1920 Democratic Convention - History

1920 Democratic Convention - History

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Civic Auditorium San Francisco, California

June 28 to July 6, 1920

Nominated: James M Cox of Ohio for President

Nominated: Franklin D Roosevelt of New York for Vice President

The democrats opened their convention with no clear choice for President. President Wilson who was infirm was not going to run for another term. The convention looked at and rejected both Secreatary of the Treasury William McAdoo and Attorney General Mitchell Palmer. On the 44th ballot the convention turned to Governor James Cox of Ohio. Fox in turn selected Franklin D Roosevelt then Secreatry of the Navy and whose only elected office he had held had been State Senator as his running-mate.

Fact check: Photograph shows 1924 KKK parade not DNC

Users on social media are sharing a photo of a 1924 Ku Klux Klan (KKK) parade that has been repeatedly mislabeled, saying it shows the Democratic National Convention (DNC) of that same year. This false claim has been circulating since 2015.

Examples of recent posts are visible here , here and here .

The photo, which is part of the Wisconsin Historical Society archive here , actually shows members of the KKK parading in Madison, Wisconsin on December 2, 1924 for the funeral of a Police officer that was killed.

This false claim has been circulating since 2015 ( here , here , here ) and debunked multiple times since ( here , here and here )

The 1924 Democratic National Convention, held at Madison Square Garden in New York from June 24 to July 9, is the longest political convention in American history. It is true that the Ku Klux Klan played a part in it, but at the time the KKK had influence in both the Republican and the Democratic parties.

By 1925, the KKK had as many as 4 million members and considerable political power in some states ( here ). Historian Linda Gordon has written about the KKK’s presence in politics in the 1920s ( here ). In her book The Second Coming of the KKK, she noted that KKK used politics and elections “to make war", and that their political presence was “pretty much equally divided between Democrats and Republicans”. ( bit.ly/3faOyNC )

The New York Times described the KKK as the “most powerful bloc in the Democratic Party” during the 1924 convention but explained it was also “fiercely opposed” ( here ).

Unrelated to the photograph in the claim, on July 4, 1924 and coinciding with the DNC the KKK organized a massive rally in New Jersey against New York Governor Al Smith, who was considered the strongest candidate for the democratic nomination.

The New York Times reported at the time that “twenty thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan and their relatives” celebrated Independence Day with “demonstrations against Governor Smith of New York and his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for presidency.” ( here ).

The Good Luck Charm: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the 1920 Democratic National Convention

August 9, 1920. The lawn of Springwood was choked by the crowd. Nearly five thousand had gathered to witness the moment – when the young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, addressed them as the Vice Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Party. He had been nominated over a month earlier, at the party’s convention.

Roosevelt stood on the steps of his Hyde Park, New York home, and addressed the crowd. He challenged the notion that Americans had lost interest in reform or the world beyond the oceans that protected them. He warned the nation against rejecting the League of Nations, thus endangering the hard won peace. With family and friends gathered around him, he encouraged Americans not to return to the state of mind from before the war [World War One] – instead he declared the nation “must go forward or flounder.”

The general election for President that fall turned out to be a landslide victory for the Republicans Harding and Coolidge.

While the 1920 Democratic Convention is not remembered for producing a successful candidate that year, it did help to launch Franklin D. Roosevelt as a national campaigner.

Roosevelt campaigned very hard that fall, traversing the country, gaining national attention, and vital experience, which would aid him in the years ahead. That campaign season also provided Roosevelt with another important outcome – a loyal and dedicated group of friends and staffers.

Several weeks after the election, in December 1920, FDR met with these men to say thank you, and presented each with a set of gold cuff links, engraved with his initials, “FDR,” and the initials of the recipient.

Later known as the “Cuff Link Gang,” they would support Roosevelt in different roles, but primarily in friendship, through many years of trials, such as his battle with Polio, and in emerging as a presidential candidate in his own right a decade later. The Cuff Link Gang would make a point to meet each year around the time of FDR’s birthday, January 30, to reminisce over a private dinner and to play cards. Often their gathering would carry a theme, such as in 1934, which poked fun of critics who labeled FDR a “Caesar.” The theme for that year’s gathering was a Roman toga party, complete with Roosevelt as Emperor. By this time, the club had expanded to accommodate new friends and staff, including several women, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt and some of her friends.

While the 1920 Democratic National Convention holds significance for Franklin D. Roosevelt – the convention was also significant for another, perhaps less remembered reason – it was the first time that a major political party in the United States placed a woman in nomination for President. Laura Clay and Cora Wilson Stewart, both Kentucky delegates, were placed in nomination, and each received votes, also a first.

Locals attended 1920 Democratic convention in hopes of nominating Ohio's governor


On an early Saturday morning, June 19, 1920, outside the Central National Bank Building on the corner of Paint and Main streets, opposite the courthouse, four men cheerfully loaded several bulging suitcases into the back of an automobile. One of the men was sprightly 74-year-old F.A. Stacey, president of the bank and Ross County Democratic party chairman. The four friends had likely agreed to meet that morning in the attorneys’ offices of Claypool & Claypool on the second floor of the bank building. The upstairs legal offices were where local Democrats always met. And these four lucky Democrats were bound for the party’s national convention clear across the country in San Francisco.

The politically connected Stacey was one of the two delegates representing Ohio’s 11th district and pledged to support Ohio’s incumbent Gov. James M. Cox. The older man had invited his three grateful friends to tag along as his personal guests on the historic trip. One of the men was Garrett Claypool, son of Congressman Horatio Claypool, and the other two were brothers Thomas and Wilbur McKenzie.

Thankfully, the four only had to motor to Dayton where the rest of the Ohio delegates were gathering later that morning at the mansion of the 50-year-old, three-term governor. From there, they were scheduled to make the pilgrimage to the West Coast on a specially reserved train nicknamed the “Cox Special.”

As the car rattled along State Route 11 (U.S. 35) toward Dayton, a hot topic must have been the news in that morning’s Gazette announcing the nomination of Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding at the Republican Party convention in Chicago. The four Democrats likely speculated whether Harding’s selection hurt or helped their candidate’s chances.

Two years earlier, in the 1918 congressional elections, midway through Woodrow Wilson’s second term, America had taken a conservative turn and the GOP captured both houses of Congress and won big at the state level as well. And Ohio was no exception. “CONGRESS IS REPUBLICAN,” “ALL G.O.P. STATE TICKET IS ELECTED,” “REPUBLICAN COMMISIONERS ALL ELECTED,” were just a few of the headlines that plastered the front page of the Gazette the day after the Democrats’ electoral drubbing.

Despite the shellacking, however, there was one bright ray of hope for Ohio Democrats in 1918. Incumbent Gov. Cox narrowly won reelection despite the Republican tidal wave. The progressive Cox had first been elected Ohio governor in 1912, but was defeated in his bid for a second term by Republican Frank B. Willis. Cox won back the governorship from Willis in 1916, though, and beat him again two years later, making him the lone Democrat winner on the state ticket in 1918. And so there was a strong argument to be made that Cox’s victory suggested he might be the only Democratic candidate who could defeat the Republican Harding in the must-win Buckeye state. Perhaps it took an Ohioan to beat another Ohioan.

As the four men rolled through Washington Courthouse, Xenia, Beavercreek and neared Dayton, it’s uncertain if they were aware of the spectacle awaiting them at the governor’s mansion 5 miles outside the city center. Cox’s impressive residence had been built a few years earlier in the French Renaissance architectural style and the governor had named it Trailsend. The origin of the sprawling mansion’s name was inspired by an old buffalo trail that ran from the hills of Hocking County and ended where Cox located his home. The site, Cox recorded in his memoirs, “was a famous camping place for the Indians. Here they gathered after the hunt and perhaps after their battles as well.”

But it wasn’t the mansion’s interesting back story or its impressive architecture that might have surprised the Chillicotheans after they finally turned into the mansion’s driveway. Instead, it was the scene playing out on the crowded front lawn. The Piqua Ohio Silver Cornet Band paraded across the lawn blowing their horns, a glee club loudly rehearsed songs they planned on serenading the delegates with in San Francisco, cheerleaders jumped up and down shaking their pom-poms and delegates and non-delegates alike from all corners of the state traipsed back and forth across the green grass. Trailsend had been transformed into a carnival.

And if guests Claypool and the McKenzie brothers had been worried they might feel out of place among the delegates roaming the crowded grounds, they needn’t have been. According to Cox, the “attendance of non-delegates from Ohio set a record.” And soon all four of the Ross County men were fitted out in dark green suits, white trousers and shoes, red, white and blue campaign hat, and given an umbrella and a stylish cane. This trip was going to be fun.

After the last of the Ohio conventioneers had finally arrived, the hopeful Cox supporters gathered around the short, stocky, bespectacled governor and he delivered an inspiring pep talk and wished them well on their long journey. It was considered bad form for a nominee to attend a convention in person in these days, so Cox was staying home and attending to his executive duties while the party hashed things out in California.

It must have been quite a display at the train station, though, after the festive troops of conventioneers arrived and began occupying the 16 cars that made up the Cox Special. And after they were all aboard and the train slowly disappeared down the tracks, inside the passenger cars the Ohioans kept up their high spirits. Special entertainment had been arranged. And despite the recently passed prohibition amendment, it is likely that cocktails fueled many of the political discussions on board.

It wasn’t all politics and partying on the long train ride, though. Later, after the Cox Special made its way through Denver and whistled into Colorado Springs, the Ohioans disembarked and enjoyed a sightseeing excursion to Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods. But they weren’t finished: 500 miles down the tracks they stopped off in Salt Lake City and visited the famous Mormon Cathedral. Whether Cox captured the nomination in San Francisco or not, the Ross County men were at least guaranteed lasting memories of their train ride through the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

After the travel-worn Ohioans finally whistled into San Francisco, one historian documented that the mayor “dispatched pretty girls to welcome each one on arrival with a hearty hello—and a bottle of illegal hooch.” The restaurants in San Francisco were “the best on the continent” and the people “most hospitable,” wrote famous newspaperman, William Allen White. And over the coming days, the city threw countless parties in honor of the visiting delegates and it was as if word about the passage of the prohibition amendment had not yet reached California.

The convention finally got underway in the city’s Civic Auditorium on Monday, June 28, nine days after the Chillicothe men had first pulled away from the curb that early Saturday morning outside the Central National Bank. Stacey joined the rest of the Ohio delegates on the crowded floor and his three traveling companions mingled with the other Ohio non-delegates high up in the galleries.

The convention opened with the attendees standing and proudly singing the Star-Spangled Banner. The largest American flag the conventioneers had likely ever seen draped the back of the convention stage. And immediately after they finished singing, “O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the huge American flag was rolled up and revealed an equally mammoth portrait of the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. The delegates cheered and demonstrated for 30 minutes straight.

Gov. Cox’s name was placed in nomination by Ohio Supreme Court Justice James G. Johnson and he wasted no time in making the case for the governor’s nomination. “Ladies and gentlemen—I speak for a mighty state,” he began. The Ohio delegates roared. Gov. Cox is a “great statesman and leader,” the justice continued, “who can carry in the election the great and necessary state, the industrial center of Ohio.”

The Ohio delegates must have been crushed that the rest of the Civic Auditorium did not share the same enthusiasm for their candidate. Although the Ohioans, including the Piqua Silver Cornet band, made much noise and cheered Cox’ nomination for 32 straight minutes, the rest of the state delegations offered only tepid, respectful applause.

However, the Democratic Party required its nominees to win a three-fourths vote of the delegates and the convention was soon deadlocked. Privately, Cox had always understood his nomination was a long shot and had insisted that if the convention turned to Ohio, “We either have an ace in the hole, or we haven’t. If we have an ace concealed, we win: if we haven’t, no amount of bluffing and advertising can do much good.”

History will record that he did have an ace in the hole. After 44 excruciating ballot votes, the convention remained deadlocked. However, on the next vote the delegates finally put Cox over the top and the Ohioans lost their minds. And shortly after, the assistant secretary of the navy was chosen to be Cox’s running mate. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After news of Cox’s nomination reached Chillicothe, the Gazette informed its readers that Stacey and his guests were “wending their way homeward by way of Canada” and stopping off in Seattle and a few other cities in the northwest and Canada. And in quite an understatement that must have amused the men, the story suggested “their trip was being made more enjoyable by the fact that they had been able to nominate Governor Cox.” Oh, to have been on that train.

Brief History of Contested Democratic Conventions

After having written A Brief History of Contested Republican Conventions, I’ve decided to do the same with the Democratic conventions, which were often longer. Since much is being said about a contested Republican convention in 2016, it is interesting to look back on history to see how this years convention could turn out.

1844 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland

Leader on the first ballot: Fmr Pres. Martin Van Buren

Ultimate nominee: Fmr Gov. James K. Polk

The fight for the nomination looked to be between former one-term president Martin Van Buren of New York and former ambassador Lewis Cass of Michigan, a vocal supporter of American expansionism.

Martin Van Buren, who had been arguably the architect of the Democratic Party, still maintained influence in the party, despite having been defeated in a landslide in reelection. However, the old Jacksonian Van Buren had evolved, while his party did not. He was becoming increasingly anti-slavery and he opposed measures that would help increase the power of the Slave States. As such, the once national candidate, became regional. The South would not support him.

Lewis Cass was a powerful freemason with a range of experience. Besides having been ambassador to France, he was, like Jackson and Harrison, a War of 1812 general, and he had been territorial governor of Michigan. While a Northerner, like Van Buren, Cass had much in common with Jackson-minded Southerners and Westerners.

The sole potential alternative, or compromise, on the first ballot was Van Buren’s old VP, Richard Mentor Johnson, a controversial fellow, whose common law wife was a slave. He acknowledged their children as his own. He was also considered a somewhat incoherent speaker and wore the same bright red vest every day. However, he was a War of 1812 hero, who claimed to have killed the great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh.

At the convention, in an effort to block Van Buren’s nomination, Southerners worked with powerful Pennsylvania Senator, and future president, James Buchanan to establish a 2/3 rule for selecting a nominee. With approximately 67% of the votes needed to win, a contested ballot requiring a compromise choice became much more likely. In this way, the South could regularly veto any candidate against their interests and force someone more tolerant to slavery. The 2/3 rule lasted until FDR asked for its removal in the 1930s.

On the first ballot, as expected, Van Buren led in votes, but he did not secure 2/3 of them. Cass was in a strong second and Johnson held the lead among minority candidates. Strangely, incumbent president John Tyler, who had been kicked out of his own Whig Party, had hoped to receive votes at this convention, but he failed to gain a vote.

Van Buren led through four ballots and then Cass took over for the next four. Johnson fell as the alternative, while James Buchanan rose to third place. On the 8th ballot, Buchanan and Johnson delegates united around former governor James K. Polk of Tennessee as a the compromise.

Polk, like Andrew Jackson, was from Tennessee. He was a favorite of Andrew Jackson. Additionally, he was a slaveholder, who was quiet about the expansion of slavery. At the convention, Polk was fighting merely for a VP spot, and he supported Van Buren over Cass for the presidency.

Polk’s 8th ballot showing, where he placed 3rd, was convincing enough for Van Buren to bow out and for most of Cass’s delegates to over to the new candidate. Polk won on the 9th ballot.

1852 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland

Leader on the first ballot: Sen. Lewis Cass

Ultimate nominee: Sen. Franklin Pierce

On convention day, the two strongest candidates were the 1848 nominee, Lewis Cass, and powerful Pennsylvanian James Buchanan, who had last served as Polk’s Secretary of State. The nomination took place as the country was working on a compromise to prevent Civil War. Cass, who was from Michigan, was the favored candidate among the Northern Democrats. Buchanan, although a Northern as well, was the favorite among the South, since his closest friend was Sen. Rufus King of Alabama. Cass’s supporters were more inclined to compromise than Buchanan’s were.

Cass lead for 19 ballots, with a gradual decrease in votes, after which Buchanan held the lead through the 29th ballot. Neither candidate was capable of achieving 2/3 of the vote to win. As such, delegates scrambled for compromise choices.

The first alternate was Sen. Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, who held the railroad interests and western expansionist support, much of Cass’s earlier support headed his way. He lead on ballots 30 and 31, before many of his voters went back to Cass.

Cass regained the lead on ballot 32 and kept it through ballot 44, when a new compromise choice, former Sec. of War William Marcy of New York, emerged as the frontrunner. Marcy kept his lead from ballot 45 through 48. However, as a pro-Southerner New Yorker, some from his own state worked to block his nomination.

By the end of ballot 48, the convention was ready to go home. Marcy couldn’t get his whole homestate’s support, and Cass, who was in second place, would not get a third look. The convention turned to a new, non-threatening, compromise choice who currently was in 3rd place: Sen. Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire.

Pierce did not receive any votes until the 35th ballot and did not receive any serious consideration until ballot 44, when some of Cass’s supporters went his way. Like Buchanan and Marcy, Pierce was a Northerner with Southern sympathies. He was acceptable to Cass and was made acceptable to Buchanan’s faction by accepting Sen. William Rufus King of Alabama as his VP. Additionally, he selected Marcy as his Secretary of State.

Pierce would become one of the worst presidents in US History.

1856 Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio

Leader on the first ballot: Amb. James Buchanan

Ultimate nominee: Amb. James Buchanan

This convention fight was between those wishing to renominate President Franklin Pierce, and those opposed to his renomination. Pierce had proved to be a weak president in a period of crisis. Democrats opposed to Pierce offered the same old candidates from past conventions, Ambassador James Buchanan, Sen. Stephan A. Douglas and former nominee Lewis Cass. All three were considered experienced, able and acceptable to both Northern and Southern Democrats.

President Pierce’s best showing was on the first ballot, when he came in second place. After this ballot, Pierce’s number dwindled considerably until he was abandoned after the 14th ballot.

Out of the non-Pierce candidates, Lewis Cass never gained any serious attention. While Stephen Douglas jumped to second place when Pierce’s former supporters rallied around Douglas. Buchanan, meanwhile, held on to his lead the entire time. By the 16th ballot, Buchanan’s only competitor, Douglas, was unable to reach Buchanan. Unwilling to prolong the convention needlessly, Douglas endorsed the frontrunner Buchanan.

Buchanan, a Northerner, would agree to Southern Democrat of Kentucky John C. Breckinridge, who was then only 35 years old, as his vice president. He also selected Lewis Cass as his Secretary of State to appease Western voters.

James Buchanan presidency is generally considered worse than Franklin Pierce’s.

1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina

Leader on the first ballot: Sen. Stephen A. Douglas

Ultimate nominee: Sen. Stephen A. Douglas

The crucial mistake was hosting the convention to promote a unionist in South Carolina while the country was on the brink of Civil War. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, now a three-time candidate for the nomination, would hold the lead for the entire balloting process, but win his 2/3 majority on account of a protest.

While Douglas had defended slavery during the famous debates with Abraham Lincoln, his strong unionist beliefs and his promotion of Popular Sovereignty, which made him a moderate for the 1850s, irked hard-line Southerners. He also opposed the controversial Dred Scott decision. With James Buchanan opting out of a second term (he wouldn’t have been renominated), Douglas had the support of the North. Although, he did not have President Buchanan’s support.

Five alternate candidates competed against Douglas, most notably James Guthrie of Kentucky, future president Andrew Johnson of Tennessee and Sen. Robert Hunter of Virginia. Future Confederate president Jefferson Davis received token votes. None of these candidates came within the shadow of Douglas when votes were counted.

The Southern delegation protested a Douglas nomination and stormed out of the convention, along with much of spectators. The chairman ruled that Douglas would need to get 2/3 of the vote, counting the non-votes of the absent Southerners. As this proved to be impossible after 57 ballots, Democrats reconvened in Baltimore, Maryland, where Douglas was easily nominated.

Southern Democrats decided to break free of the “Northern” Democratic Party and selected their own candidate, Buchanan’s VP, John C.Breckinridge. The split in the Democratic Party allowed Republican Abraham Lincoln to win a landslide victory, despite his absence from Southern ballots.

1868 Democratic National Convention in New York, NY

Leader on the first ballot: Fmr Rep. George Pendleton

Ultimate nominee: Fmr Gov. Horatio Seymour

A realist within the Democratic Party would realize that their party hadn’t a chance in 1868. Much of their Southern support wasn’t allowed to vote because of Reconstruction. Additionally, the incumbent president, Democrat Andrew Johnson, was showing the country how ineffective a fight against a Republican-controlled Congress could be. Republicans were identified with Lincoln, and Democrats were still seen as the party of secession. Nevertheless, they were the other major party, so they must convene.

President Johnson attempted renomination, but it was clear he would not get it. He received the second most votes on the first ballot. After this, his support slid until he was virtually abandoned on the eighth ballot. He had tried to win support by portraying himself as the victim of an abusive Congress, but this didn’t really inspire the delegates.

The lead alternative was George Pendleton of Ohio. He had been the Democratic VP nominee in 1864, and he held the support of agrarian voters in the Midwest because of his support of inflationary currency, which helped poor farmers. Unfortunately, this economic stance lost him support among urban and big business interests within the party. Pendleton was the frontrunner on the first 15 ballots.

The 2/3 rule, once again, would require a compromise choice. On ballot 16, some of Pendleton’s supporters moved to Civil War hero Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, who was popular and moderate enough to win crossover votes in the general election, but he was politically inexperienced.

Pendleton dropped out on the 18th ballot with his support going to both Hancock and to a new compromise choice, the respectable by unexciting Senator of Indiana, Thomas A. Hendricks. Hancock maintained the lead until after ballot 21, when Hendricks took over.

At this point, Ohio delegates, who had supported Pendleton, nominated the chairman of the convention, Horatio Seymour of New York for the nomination. Seymour suggested Ohio-born Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, a former disgruntled Republican, as a Compromise. However, the convention rallied around Seymour, who had earlier refused to be a candidate. With homefield applause from the spectators, Seymour accepted nomination.

Seymour would lose to Ulysses S. Grant in the election, but he would perform better than expected.

1896 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois

Leader on the first ballot: Fmr Rep. Richard P. Bland

Ultimate nominee: Fmr. Rep. William Jennings Bryan

Incumbent president Grover Cleveland, the leader of the conservative, pro-Business and gold Democrats declined to run for a 3rd-term. It seems he could have probably won a 3rd term, despite the opposition of Western, agrarian and silver Democrats. However, with a deep recession and general election victory seemed unlikely, so he bowed out before the convention met.

The absence of Cleveland allowed the silver Democrats a chance to take control of the party. Bimetalism was a major political issue at the time. The gold standard was favored by big business in the east and in this cities, and silver-backed currency helped Western farmers. Agrarian populism had been rising throughout the 1890s, and the Democratic Party hoped to capitalize on it by endorsing a candidate that could appeal to Democratic, Republican and 3rd party silverites.

Heading into the convention, the Silver Democrats had control of exactly 2/3 of the delegates, which meant that they would get their nominee. The question was over which silver candidate. The front runner was Richard “Silver Dick” Bland of Missouri. Having co-authored the Bland-Allison Act, which put silver into American currency, Bland was the obvious choice for the nomination. However, Bland wasn’t interested in the office and stayed away from the convention.

Bland’s only real competition was 36-year-old William Jennings Bryan, a well-known orator on bimetallism, who espoused a quasi-Christianity-based progressive platform. Bryan, unlike Bland, wanted the job. He delivered the famous “You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold” speech, directed at those in favor of the gold standard, Democrat or Republican. With that, the Silver vote abandoned Bland for Bryan. Additionally, Southerners who didn’t like Bland for marrying a Catholic woman, accepted Bryan as well. Gold Democrats unwilling to cross over, stayed with Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Pattison. Bryan won on the 5th ballot.

Bryan would lose to Republican William McKinley in the first of three presidential general election defeats for Bryan.

1912 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland

Leader on the first ballot: Speaker of the House Champ Clark

Ultimate nominee: Gov. Woodrow Wilson

By 1912, the Democrats were without a general election victory for two decades. Three attempts by progressive-leader William Jennings Bryan and one by conservative, gold Democrat Alton B. Parker failed to take down the powerful Republican Party. The party was still fragmented between the interests of pro-business, conservative, progressive, agrarian and labor. Bryan and Parker were at the complete opposite ends of each other, ideologically, without much overlap. In 1912, Democrats hoped to find a more unifying candidate.

Four major candidates were nominated: Rep. Champ Clark of Missouri, Gov. Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, Gov. Judson Harmon of Ohio and Rep. Oscar Underwood of Alabama. Neither Bryan nor Parker campaigned for the presidency.

As this was the first election with primaries, candidates came into the convention with some delegates, but none had the 2/3 majority. Clark held a lead over Wilson. While Harmon and Underwood were in a distant 3rd and 4th place.

Clark held his lead until the 30th ballot, coming close to winning on ballot 10. Meanwhile, Wilson’s numbers slowly improved, while Underwood’s stayed the same, and Harmon’s tailed off.

Wilson, who had been one of the conservative, pro-business Democrats in the past that were opposed to Bryan’s progressive wing, realized he had to be a reformist to win the election. In the primaries, he painted himself as both a Southern-born progressive and a Northern governor opposed to the moneyed interests of Wall Street. He also knew that he had to win over Bryan at the convention.

At the 30th ballot, Bryan endorsed Wilson, after Clark accepted the support of the New York delegation. To Bryan, this delegation was tied to Wall Street money. Bryan’s endorsement saved Wilson, who was on the verge of dropping out. Wilson won on the 46th ballot.

For his support, Bryan was made Wilson’s Secretary of State, a position he would resign in protest to Wilson’s apparent eagerness to get involved in World War I.

1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, California

Leader on the first ballot: Fmr. Sec. William Gibbs McAdoo

Ultimate nominee: Gov. James Cox

Stroke-ridden president Woodrow Wilson officially declined a 3rd term, but he hoped to be renominated in a prolonged convention. This became obvious when he declined to endorse his own son-in-law, frontrunner William McAdoo, or anyone else.

Four major candidates fought for 2/3 of the vote. Ballot leader McAdoo was a pro-labor, prohibitionist. The runner up, was the nationalistic Mitchell Palmer, Wilson’s current Attorney General. Labor forces opposed him for his role in breaking up worker’s strikes and for leading the “Palmer Raids” against radical leftists. In a distant 3rd place, was Gov. James Cox of Ohio. Gov. Al Smith of New York, the first major Catholic candidate, was in fourth place. Several minor candidates received votes as well.

McAdoo maintained the top spot through 9 ballots. Some argue that Wilson made efforts to block a McAdoo nomination. By ballot ten, Smith had dropped out, and the convention was close to a three-way tie between McAdoo, Palmer and Cox, with Cox now in the lead. McAdoo took the lead again in the next ballot, but then lost it to Cox until the 30th ballot when he gained the lead back.

By ballot 31, Mitchell had been fading into a distant 3rd place. Conservative Democrat John W. Davis of West Virginia was rising as an alternate, but he couldn’t rise past 3rd place. Most of Mitchell’s supporters backed Cox on the 39th ballot, giving the Ohio governor the lead once again. On the 44th ballot, many of McAdoo’s supporters switched to Cox, giving him the victory.

Cox selected the relatively inexperienced Franklin D. Roosevelt of NY as his VP. The pre-polio Roosevelt was 38 and seen as a rising star in the party. More importantly, the Democrats knew they needed to win New York in the election. The Cox/Roosevelt ticket lost in one of America’s greatest landslides to Warren G. Harding, one of our worst presidents.

1924 Democratic National Convention in New York, New York

Leader on the first ballot: Fmr Sec. William Gibbs McAdoo

Ultimate nominee: Amb. John W. Davis

This was the longest convention in US history. It was also one of the most futile, as the winning candidate had little chance of beating incumbent Republican president Calvin Coolidge. After years of progressive candidates, both parties would opt for conservatives. Some mark this as the end of the Great Progressive Era.

Once again, the pro-labor, prohibitionist candidate, William McAdoo was the frontrunner. Without his meddling father-in-law, McAdoo had a better chance at the nomination. Gov. Al Smith of New York, a Catholic, was favored by North-easterners, urban voters, Catholic communities, anti-prohibitionists and supporters of civil rights, also believed his chances had increased since 1920. Last election’s nominee, James Cox was in a distant third place.

In this age of conservatism, the KKK had reemerged as negative force in American society. It’s influence was such that many delegates were members. Naturally, the Klan opposed Smith, a Catholic and advocate of civil rights. Eventually, a slight majority of the convention were able to force the Klan out for disrupting the convention. The Klan and their delegates crossed over to New Jersey to burn crosses and scare people.

The Klan’s dark influence prevented Smith from getting 2/3 of the vote, but it also harmed McAdoo, who they supported by default. McAdoo did not disavow the Klan and this likely harmed his candidacy.

At the 15th ballot, McAdoo still lead Smith, but Ambassador John W. Davis, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia emerged into 3rd place. By the 20th ballot, McAdoo’s lead was slipping, so he was willing to get rid of the 2/3 majority rule, but his supporters blocked the suggestion, as they needed it to prevent Smith from having a shot at victory should the next ballot go against them. Meanwhile, Davis was now in a strong 3rd place.

By ballot 30, long-time Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan, with McAdoo’s support, attempted to close the convention to reconvene in another city, after New Yorkers supporting Smith pushed their way into the convention, causing a lot of noise and pushing delegates. Yet, the convention went on.

Smith nearly caught up to McAdoo, until ballot 42, when Davis’s support tumbled. McAdoo seemed closed to victory. But then Smith began to rise again. By ballot 70, the delegates were determined to look elsewhere and Davis was once again in a strong 3rd place. By the 87th ballot, Smith had finally overtaken McAdoo for first place.

At this point, anti-Catholic forces opted to back the rising Davis, and with the support of many former McAdoo backers, Davis jumped to second place by the 100th ballot. After this, Smith and McAdoo dropped out of the race, which gave Davis the victory on ballot 103.

The conservative John W. Davis accepted Charles W. Bryan, brother of progressive leader William Jennings Bryan, as his VP. Davis would get crushed by Coolidge in the general election.

1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois

Leader on the first ballot: Sen. Estes Kefauver

Ultimate nominee: Gov. Adlai Stevenson

This was the first contested convention since Roosevelt removed the 2/3 rule. Without the rule, and especially with primaries, nominations would typically take only a single ballot, unless there was a near tie, as was the case in 1952.

In 1952, unpopular incumbent Democratic president Harry S. Truman declined to run for another term. Four major candidates stood at the convention: Sen. Estes Kefauver, Gov. Adlai Stevenson, Sen. Richard Russell, Jr., and Former Sec. Averell Harriman.

The frontrunner, Kefauver, something of a Southern liberal populist, won the primaries states, but he wasn’t trusted by the establishment. The runner up, Stevenson, a moderate and intellectual, was favored by the establishment, but had not entered into any primary states. Russell was the favored candidate of Southerners and segregationists. Harriman, gifted in foreign affairs, who was in fourth place, was President Truman’s choice.

Kefauver kept a slight lead through the first two ballots, but then Harriman dropped out, with his support going to Stevenson. Some of Kefauver’s backers also switched to Stevenson. To balance the ticket, Stevenson, ignored selected Kefauver for VP, and took Truman’s advice to select John Sparkman of Alabama, a Southern segregationist.

Stevenson would get mauled by Eisenhower in the general election in both 1952 and in 1956.

1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois

Ultimate nominee: Hubert Humphrey

Most of the chaos occurred before this convention. Incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson shocked the party by dropping out of the race soon after the primaries began. Johnson’s VP, Hubert Humphrey, entered the race as the heir of Johnson, but he did attempt to campaign in the primary states, but rather, met with select individuals who had all the influence.

Meanwhile, two anti-Johnson, anti-war candidates, Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the slain president, did enter the primaries, mostly splitting the states among themselves. Kennedy won the crucial state of California and had his eyes on Illinois, but he was killed moments after giving his victory speech in California. Thus, McCarthy picked up Illinois and entered the convention hoping to beat Humphrey with popular support.

However, McCarthy needed all of Kennedy’s supporters. While most of them did move on to McCarthy, some supported George McGovern or others. Some tried to convince Sen. Ted Kennedy to win at convention. In the end, the voice of the people were silenced by the establishment. Humphrey, who did not aim to win any votes, except delegates, easily won on the first ballot.

Humphrey would lose to Richard Nixon in the general election. Humphrey’s nomination victory inspired Sen. George McGovern to head a commission to create election reform. Under this reform, every state was forced to have a primary or caucus, so that the people’s choice couldn’t be easily thwarted again. Curiously, under his new rules in 1972, McGovern easily won the nomination, while Humphrey, still trying to operate under the old rules of 1968, would fail.

1924 Democratic Platform

We, the representatives of the democratic party, in national convention assembled, pay our profound homage to the memory of Woodrow Wilson. Our hearts are filled with gratitude that American democracy should have produced this man, whose spirit and influence will live on through the ages and that it was our privilege to have co-operated with him in the advancement of ideals of government which will serve as an example and inspiration for this and future generations. We affirm our abiding faith in those ideals and pledge ourselves to take up the standard which he bore and to strive for the full triumph of the principles of democracy to which he dedicated his life.

Democratic Principles

The democratic party believes in equal rights to all and special privilege to none. The republican party holds that special privileges are essential to national prosperity. It believes that national prosperity must originate with the special interests and seep down through the channels of trade to the less favored industries to the wage earners and small salaried employes. It has accordingly enthroned privilege and nurtured selfishness.

The republican party is concerned chiefly with material things the democratic party is concerned chiefly with human rights. The masses, burdened by discriminating laws and unjust administration, are demanding relief. The favored special interests, represented by the republican party, contented with their unjust privileges, are demanding that no change be made. The democratic party stands for remedial legislation and progress. The republican party stands still.

Comparison of Parties

We urge the American people to compare the record of eight unsullied years of democratic administration with that of the republican administration. In the former there was no corruption. The party pledges were faithfully fulfilled and a democratic congress enacted an extraordinary number of constructive and remedial laws. The economic life of the nation was quickened.

Tariff taxes were reduced. A federal trade commission was created. A federal farm loan system was established. Child labor legislation was enacted. A good roads bill was passed. Eight hour laws were adopted. A secretary of labor was given a seat in the cabinet of the president. The Clayton amendment to the Sherman anti-trust act was passed, freeing American labor and taking it from the category of commodities. By the Smith-Lever bill improvement of agricultural conditions was effected. A corrupt practice act was adopted. A well-considered warehouse act was passed. Federal employment bureaus were created, farm loan banks were organized and the federal reserve system was established. Privilege was uprooted. A corrupt lobby was driven from the national capital. A higher sense of individual and national duty was aroused. America enjoyed an unprecedented period of social and material progress.

During the time which intervened between the inauguration of a democratic administration on March 4, 1913, and our entrance into the world war, we placed upon the statute-books of our country more effective constructive and remedial legislation than the republican party had placed there in a generation.

During the great struggle which followed we had a leadership that carried America to greater heights of honor and power and glory than she had ever known before in her entire history.

Transition from this period of exalted democratic leadership to the sordid record of the last three and a half years makes the nation ashamed. It marks the contrast between a high conception of public service and an avid purpose to distribute spoils.

G. O. P. Corruption

Never before in our history has the government been so tainted by corruption and never has an administration so utterly failed. The nation has been appalled by the revelations of political de-pravity which have characterized the conduct of public affairs. We arraign the republican party for attempting to limit inquiry into official delinquencies and to impede if not to frustrate the investigations to which in the beginning the republican party leaders assented, but which later they regarded with dismay.

These investigations sent the former secretary of the interior to Three Rivers in disgrace and dishonor. These investigations revealed the incapacity and indifference to public obligation of the secretary of the navy, compelling him by force of public opinion to quit the cabinet. These investigations confirmed the general impression as to the unfitness of the attorney general by exposing an official situation and personal contacts which shocked the conscience of the nation and compelled his dismissal from the cabinet.

These investigations disclosed the appalling conditions of the veterans bureau with its fraud upon the government and its cruel neglect of the sick and disabled soldiers of the world war. These investigations revealed the criminal and fraudulent nature of the oil leases which caused the congress, despite the indifference of the executive, to direct recovery of the public domain and the prosecution of the criminal.

Such are the exigencies of partisan politics that republican leaders are teaching the strange doctrine that public censure should be directed against those who expose crime rather than against criminals who have committed the offenses. If only three cabinet officers out of ten are disgraced, the country is asked to marvel at how many are free from taint. Long boastful that it was the only party "fit to govern," the republican party has proven its inability to govern even itself. It is at war with itself. As an agency of government it has ceased to function.

This nation cannot afford to entrust its welfare to a political organization that cannot master itself, or to an executive whose policies have been rejected by his own party. To retain in power an administration of this character would inevitably result in four years more of continued disorder, internal dissension and governmental inefficiency. A vote for Coolidge is a vote for chaos.

The dominant issues of the campaign are created by existing conditions. Dishonesty, discrimination, extravagances and inefficiency exist in government. The burdens of taxation have become unbearable. Distress and bankruptcy in agriculture, the basic industry of our country, is affecting the happiness and prosperity of the whole people. The cost of living is causing hardship and unrest.

The slowing down of industry is adding to the general distress. The tariff, the destruction of our foreign markets and the high cost of transportation are taking the profit out of agriculture, mining and other raw material industries. Large standing armies and the cost of preparing for war still cast their burdens upon humanity. These conditions the existing republican administration has proven itself unwilling or unable to redress.

The democratic party pledges itself to the following program:

We pledge the democratic party to drive from public places all which make barter of our national power, its resources or the administration of its laws to punish those guilty of these offenses.

To put none but the honest in public office to practice economy in the expenditure of public money to reverence and respect the rights of all under the constitution.

To condemn and destroy government by the spy and blackmailer which was by this republican administration both encouraged and practiced.

Tariff and Taxation

The Fordney-McCumber tariff act is the most unjust, unscientific and dishonest tariff tax measure ever enacted in our history. It is class legislation which defrauds the people for the benefit of a few, it heavily increases the cost of living, penalizes agriculture, corrupts the government, fosters paternalism and, in the long run, does not benefit the very interests for which it was intended.

We denounce the republican tariff laws which are written, in great part, in aid of monopolies and thus prevent that reasonable exchange of commodities which would enable foreign countries to buy our surplus agricultural and manufactured products with resultant profit to the toilers and producers of America.

Trade interchange, on the basis of reciprocal advantages to the countries participating is a time-honored doctrine of democratic faith. We declare our party's position to be in favor of a tax on commodities entering the customs house that will promote effective competition, protect against monopoly and at the same time produce a fair revenue to support the government.

The greatest contributing factor in the increase and unbalancing of prices is unscientific taxation. After having increased taxation and the cost of living by $2,000,000,000 under the Fordney-Mc-Cumber tariff, all that the republican party could suggest in the way of relief was a cut of $300,000,000 in direct taxes and that was to be given principally to those with the largest incomes.

Although there was no evidence of a lack of capital for investment to meet the present requirements of all legitimate industrial enterprises and although the farmers and general consumers were bearing the brunt of tariff favors already granted to special interests, the administration was unable to devise any plan except one to grant further aid to the few. Fortunately this plan of the administration failed and under democratic leadership, aided by progressive republicans, a more equitable one was adopted, which reduces direct taxes by about $450,000,000.

The issue between the president and the democratic party is not one of tax reduction or of the conservation of capital. It is an issue of relative burden of taxation and of the distribution of capital as affected by the taxation of income. The president still stands on the so-called Mellon plan, which his party has just refused to indorse or mention in its platform.

The income tax was intended as a tax upon wealth. It was not intended to take from the poor any part of the necessities of life. We hold that the fairest tax with which to raise revenue for the federal government is the income tax. We favor a graduated tax upon incomes, so adjusted as to lay the burdens of government upon the taxpayers in proportion to the benefits they enjoy and their ability to pay.

We oppose the so-called nuisance taxes, sales taxes and all other forms of taxation that unfairly shift to the consumer the burdens of taxation. We refer to the democratic revenue measure passed by the last congress as distinguished from the Mellon tax plan as an illustration of the policy of the democratic party. We first made a flat reduction of 25 per cent upon the tax of all incomes payable this year and then we so changed the proposed Mellon plan as to eliminate taxes upon the poor, reducing them upon moderate incomes and, in a lesser degree, upon the incomes of multi-millionaires. We hold that all taxes are unnecessarily high and pledge ourselves to further reductions.

We denounce the Mellon plan as a device to relieve multi-millionaires at the expense of other taxpayers, and we accept the issue of taxation tendered by President Coolidge.


During the four years of republican government the economic condition of the American farmer has changed from comfort to bankruptcy, with all its attendant miseries. The chief causes for this are:

(a) The republican party policy of isolation in international affairs has prevented Europe from getting back to its normal balance, and, by leaving unsolved the economic problems abroad, has driven the European city population from industrial activities to the soil in large numbers in order to earn the mere necessaries of life. This has deprived the American farmer of his normal export trade.

(b) The republican policy of a prohibitive tariff, exemplified in the Fordney-McCumber law, which has forced the American farmer, with his export market debilitated, to buy manufactured goods at sustained high domestic levels, thereby making him the victim of the profiteer.

(c) The republican policy of high transportation rates, both rail and water, which has made it impossible for the farmer to ship his produce to market at even a living profit.

To offset these policies and their disastrous results, and to restore the farmer again to economic equality with other industrialists, we pledge ourselves:

(a) To adopt an international policy of such co-operation by direct official, instead of indirect and evasive unofficial means, as will re-establish the farmers' export market by restoring the industrial balance in Europe and the normal flow of international trade with the settlement of Europe's economic problems.

(b) To adjust the tariff so that the farmer and all other classes can buy again in a competitive manufacturers' market.

(c) To readjust and lower rail and water rates which will make our markets, both for the buyer and the seller, national and international instead of regional and local.

(d) To bring about the early completion of international waterway systems for transportation and to develop our water powers for cheaper fertilizer and use on our farms.

(e) To stimulate by every proper governmental activity the progress of the co-operative marketing movement and the establishment of an export marketing corporation or commission in order that the exportable surplus may not establish the price of the whole crop.

(f) To secure for the farmer credits suitable for his needs.

(g) By the establishment of these policies and others naturally supplementary thereto, to reduce the margin between what the producer receives for his products and the consumer has to pay for his supplies, to the end that we secure an equality for agriculture.

The sponsors for the Esch-Cummins transportation act of 1920, at the time of its presentation to congress, stated that it had for its purposes the reduction of the cost of transportation, the improvement of service, the bettering of labor conditions, the promotion of peaceful co-operation between employer and employe, and at the same time the assurance of a fair and just return to the railroads upon their investment.

We are in accord with these announced purposes, but contend that the act has failed to accomplish them. It has failed to reduce the cost of transportation. The promised improvement in service has not been realized. The labor provisions of the act have proven unsatisfactory in settling differences between employer and employes. The so-called recapture clause has worked out to the advantage of the strong and has been of no benefit to the weak. The pronouncement in the act for the development of both rail and water transportation has proved futile. Water transportation upon our inland waterways has not been encouraged, the limitation of our coastwise trade is threatened by the administration of the act. It has unnecessarily interfered with the power of the states to regulate purely intrastate transportation. It must therefore be so rewritten that the high purpose which the public welfare demands may be accomplished.

Railroad freight rates should be so readjusted as to give the bulky basic, low-priced raw commodities, such as agricultural products, coal and ores the lowest rates, placing the higher rates upon more valuable and less bulky manufactured products.

Muscle Shoals

We reaffirm and pledge the fulfillment of the policy, with reference to Muscle Shoals, as declared and passed by the democratic majority of the sixty-fourth congress in the national defense act of 1916, "for the production of nitrates or other products needed for munitions of war and useful in the manufacture of fertilizers."

We hold that the production of cheaper and high grade fertilizers is essential to agricultural prosperity. We demand prompt action by congress for the operation of the Muscle Shoals plants to maximum capacity in the production, distribution and sale of commercial fertilizers to the farmers of the country and we oppose any legislation that limits the production of fertilizers at Muscle Shoals by limiting the amount of power to be used in their manufacture.

Credit and Currency

We denounce the recent cruel and unjust contraction of legitimate and necessary credit and currency, which was directly due to the so-called deflation policy of the republican party, as declared in its national platform of June, 1920, and in the speech of acceptance of its candidate for the presidency. Within eighteen months after the election of 1920 this policy resulted in withdrawing bank loans by over $5,000,000,000 and in contracting our currency by over $1,500,000,000.

The contraction bankrupted hundreds of thousands of farmers and stock growers in America and resulted in widespread industrial depression and unemployment. We demand that the federal reserve system be so administered as to give stability to industry, commerce and finance, as was intended by the democratic party, which gave the federal reserve system to the nation.


The democratic party was foremost in urging reclamation for the immediate arid and semiarid lands of the west. The lands are located in the public land states, and, therefore, it is due to the government to utilize their resources by reclamation. Homestead entrymen under reclamation projects have suffered from the extravagant inefficiencies and mistakes of the federal government.

The reclamation act of 1924, recommended by the fact finding commission and added as an amendment to the second deficiency appropriation bill at the last session of congress, was eliminated from that bill by the republican conferees in the report they presented to congress one hour before adjournment. The democratic party pledges itself actively, efficiently and economically to carry on the reclamation projects, and to make equitable adjustment for the mistakes the government has made.


We pledge recovery of the navy's oil reserves, and all other parts of the public domain which have been fraudulently or illegally leased or otherwise wrongfully transferred to the control of private interests vigorous prosecution of all public officials, private citizens and corporations that participated in these transactions revision of the water power act, the general leasing act and all other legislation relating to public domain, that may be essential to its conservation and honest and efficient use on behalf of the people of the country.

We believe that the nation should retain title to its water power and we favor the expeditious creation and development of our water power. We favor strict public control and conservation of all the nation's natural resources, such as coal, iron, oil and timber, and their use in such manner as may be to the best interest of our citizens.

The conservation of migratory birds, the establishment of game preserves, and the protection and conservation of wild life is of importance to agriculturists as well as sportsmen. Our disappearing national natural resources of timber calls for a national policy of reforestation.

Improved Highways

Improved roads are of vital importance, not only to commerce and industry, but also to agriculture and natural life. We call attention to the record of the democratic party in this matter and favor continuance of federal aid under existing federal and state agencies.

Mining is one of the basic industries of this country. We produce more coal, iron, copper and silver than any other country. The value of our mineral production is second only to agriculture.

Mining has suffered like agriculture and from the same causes. It is the duty of our government to foster this industry and to remove the restrictions that destroy its prosperity.

Merchant Marine

The democratic party condemns the vacillating policy of the republican administration in the failure to develop an American flag shipping policy. There has been a marked decrease in the volume of American commerce carried in American vessels as compared to the record under a democratic administration.

We oppose as illogical and unsound all efforts to overcome by subsidy the handicap to American shipping and commerce imposed by republican policies.

We condemn the practice of certain American railroads in favoring foreign ships, and pledge ourselves to correct such discriminations. We declare for an American owned merchant marine, American built and manned by American crews, which is essential for naval security in war and is a protection to the American farmer and manufacturer against excessive ocean freight charges on products of farm and factory.

We declare that the government should own and operate such merchant ships as will insure the accomplishment of these purposes and to continue such operation so long as it may be necessary without obstructing the development and growth of a privately owned American flag shipping.

Necessities of Life

We pledge the democratic party to regulate by governmental agencies the anthracite coal industry and all other corporations controlling the necessaries of life where public welfare has been subordinated to private interests.

We believe with Thomas Jefferson and founders of the republic that ignorance is the enemy of freedom and that each state, being responsible for the intellectual and moral qualifications of its citizens and for the expenditure of the moneys collected by taxation for the support of its schools, shall use its sovereign fight in all matters pertaining to education. The federal government should offer to the states such counsel, advice and aid as may be made available through the federal agencies for the general improvement of our schools in view of our national needs.

Civil Service

We denounce the action of the republican administration in its violations of the principles of civil service by its partisan removals and manipulation of the eligible lists in the postoffice department and other governmental departments by its packing the civil service commission so that commission became the servile instrument of the administration in its wish to deny to the former service men their preferential rights under the law and the evasion of the requirements of the law with reference to appointments in the department.

We pledge the democratic party faithfully to comply with the spirit as well as the regulation of civil service to extend its provisions to internal revenue officers and to other employes of the government not in executive positions, and to secure to former service men preference in such appointments.

Postal Employes

We declare in favor of adequate salaries to provide decent living conditions for postal employes.

Popular Elections

We pledge the democratic party to a policy which will prevent members of either house who fail of re-election from participating in the subsequent sessions of congress. This can be accomplished by fixing the days for convening the congress immediately after the biennial national election and to this end we favor granting the right to the people of the several states to vote on proposed constitutional amendments on this subject.

We favor the extension of the probation principle to the courts of the United States.

Activities of Women

We welcome the women of the nation to their rightful place by the side of men in the control of the government whose burdens they have always shared.

The democratic party congratulates them upon the essential part which they have taken in the progress of our country, and the zeal with which they are using their political power to aid the enactment of beneficial laws and the exaction of fidelity in the public service.

Veterans of Wars

We favor generous appropriations, honest management and sympathetic care and assistance in the hospitalization, rehabilitation and compensation of the veterans of all wars and their dependents. The humanizing of the veterans' bureau is imperatively required.


The nation now knows that the predatory interests have, by supplying republican campaign funds, systematically purchased legislative favors and administrative immunity. The practice must stop our nation must return to honesty and decency in politics.

Elections are public affairs conducted for the sole purpose of ascertaining the will of the sovereign voters. Therefore, we demand that national elections shall hereafter be kept free from the poison of excessive private contributions. To this end, we favor reasonable means of publicity, at public expense, so that candidates, properly before the people for federal offices, may present their claims at a minimum of cost. Such publicity should precede the primary and the election.

We favor the prohibition of individual contributions, direct and indirect, to the campaign funds of congressmen, senators or presidential candidates, beyond a reasonable sum to be fixed in the law, for both individual contributions and total expenditures, with requirements for full publicity. We advocate a complete revision of the corrupt practice act to prevent Newberryism and the election evils disclosed by recent investigations.

Recognizing in narcotic addiction, especially the spreading of heroin addiction among the youth, a grave peril to America and to the human race, we pledge ourselves vigorously to take against it all legitimate and proper measures for education, for control and for suppression at home and abroad.

Prohibition Law

The republican administration has failed to enforce the prohibition law is guilty of trafficking in liquor permits, and has become the protector of violators of this law.

The democratic party pledges itself to respect and enforce the constitution and all laws.

Bights of States

We demand that the states of the union shall be preserved in all their vigor and power. They constitute a bulwark against the centralizing and destructive tendencies of the republican party.

We condemn the efforts of the republican party to nationalize the functions and duties of the states.

We oppose the extension of bureaucracy, the creation of unnecessary bureaus and federal agencies and the multiplication of offices and office-holders.

We demand a revival of the spirit of local self-government essential to the preservation of the free institutions of our republic.

Asiatic Immigration

We pledge ourselves to maintain our established position in favor of the exclusion of Asiatic immigration.


The Filipino peoples have succeeded in maintaining a stable government and have thus fulfilled the only condition laid down by congress as a prerequisite to the granting of independence. We declare that it is now our liberty and our duty to keep our promise to these people by granting them immediately the independence which they so honorably covet.

The maladministration of affairs in Alaska is a matter of concern to all our people. Under the republican administration, development has ceased and the fishing industry has been seriously impaired. We pledge ourselves to correct the evils which have grown up in the administration of that rich domain.

An adequate form of local self-government for Alaska must be provided and to that end we favor the establishment of a full territorial form of government for that territory similar to that enjoyed by all the territories except Alaska during the last century of American history.

We believe in a policy for continuing the improvements of the national parks, the harbors and breakwaters, and the federal roads of the territory of Hawaii.

Virgin Islands

We recommend legislation for the welfare of the inhabitants of the Virgin islands.

Lausanne Treaty

We condemn the Lausanne treaty. It barters legitimate American rights and betrays Armenia, for the Chester oil concessions.

We favor the protection of American rights in Turkey and the fulfillment of President Wilson's arbitral award respecting Armenia.


We demand a strict and sweeping reduction of armaments by land and sea, so that there shall be no competitive military program or naval building. Until international agreements to this end have been made we advocate an army and navy adequate for our national safety.

Our government should secure a joint agreement with all nations for world disarmament and also for a referendum of war, except in case of actual or threatened attack.

Those who must furnish the blood and bear the burdens imposed by war should, whenever possible, be consulted before this supreme sacrifice is required of them.

We welcome to the sisterhood of republics the ancient land of Greece which gave to our party its priceless name. We extend to her government and people our cordial good wishes.

War is a relic of barbarism and it is justifiable only as a measure of defense.

In the event of war in which the man power of the nation is drafted, all other resources should likewise be drafted. This will tend to discourage war by depriving it of its profits.

Personal Freedom

The democratic party reaffirms its adherence and devotion to those cardinal principles contained in the constitution and the precepts upon which our government is founded, that congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercises thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, that the church and the state shall be and remain separate, and that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States. These principles, we pledge ourselves ever to defend and maintain. We insist at all times upon obedience to the orderly processes of the law and deplore and condemn any effort to arouse religious or racial dissension.

League of Nations

The democratic party pledges all its energies to the outlawing of the whole war system. We refuse to believe that the wholesale slaughter of human beings on the battlefield is any more necessary to man's highest development than is killing by individuals.

The only hope for world peace and for economic recovery lies in the organized efforts of sovereign nations co-operating to remove the causes of war and to substitute law and order for violence.

Under democratic leadership a practical plan was devised under which fifty-four nations are now operating, and which has for its fundamental purpose the free co-operation of all nations in the work of peace.

The government of the United States for the last four years has had no foreign policy, and consequently it has delayed the restoration of the political and economic agencies of the world. It has impaired our self-respect at home and injured our prestige abroad. It has curtailed our foreign markets and ruined our agricultural prices.

It is of supreme importance to civilization and to mankind that America be placed and kept on the right side of the greatest moral question of all time, and therefore the democratic party renews its declarations of confidence in the idea of world peace, the league of nations and the world court of justice as together constituting the supreme effort of the statesmanship and religious conviction of our time to organize the world for peace.

Further, the democratic party declared that it will be the purpose of the next administration to do all in its power to secure for our country that moral leadership in the family of nations which, in the providence of God, has been so clearly marked out for it. There is no substitute for the league of nations as an agency working for peace, therefore, we believe, that, in the interest of permanent peace, and in the lifting of the great burdens of war from the backs of the people, and in order to establish a permanent foreign policy on these supreme questions, not subject to change with change of party administration, it is desirable, wise and necessary to lift this question out of party politics and to that end to take the sense of the American people at a referendum election, advisory to the government, to be held officially, under act of congress, free from all other questions and candidacies, after ample time for full consideration and discussion throughout the country, upon the question, in substance, as follows:

"Shall the United States become a member of the league of nations upon such reservations or amendments to the covenant of the league as the president and the senate of the United States may agree upon."

Immediately upon an affirmative vote we will carry out such mandate.

We favor and will promote deep waterways from the great lakes to the gulf and to the Atlantic ocean.

Flood Control

We favor a policy for the fostering and building of inland waterways and the removal of discrimination against water transportation. Flood control and the lowering of flood levels is essential to the safety of life and property, the productivity of our lands, the navigability of our streams and the reclaiming of our wet and overflowed lands and the creation of hydro-electric power. We favor the expeditious construction of flood relief works on the Mississippi and Colorado rivers and also such reclamation and irrigation projects upon the Colorado river as may be found to be feasible and practical.

We favor liberal appropriations for prompt coordinated surveys by the United States to determine the possibilities of general navigation improvements and water power development on navigable streams and their tributaries, to secure reliable information as to the most economical navigation improvement, in combination with the most efficient and complete development of water power.

We favor suspension of the granting of federal water power licenses by the federal water power committee until congress has received reports from the water power commission with regard to applications for such licenses.

Private Monopolies

The federal trade commission has submitted to the republican administration numerous reports showing the existence of monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade, and has recommended proceedings against these violators of the law. The few prosecutions which have resulted from this abundant evidence furnished by this agency created by the democratic party, while proving the indifference of the administration to the violations of law by trusts and monopolies and its friendship for them, nevertheless demonstrate the value of the federal trade commission.

We declare that a private monopoly is indefensible and intolerable, and pledge the democratic party to vigorous enforcement of existing laws against monopoly and illegal combinations, and to the enactment of such further measures as may be necessary.

Fraudulent Stock Sale

We favor the immediate passage of such legislation as may be necessary to enable the states efficiently to enforce their laws relating to the gradual financial strangling of innocent investors, workers and consumers, caused by the indiscriminate promotion, refinancing and reorganizing of corporations on an inflated and over-capitalized basis, resulting already in the undermining and collapse of many railroads, public service and industrial corporations, manifesting itself in unemployment, irreparable loss and waste and which constitute a serious menace to the stability of our economic system.

We favor a sustained development of aviation by both the government and commercially.

Labor, Child Welfare

Labor is not a commodity. It is human. We favor collective bargaining and laws regulating hours of labor and conditions under which labor is performed. We favor the enactment of legislation providing that the product of convict labor shipped from one state to another shall be subject to the laws of the latter state exactly as though they had been produced therein. In order to mitigate unemployment attending business depression, we urge the enactment of legislation authorizing the construction and repair of public works be initiated in periods of acute unemployment.

We pledge the party to co-operate with the state governments for the welfare, education and protection of child life and all necessary safeguards against exhaustive debilitating employment conditions for women.

Without the votes of democratic members of congress the child labor amendment would not have been submitted for ratification.


From the day of their birth, friendly relations have existed between the Latin-American republics and the United States. That friendship grows stronger as our relations become more intimate. The democratic party sends to these republics its cordial greeting God has made us neighbors—justice shall keep us friends.

How Many Contested Conventions Have There Been?

The growing possibility of a contested Republican Party convention in July draws more interest in examining the history of contested party conventions, as to whether it is common or unusual. The clear cut conclusion is that they are more the norm historically, if not recently.

Ten Republican conventions, fifteen Democratic conventions, and three Whig conventions between 1840 and 1952, went to multiple ballots, with only thirteen of the nominees winning the Presidency, and the other fifteen nominees losing the White House. It should be pointed out that the Democratic Party had more contested conventions due to the two thirds rule that was in effect from the first Democratic National Convention in 1832 until 1936, so only Adlai Stevenson in 1952 did not have to face this difficult challenge on percentage of delegates, that the Whigs and Republicans never had to deal with.

Nineteen of these twenty eight contested conventions occurred in the 19th century, between 1840 and 1896, a very tumultuous and divided time in American politics, where Presidential elections were often very close. Three Whig Party nominees had contested nomination battles over twelve years, including William Henry Harrison in 1840 Zachary Taylor in 1848 and Winfield Scott in 1852, with Scott the only loser of the Presidency. We see six Republican nominees having to fight for the Presidential nomination over 32 years, including John C. Fremont in 1856 Abraham Lincoln in 1860 Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 James A. Garfield in 1880 James G. Blaine in 1884 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888, all winning except for Fremont and Blaine.

At the same time, we have ten Democratic nominees engaged in battles for the nomination of their party over 52 years, including James K. Polk in 1844 Lewis Cass in 1848 Franklin Pierce in 1852 James Buchanan in 1856 Stephen Douglas in 1860 Horatio Seymour in 1868 Samuel Tilden in 1876 Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880 Grover Cleveland in 1884 and William Jennings Bryan in 1896, with Polk, Pierce, Buchanan and Cleveland occupying the White House.

Then from 1912 to 1952, another nine contested conventions occurred with multiple ballots, and we see four Republican nominees having a struggle for the nomination of their party, including Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 Warren G. Harding in 1920 Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1948, with only Harding winning the Presidency. Meanwhile, five Democratic nominees fought for their party’s nomination, including Woodrow Wilson in 1912 James Cox in 1920 John W. Davis in 1924 Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 and Adlai Stevenson in 1952, with only Wilson and FDR winning the Presidency.

So the thirteen nominees in contested conventions who won the Presidency were William Henry Harrison in 1840 James K. Polk in 1844 Zachary Taylor in 1848 Franklin Pierce in 1852 James Buchanan in 1856 Abraham Lincoln in 1860 Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 James A. Garfield in 1880 Grover Cleveland in 1884 Benjamin Harrison in 1888 Woodrow Wilson in 1912 Warren G. Harding in 1920 and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Therefore, two Whigs, five Republicans, and six Democrats were elevated to the White House. The fifteen losing candidates included one Whig, five Republicans, and nine Democrats.

Twenty national elections in total faced a contested convention without a nominee on the first ballot in the 112 years between 1840 and 1952, a total of 29 elections, or slightly more than two thirds of the time! Both parties had multiple ballots to select nominees in 1848, 1852, 1856, and 1860, before the Civil War 1876, 1880, and 1884 during the Gilded Age and in 1920. In twelve of the fifteen national elections between 1840 and 1896, all but three (1864, 1872, and 1892), faced contested conventions. Then from 1912 to 1952, over eleven election cycles, all but three (1928, 1936 and 1944) were years of contested conventions. Interestingly, in the three election years of 1900 to 1908, three consecutive election cycles, contested conventions were avoided.

The contested conventions with the most ballots required were the 1924 Democratic convention which took 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis the 1860 Democratic convention which took 57 ballots at Charleston and two more in Baltimore to nominate Stephen Douglas in a bitterly divided party in which Southern Democrats had walked out the 1852 Democratic convention which took 49 ballots to nominate Franklin Pierce the 1912 Democratic convention which took 46 ballots to nominate Woodrow Wilson the 1920 Democratic convention which took 44 ballots to nominate James Cox the 1880 Republican convention which took 36 ballots to nominate James A. Garfield the 1868 Democratic convention which took 22 ballots to nominate Horatio Seymour the 1920 Republican convention which took 10 ballots to nominate Warren G. Harding and the 1844 Democratic convention which took 9 ballots to nominate James K. Polk. Five of these nine nominees went on to become President, including Democrats James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, and Woodrow Wilson and Republicans James A. Garfield and Warren G. Harding. Notice that the Democrats had seven of these nine most contested conventions, and both Republicans in such situations won the White House.

Since the last truly contested convention in 1952, three later conventions have been memorable, although not technically contested. The 1976 Republican convention is remembered because Gerald Ford won only slightly over Ronald Reagan, but he had the ability to win on the first ballot. The same applies to the 1968 Democratic convention, which was tumultuous, but Hubert Humphrey won on the first ballot over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. And the challenge by Ted Kennedy to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic convention did not prevent Carter from being nominated, although Carter lost the Presidency as a result of the intraparty split! Finally, realize that these more recent conventions that were somewhat contentious led to the defeat of all three Presidential candidates, including two Presidents, Ford and Carter, running for reelection!

San Francisco's long history as a vibrant, weird convention town

5 of 20 A man passes the Google I/O logo before the keynote speech at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, June 215, 2014. Google unveiled new products geared towards the home, automobiles and wearables at their annual I/O conference. James Tensuan / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 20 San Francisco Sports and Boat show Opening Day 02./28/1958 Art Frisch / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 20 Margaret Chase Smith demonstration inside the Cow Palace at the 1964 Republican Convention, held in San Francisco Photo shot 07/15/1964 Peter Breinig / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 20 GOP7-AUG1956-CHRONICLE Delegates sit at the Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in August 1956. A woman wears a hat that reads: " Crusade with IKE and DICK". CENTURY BOOK CHRONICLE / SFC Show More Show Less

9 of 20 Demonstrators arrested at the 1984 Democratic Convention, held in San Francisco Photo ran 07/17/1984, p. Steve Ringman/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 20 Buzz Casazza and Kari Sandino at the Sports and Boat Show at the Civic Auditorium Photo shot 02/28/1956 Photo ran 03/02/1956, pg. 8 Barney Peterson/The Chronicle Show More Show Less

11 of 20 A delegate absorbs the scene at the 1984 Democratic Convention. Eric Luse / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

12 of 20 A young comics fan looks for something good at the Wonderful World of Comics expo in 1988, which would later become WonderCon. Scott Sommerdorf / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

13 of 20 George Takei and James Doohan at the "Star Trek" convention in Oakland, Aug. 8, 1976. Susan Ehmer / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

14 of 20 Serana Rose shows off a purple fishnet tattoo that starts below her open-toe pink heels at the Tattoo and Body Art Expo at the Cow Palace, 2012. Mike Kepka / Mike Kepka Show More Show Less

15 of 20 A photo of a winner at the 1950 Grand National Livestock Exposition at the Cow Palace in Daly City. Chronicle file / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

16 of 20 Tattoo artist Roman from Artistic Element tattoo shop in Yucaipa, Calif. works on an arm tattoo for Brandon Bracamont, of Sacramento, Calif. at the annual Tattoo and Body Art Expo at the Cow Palace on Friday, March 28, 2008 in Daly City , Calif. Photo by Mike Kepka / San Francisco Chronicle Mike Kepka / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

17 of 20 Mingling among Dickens Fair attendees and actors, Tom Westlake, playing the part of Jacob Marley, waits for his cue to enter the Christmas Carol stage. Mike Kepka / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

18 of 20 Kansas delegates at the 1984 Democratic Convention, held in San Francisco Photo ran 07/18/1984, p. 1 Peter Breinig / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

19 of 20 Civil rights demonstration during the 1964 Republican Convention, held in San Francisco Photo shot 07/14/1964, pg. 1 John McBride / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

20 of 20 Comic book fans of all sorts descend on the WonderCon comic book convention at Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

It was, with little doubt, the worst convention in San Francisco history.

A no-host bar was nowhere to be found at the Social Progress Congress meeting of 1915. In fact, the express purpose of the convention was to rid the nation of no-host bars altogether. A thousand Prohibition supporters gathered in the Civic Auditorium, listening to former Lt. Gov. A.J. Wallace&rsquos fiery proclamation that liquor is evil.

&ldquoWallace gave it as his opinion that &hellip alcohol is the great enemy of civilization,&rdquo The Chronicle reported on April 9, 1915. &ldquoHe quoted from a recent speech of (future British prime minister David) Lloyd George: 'England has three enemies: Germany, Austria and liquor, and the greatest of these is liquor.&rsquo&rdquo

Thankfully for conventioneers who like to expense the hotel mini-bar, that sentiment didn&rsquot last past the early 1930s. As the rest of the century unfolded, San Francisco became a vibrant, weird and progressive place to visit. And the personality of the city was reflected perfectly in the eclectic unpredictability of its conventions.

By our loose definition, a convention is a political rally, trade show, expo or fair catering to specific interests. San Francisco, O city of many fetishes, has dabbled in all of the above.

Serious business has been conducted, whether in the San Francisco conventions that picked four Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, or technology gatherings such as Macworld that introduced pioneering devices that changed our lives. And then there is the annual Fungus Fair, active since 1969, where like-minded lovers of fungi gathered to share mushroom-related news and other mycological pursuits.

What other city features a hemp show one weekend and a gun show the next, under the same roof? The clothing-optional debauchery of the former Exotic Erotic Ball and Expo &mdash with its human petting zoo &mdash just a few weeks before the family-friendly charm of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair? Why is there a Stormtrooper helmet at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry convention? It must have been left over from WonderCon &hellip

The first signs of conventioneering greatness were apparent during the Gold Rush era, when groups like the Odd Fellows realized that San Francisco&rsquos beauty and boisterous entertainment options made the city a good place to spend disposable income.

But the scene&rsquos official beginning was a century ago, with the construction of the San Francisco Civic Auditorium for the Pan-Pacific International Exhibition &mdash still standing as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

The first convention at that venue, on Feb. 17, 1915, was for the Western Retail Lumber Association. The group began what has been a century-long tradition of monumentally dry trade group programs, including a session on &ldquoLumber and the Consumer.&rdquo

From The Chronicle&rsquos coverage: &ldquoIn the spirit of progress which pervaded the meeting, a large placard hung in the hall read: 'The best way to sell lumber is not to try to sell it at all. Do those things which will create a demand for what you have to sell.&rsquo&rdquo

(No doubt a few 1915 lumbermen skipped the keynote speaker and grabbed a highball at the Tadich Grill.)

Barry Goldwater attends the Youth for Goldwater rally at the 1964 GOP convention, which took place at the Cow Palace in Daly City. Peter Breinig/The Chronicle

Things got more lively from there. The lumbermen were followed in 1915 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Women of Woodcraft and the Paleontological Association of America. The United Ancient Order of Druids stopped by not long after that.

The city&rsquos huge convention game-changer arrived five years later, when San Francisco was announced as the site of the 1920 Democratic National Convention. It was the first major party convention west of Denver, and a sign that the city had arrived as a destination for important national events.

Three notes from that convention, all useful trivia to make yourself sound smart at a future party:

&bullThe Chronicle reported that the deal to secure the 1920 Democratic National Convention was brokered by a group comprising mostly San Francisco Republicans. In a very San Francisco move that future mayors including George Christopher and Willie Brown might appreciate, party loyalties were cast aside in the name of political benefit for themselves and economic benefit for the city.

&bullIn addition to the 60,000 hotel rooms made available, the city seemed to promote an early, analog Airbnb. &ldquoA rooming bureau will be opened at which all the available rooms in the city will be listed,&rdquo a 1920 Chronicle article explained. &ldquoThis includes the hotels, the apartment houses and the private residences where rooms may be obtained.&rdquo

&bullThe nomination of James M. Cox to represent the Democrats was met with minimal excitement. The Democrats correctly predicted that the Ohio governor would get destroyed in the presidential election by Warren G. Harding. But the choice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his running mate was a surprise. And for many Democratic voters, it was an introduction to the man who became arguably the greatest Democrat in history.

Another landmark moment for San Francisco conventions was the 1941 construction of the Cow Palace, technically built across the street in Daly City. Initially called the California State Livestock Pavilion, it became, and remains, an indispensible convention spot. The Republicans held their national conventions there in 1956 and 1964. (The latter convention, some Chronicle archive sleuthing proved, included an appearance by a 17-year-old Mitt Romney.)

A cowboy leads cattle up Geneva Avenue on the way to the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif. on Oct. 20, 1981 at the start of the Grand National Rodeo. Photo by Steve Ringman / San Francisco Chronicle Steve Ringman/SFC

The Cow Palace became the Swiss Army knife of Bay Area arenas, hosting concerts, rodeos, political events, major sports teams (the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks both played there), Roller Derby, Wrestlemania and an Evel Knievel motorcycle jump.

But the Cow Palace&rsquos engine through the last 64 years has been its convention scene. Bob Calhoun covers the diversity of events in his book &ldquoShattering Conventions&rdquo the San Francisco resident, who lives a few blocks away, has made it a point to attend nearly all of them.

Sports card collector fairs one weekend. A tattoo expo the weekend after that. Boat shows, garden shows and expositions for pets of all kinds. It&rsquos easy to find a Bay Area resident who has never been to Alcatraz or Coit Tower. But if you find someone who has never seen the inside of the Cow Palace, their street credibility will take a serious hit.

A Brief History of Presidential Campaigns by Vice Presidents

In less than two years it is likely that at least half of those Republicans seeking to enter the 2024 presidential race will have already officially launched their campaigns.

Whether or not former President Donald Trump decides to seek a return to the White House will certainly have a large effect on the size (and perhaps the ideological bent) of the field.

Throughout the last four years, there has been sporadic speculation that former Vice President Mike Pence was positioning himself for a 2024 run should Trump lose reelection.

Vice presidents do not have a great track record overall when running for president, although most do share a commonality: the vast majority ran during the first cycle in which their party’s president was not a candidate.

That suggests if Pence is ever going to launch a presidential campaign, it is likely going to be in 2024.

Since the beginning of the modern two-party era in 1828, all but five of the 19 presidential campaigns by sitting or former vice-presidents took place during the first cycle after their president’s final term or reelection campaign:

  • Democrat Martin Van Buren (1833-1837): Elected president in 1836 when Andrew Jackson declined to run for a third term
  • Democrat Richard Johnson (1837-1841): Received 38 convention votes on the third ballot in 1844, four years after President Van Buren lost a second term. [Note: Johnson was not on the 1840 ticket].
  • Democrat George Dallas (1845-1849): Although not a bonafide candidate, Vice President Dallas did receive three votes on the first two ballots at the 1848 Democratic convention
  • Democrat John Breckenridge (1857-1861): Breckenridge received 7.5 votes on the second ballot at the Baltimore Convention before winning the nomination of the ‘Southern’ Democratic faction outright and carrying 11 states in the 1860 general election
  • Republican Levi Morton (1889-1893): Morton received 58 votes on the first ballot at the 1896 GOP convention, four years after President Benjamin Harrison’s defeat. [Note: Morton was not selected to be Harrison’s running mate in 1892].
  • Democrat Adlai Stevenson (1893-1897): Vice President Stevenson won nine votes on the fourth ballot at the 1896 Democratic convention. President Cleveland did not seek a third nonconsecutive term.
  • Democrat Thomas Marshall (1913-1921): Marshall received 37 votes on the first ballot at the 1920 Democratic convention. President Woodrow Wilson did not seek a third term.
  • Democrat Henry Wallace (1941-1945): Wallace was the Progressive nominee in the 1948 cycle. [Wallace was left off the 1944 ticket with FDR in his successful bid for a fourth term].
  • Democrat Alben Barkley (1949-1953): Barkley won 81 votes on the 2nd ballot at the 1952 Democratic convention. President Harry Truman announced he was not a candidate for reelection earlier that year after the New Hampshire primary.
  • Republican Richard Nixon (1953-1961): Nixon coasted to his party’s nomination but lost the 1960 general election after serving two terms as vice president. Nixon had better luck during his second White House bid in 1968.
  • Democrat Hubert Humphrey (1965-1969): Humphrey won the Democratic nomination but lost to Nixon in November. The sitting vice president launched his campaign a month after President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. Humphrey would later receive 67 votes at the 1972 convention (winning the Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia primaries) and 10 votes at the 1976 convention.
  • Democrat Walter Mondale (1977-1981): Mondale received his party’s nomination in 1984 only to be trounced in November by President Ronald Reagan – four years after Reagan/Bush unseated Jimmy Carter and Mondale
  • Republican George H.W. Bush (1981-1989): Bush became the second sitting vice president to win the presidency since 1828 joining Martin Van Buren. [Before the modern two-party era two other sitting vice presidents won the presidency: John Adams in 1796 and Thomas Jefferson in 1800].
  • Democrat Al Gore (1993-2001): After two terms as vice president, Gore cruised to the Democratic nomination only to be edged out by George W. Bush in the November election

Just a handful of candidacies were launched outside of this window:

  • Democrat John Calhoun (1829-1832): The former U.S. Senator received six convention votes on the 1st ballot in 1844 – 12 years after serving as vice president. Calhoun also won nine votes on the 1st ballot in 1848.
  • Republican Charles Fairbanks (1905-1909): Fairbanks won 88.5 votes on the second ballot and won the Indiana primary in 1916 – eight years after his vice presidency
  • Republican Dan Quayle (1989-1993): Quayle had a brief five-month campaign for president during the 2000 cycle – nearly eight years after his GOP ticket was defeated by Bill Clinton and Al Gore
  • Democrat Joe Biden (2009-2017): In 2020, Biden joined Richard Nixon as the only former vice presidents to later win the presidency – doing so four years after leaving office

Finally, there is the case of Democrat John Nance Garner in 1940. The sitting vice president challenged FDR for his party’s nomination, but did not win any primaries and claimed just 61 votes at the Democratic convention.

But will we ultimately see a Pence 󈧜 campaign? While few would question Pence’s conservative bonafides in running for the GOP nomination, there is good reason to be skeptical that he has the personality to drive primary voters to his camp.

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1 Comment

Pence won the gubernatorial election of his home state with only a plurality in 2012, and might well have been defeated had he not departed from his then-iffy re-election bid. And there just does not seem to be a large enough ‘sympathy vote’ within his party for the 󈧜 bid, even though he narrowly escaped being hanged by an insurrectionist mob allegedly incited by his running mate!

C Fairbanks nearly became a vice president alongside two different presidents, had it not been for supposedly chilly intraparty relations between his running mate and Senator Hiram Johnson of CA.

Quayle launched his brief 2000 bid as a legal resident of AZ, hence joining a distinguished list of also-rans with ties to the still-fast-growing state.

Aside from Biden and Nixon, ex-veeps TR (1904), “Silent Cal” Coolidge (1924), Harry S Truman (1948), and “Landslide Lyndon” Johnson (1964) also are “former vice presidents to later win the presidency” (at the ballot box) – in contrast to a gaggle of 19th Century ex-veeps.

The “Klanbake” 1924 Democratic Party National Convention

The 1924 Democratic National Convention, also called the “Klanbake”, held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, 1924, took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate.

1924 Democratic Party National Convention – Half Are Ku Klux Klanners!

Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan, founded and populated by Democratics after post-Civil War Reconstruction, was reenergized after the 1915 release of D.W. Griffith’s very popular racist & Pro-Klan motion picture The Birth of a Nation. The picture was a particular favorite of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. As recounted by William Keylor, Professor of History & International Relations at Boston University:

While the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People publicly denounced the movie’s blatant appeals to racial prejudice, the president organized a private screening of his friend’s film in the White House for the members of his cabinet and their families. “It is like writing history with lightning,” Wilson observed, “and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”

After World War I, the popularity of the Klan surged, and it became a political power in many regions of the United States, particularly in the South. It was also popular in the border states, the Mountain States, and the West. Its local political strength gave it a major role in the 1924 Democratic Party National Convention (DNC). However, its participation was unwelcome by many DNC delegates, such as Catholics from the major cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The tension between pro- and anti-Klan delegates produced an intense and sometimes violent showdown between convention attendees from the states of Colorado and Missouri. Klan delegates opposed the nomination of New York Governor Al Smith because Smith was a Roman Catholic. Smith campaigned against William Gibbs McAdoo, who had the support of most Klan delegates.

Ku Klux Klan Platform Plank

The second dispute of the convention revolved around an attempt by non-Klan delegates, led by Forney Johnston of Alabama, to condemn the organization for its violence in the Democratic Party’s platform. Klan delegates defeated the platform plank in a series of floor debates. To celebrate, tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied in a field in New Jersey, across the river from New York City. This event, known subsequently as the “Klanbake”, was also attended by hundreds of Klan delegates to the convention, who burned crosses, urged violence and intimidation against African Americans and Catholics, and attacked effigies of Smith.

Watch the video: Democratic Convention 1920