Whose Convention Goes First?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Aug. 3 2000 5:59 PM

Whose Convention Goes First?

The Republicans held their national convention in Philadelphia this week, and the Democrats will hold theirs in Los Angeles in two weeks. How do the parties decide who goes first?

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There's no rule dictating the order, but the incumbent party traditionally holds its convention second. The tradition does not date back very far. Between 1864 and 1952, the Democrats went second every year (except for 1888). In 1956, when Republican Dwight Eisenhower was the incumbent, the Democrats went first, and the party out of power has gone first ever since. (Between 1936 and 1952, the Democrats were the incumbent party and went second, but it is unclear whether they went second because they held the White House or because they had always gone second.)

Explainer asked many experts why the tradition evolved, but none of them had the foggiest idea. If you know, Explainer invites you to post your answer in the Fray.