the issues in a fresh new way (and kept them in time limits). Most of the rhetoric centered around the response to the pandemic and Black Lives Matter. Kamala Harris addressed both with an insightful quip, “There is no vaccine for racism. You have got to do the work.” Change is coming and it starts with you.