, ,

Less party business and more Trump expected at Milwaukee’s Republican National Convention

UW-Milwaukee professor says some official business will take place but viewers may see less open discussion on party positions

Signs for the upcoming Republican National Convention are displayed on the exterior of the Fiserv Forum on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Next week, thousands of people will descend on Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention, where party leadership is expected to announce Donald Trump as the nominee for president.  

But Americans have anticipated this announcement since around March. So what is the value of the convention? 

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist Kathleen Dolan said some official party business will take place, such as speeches from Republican candidates for Senate and governor, and the likely announcement of Trump’s running mate. 

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

She called the national party conventions “information and education machines” that give candidates televised opportunities to speak with the American people, and each other, without interventions from the other side.  

However, some routine aspects of the Republican National Convention have changed, including scaling back discussion of party and policy positions known as the party’s platform. 

The New York Times reported the Republican platform committee will meet behind closed doors prior to the convention to discuss it. This is a break from precedent, as platform committee meetings have been televised since at least 1984.

Dolan recently joined WPR’s “Wisconsin Today” to discuss what we can expect from the convention.

The following was edited for clarity and brevity.

Kate Archer Kent: What is the value of a convention?

Kathleen Dolan:
The convention has value to the parties, regardless of the fact that we know who the nominees are going to be. I always like to say that conventions are really massive information and education machines. 

The Republican Party will have four days of getting their people from all over the country together, getting people excited about November and mobilizing activities to get voters involved. It also gives them an opportunity for the televised pieces of the event to speak to the American people and to offer voters a look at their candidates. And not just their candidate for president and vice president, but we’ll see candidates for Senate and House (of Representatives) and governor from around the country. 

It’s really a way for the party to send its message and to have unanswered time. There won’t necessarily be Democrats at the same moment saying, “Here’s our package.” 

Former President Trump walking through a crowd of supporters
Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his Mar-a-Lago estate hours after being arraigned in New York City, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla. Rebecca Blackwell/ AP Photo

KAK: By the numbers, there are over 2,400 delegates selected to participate in the RNC, including Wisconsin’s 41 delegates. What official party business will happen at the convention?

KD: There will be a roll call where they will nominate the presidential and vice presidential candidates. There’ll be some work on what we call the party “platform” which is a set of policy positions and issue positions that the candidates will articulate in their own campaigns. 

In 2020, the Republican Party did not do a platform, they didn’t come up with a set of policy positions to advertise to the public. We’re gonna have to see the degree to which they do something this time. 

I think it’s pretty clear to see for most people that what the Republican Party stands for these days is what former President Trump stands for and what he says on issues. The sort of typical negotiation among delegates from all over the country to reach some consensus on issues is probably a less central activity for the Republicans this time.

KAK: We have not seen a vice president named for former President Trump — what is the delay? 

KD: I wouldn’t say there’s a delay because there really isn’t a specific deadline for announcing the vice president. Generally we know the vice president, the vice presidential candidates, close in time to the convention. But the former president has suggested that he wants to use it as kind of a big surprise moment, an announcement to gather extra attention. And, again, as things happen in the Republican Party, it will happen on the timeline and schedule of the former president.