Mock Convention 2016
By Andrew McCaffery
Over 40 percent of citizens eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election did not cast a ballot, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. In other words, 2 out of 5 Americans did not exercise their constitutional right to vote. In an age ripe with national issues ranging from unemployment to the debt crisis to healthcare, as well as the problems we face internationally, can one really believe that non-voters are simply apathetic? No, of course not; everyone has an opinion. Thus, our voting problem must originate elsewhere.
Perhaps this problem is a matter of access, or lack thereof, coupled with a difficult gatekeeper. A young person could compare the notion of standing up to the political system to confronting a work supervisor or critical parent — it’s tough. However, there is hope for the revival of young voices in American politics. One calls this campus its home: Mock Convention.
The Washington and Lee University Mock Convention is a simulated presidential nominating convention; its goal is to predict the presidential nominee of the political party currently not in the White House. Mock Convention is run entirely by Washington & Lee undergraduate students, and the organization is completely self-funded. Established in 1908, it also happens to be the most accurate undergraduate exercise of its kind. The organization boasts a record of 19 correct predictions over the course of 25 conventions, with only three incorrect picks since 1948. Mock Convention is a living example of a solution to young people’s absence from the political arena.
While it is primarily an exercise in political analysis and research, Mock Convention encompasses much more than just politics. The organization and its signature events – Spring Kickoff, the Presidential Gala, and Convention Weekend – are the direct result of student leadership and participation in areas including communications, event planning, budgeting, and fundraising. Due to the wide range of roles and responsibilities, roughly 95 percent of the undergraduate student body has historically found a way to get involved in this university tradition.
The 26th Mock Convention, which culminates in February 2016, is already significantly underway. In the time it took for this article to be written and published, the Political department has hired 5 Regional Chairs – the students in these positions will be in charge of coordinating the research efforts of the state delegations in their respective regions. This hiring effort expanded the organization’s head count to 25. To clarify, students involved in Mock Convention are volunteering their time; however, one must apply and interview to earn a position.
In its mission statement, the university highlights “engaged citizenship.” At a time when young people are considered non-participants in American electoral politics, such a tenet is both admirable and essential. Mock Convention is typically recognized for its exceptional prediction record and its impressive list of former speakers that includes past presidents and other highly ranked office-holders. Looking ahead to 2016, we believe that the emphasis should actually be placed on the present, that we should be celebrating this one-of-a-kind opportunity to share our voices and prove that young people are not a lost cause. We hope you will join us on the road to the White House.
For more information about Mock Convention please visit www.MockConvention.com, or email the organization directly at MockCon@wlu.edu.