Published: August 24, 2012

Republicans and Democrats are gearing up to nominate their presidential candidates. We can be almost certain that there won’t be many surprises.

American political conventions haven’t always been so predictable. Before they became scripted for TV, conventions were where some of the most critical policy questions were resolved, and where political careers were made or ruined. This week, we venture into the back rooms, chaotic halls, and streets where these dramas unfolded. We consider the radical roots of the convention ritual itself, and explore the ways that ritual was mainstreamed. Over the course of the hour, the History Guys hear the voices of anti-corruption crusaders in the 1820s, women’s rights activists at Seneca Falls, and civil rights workers in 1964, all of whom turned to conventions as venues for change. Through it all, we ask how well American political conventions have lived up to their promise of representing constituents back home.