Presidential conventions are looming in front of us. One convention’s outcome, the Republican convention, has been decided. Unless something totally extraordinary happens between now and convention time, Presidential Donald Trump will be nominated. There will a convention, but it will be lacking the drama of the Democratic convention. There will be speeches and there will be enthusiasm but the decision of who will represent the Republican party will be an anti-climax.
The real drama resides with the Democrats. The race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Bidon is so close that it is anyone’s race to win. The battling is splintering the party as left-wing and socialist Sanders is touting a new and different America while a more moderate and conventional American, Joe Biden is suggesting change, but at a less extreme implementation. As if the battle isn’t getting hot enough, there are now charges that the Democratic party is changing the nomination rules and the one other remaining Democratic candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, will not be allowed to participate in the next Democratic debate. With confusion surrounding the Democratic nomination, there is now discussion of a brokered convention.
In today’s world we have information flowing at the speed of light. Within minutes of a state closing its’ polls, the winner of a state’s delegates can be predicted; Iowa excluded, and the Iowa process to select presidential delegates will take a major transformation in the future. Before a convention is held the person that will represent the party in the presidential election is known, at least for the most part. This year may be different for the Democrats, there may be a brokered convention and I for one hope we once again live the excitement of brinksmanship, speeches and back-room dealings as two candidates vie for the opportunity to represent the Democratic party in the presidential race.
If you think the 2020 Democratic selection is exciting or extraordinary or full of theater, it has no comparison to the Democratic selection of 1925. The convention was a rowdy event. Roman Catholic delegates would stand in the corridors of the New York hotels demanding that the Ku-Klux-Klan be denounced by the Democratic convention. William Jennings Bryan fought to keep the Klan issue out of the convention. When he went to speak on the floor of the convention, he was horribly jeered by the Tammany Hall forces from New York, and it took 30 minutes before he could utter the first word of his speech. In fact Jennings was not a proponent of the Klan but he understand that a vote against the Klan would splinter the Democratic Party. Tammany Hall was the New York political leadership headquartered in New York City. Ultimately the proposition to denounce the Klan did go to a vote and failed by seven votes; however, this did note changes that were going on within the party.
This convention displayed the deep divisions within the Democratic Party. With the exceptions of the 2020 convention, today’s political conventions are a tame event when compared to the 1925 convention. Modern conventions usually select the presidential candidate on the first ballot. When the first ballot of 1925 was cast the leader was William McAdoo. Al Smith of New York was second. Seventeen other candidates also received votes. By the time the 15th ballot was cast the convention was being referred to in the press and magazines as the “klanbake”, due to the chaos from the issue of the Ku Klux Klan. It was noted that possibly 25 percent of the delegates were members of the Klan. After 15 days and 100 ballots later the convention was no longer the glamorous affair that it began. Delegates had run out of money and were telegraphing for funds to pay for their hotel rooms. Everyone was exhausted and un-air conditioned New York was hot in July. Smith had taken the lead in delegate votes at the 100- ballot count, but his Catholic religion made it a sure thing that be could not be elected. McAdoo’s support of the klan doomed his chances. Finally, on the 103rd ballot, compromise candidate John Davis won the nomination. After 16 grueling days the Democrats had a candidate.
Religion played a more robust part in politics than today, though religion is still a minor factor. Back-room politics prevailed as Al Smith was identified as non-electable due to being a Catholic. This was noted by Democratic power player, Joseph Kennedy, father of the future President and the first Catholic elected to the office, John E Kennedy.
The party was so divided that it lost the general election to Herbert Hoover and it would not be until Franklin Roosevelt took office in the middle of the Great Depression that the Democratic Party coalesced.
This year should be good and will take us back to the nomination of Kennedy in 1960 and the riots of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Sit back, turn on the television and enjoy the ride.
Tuffy Fields may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.