1916 Republican Convention - History

1916 Republican Convention - History

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1916 republican Convention

Chicago, IL

June 7 to 10, 1916

Nominated: Charles Evans Hughes of New York for President

Nominated: Charles W Fairbanks of Indiana for Vice President

Going into the convention Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes was the clear Republican front runner. Roosevelt supporters hoped that he could be nominated but after two ballots in which favorite sons blocked Hughes from getting the nomination, Roosevelt supporters gave their support to Hughes and he was nominated on the third ballot.


Michael Collins assassinated

Irish revolutionary and Sinn Fein politician Michael Collins is killed in an ambush in west County Cork, Ireland.

In the early part of the century, Collins joined Sinn Fein, an Irish political party dedicated to achieving independence for all Ireland. From its inception, the party became the unofficial political wing of militant Irish groups in their struggle to throw off British rule. In 1911, the British Liberal government approved negotiations for Irish Home Rule, but the Conservative Party opposition in Parliament, combined with Ireland’s anti-Home Rule factions, defeated the plans. With the outbreak of World War I, the British government delayed further discussion of Irish self-determination, and Collins and other Irish nationalists responded by staging the Easter Rising of 1916.

In 1918, with the threat of conscription being imposed on the island, the Irish people gave Sinn Fein a majority in national elections, and the party established an independent Irish parliament, Dail Eireann, which declared Ireland a sovereign republic. In 1919, Collins led the Irish Volunteers, a prototype of the Irish Republican Army, in a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. Two years later, a cease-fire was declared, and Collins was one of the architects of the historic 1921 peace treaty with Great Britain, which granted autonomy to southern Ireland.

In January 1922, Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith was elected president of the newly established Irish Free State, and Collins was appointed as his finance minister. He held the post until he was assassinated by Republican extremists in August 1922.

This Probably Won’t Be The Craziest Republican National Convention In History

You can find speculation about what unusual things might occur during the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland all over the internet. But a little convention craziness might be more common than you think.

The Republican Party’s first presidential nominating convention was held in Philadelphia on June 17, 1856. The event brought together a diverse group of people with a united focus on preventing the spread of slavery into the nation’s Western territories.

Since then, the party has grown and changed ― and quite a few interesting moments have come from the conventions. Here are some of them.

1864 (Baltimore): The aim of that year’s event was to preserve the union, so they called it the National Union party convention in hopes of encouraging Democrats, especially those who supported President Abraham Lincoln’s war plans, to participate.

1876 (Cincinnati): Abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave the featured speech at the convention, in which he addressed the struggles of freed slaves: “You say you have emancipated us. You have and I thank you for it. You say you have enfranchised us. You have and I thank you for it. But what is your emancipation? What is your enfranchisement? What does it all amount to, if the black man, after having been made free by the letter of your law, is unable to exercise that freedom, and, after having been freed from the slaveholder’s lash, he is to be subject to the slaveholder’s shot-gun?”

1888 (Chicago): Douglass received one vote, making him the first African-American to win a vote to be the presidential nominee of a major party.

1912 (Chicago): President William Taft was ultimately chosen as the nominee, but former President Theodore Roosevelt was gunning for another chance at the White House. The establishment supported Taft, but Roosevelt and his supporters showed up at the convention in hopes of taking the nomination. When Roosevelt realized he wouldn’t succeed, he and his supporters left without voting. The new Progressive “Bull Moose” Party nominated Roosevelt later that summer.

1916 (Chicago): The Republican and Progressive parties met concurrently in the Windy City in an attempt to come to a consensus on a candidate and platform. However, the Progressives were intent on nominating Roosevelt again, and the Republicans were set against his nomination. In the end, the parties selected separate candidates, but Roosevelt later withdrew from the presidential contest after meeting with GOP nominee Charles Evans Hughes.

1924 (Cleveland): This was the first national party convention broadcast via radio.

1940 (Philadelphia): Wendell L. Willkie, who had never run for public office before, was a relatively unknown candidate just months before the convention. However, he gained momentum and secured the nomination on the sixth ballot.

1964 (San Francisco): The top nominees represented the divide in the party: Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater led the conservative wing of the party, while New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller pushed for a more progressive agenda. Rockefeller was booed by conservatives in the audience when he pushed for a platform against extremism. And after he won the nomination, Goldwater fired back in his acceptance speech, saying, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And. moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

1976 (Kansas City, Missouri): California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford, who had never been elected vice president or president, for the nomination. Neither candidate had enough support to win the nomination on the first ballot. Reagan, in an attempt to lure liberals and centrists to his side, did something that hadn’t been done before. He announced his vice presidential running mate before the convention: liberal Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker. His campaign then proposed a rule change to require Ford to name his running mate in advance, too, in hopes that Ford’s choice would send more votes Reagan’s way. The rule change was rejected, and Ford narrowly won the nomination. Ford, however, invited Reagan to the podium, where his poetic speech wowed the crowd and was seen to usher in the new generation of the party.

2000 (Philadelphia): The nomination of George W. Bush gave the nation a chance to have its second father-son presidential pair.

2008 (St. Paul, Minnesota): The first day of the convention was held as an abbreviated session because of the threat of Hurricane Gustav, which was expected to hit Louisiana. Once the convention proceeded, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the second woman chosen for the presidential ticket of a major party.

2012 (Tampa, Florida): For the second consecutive GOP convention, a hurricane derailed the first day. The events were condensed into the remaining three days.

2016 (Cleveland): This year’s convention might be another memorable one.

The 1976 Contested Republican Convention

E arly in the primary season of 2016, commentators speculated about the possibility of a contested Republican convention. Given the number of candidates it seemed likely no one would have 1,237 pledged delegates, the number required by the Republican Party to take the 2016 nomination, before the start of the convention. Delegates to a convention must honor their pledge to vote for a candidate on the first and sometimes the second ballot. If no candidate has won the nomination at that point, then the candidates must campaign for delegates on the floor. The party keeps voting until a nominee reaches the required number of delegates. In 1924, the Democratic Party chose its nominee on the 103rd ballot however, such disagreement over choosing a candidate has been uncommon in recent years. The last time the Republican Party headed into a convention without a frontrunner was in 1976 when Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford for the nomination.

As Gerald Ford contemplated the 1976 presidential election, he found himself in a unique position—an incumbent president who had never been elected to the office. While Ford had never lost an election to the House of Representatives in his home state of Michigan, he had never won an election on the national stage. Moreover, since pardoning his predecessor Richard Nixon in September 1974, Ford struggled in public opinion polls when it came to trust in his leadership. Ford firmly believed he made the best decision he could to help the country move past Watergate, but not everyone agreed. At the same time, his incumbency could help him in a general election so long as he could appear as a president not a candidate during the primary season. In other words, he needed to stay above the political fray.

Instead, Ford found himself fighting for the Republican nomination against Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, who announced his intention to run in November 1975. Reagan spent much of the year speaking across the country and gauging interest in his candidacy during that time, he made it clear to his inner circle he only intended to run if he could win. The Republican Party had been wrestling with its ideological identity since 1964. Reagan’s candidacy reflected the growing number of conservatives in the party, who by the mid-1970s expressed concern over Ford’s moderate stances on domestic and foreign policy issues. Ford’s perceived weaknesses as a leader convinced Reagan he could win the Republican nomination without dividing the party.

From February to June, the Ford and Reagan campaigns worked diligently to win delegates in the primaries. Before the New Hampshire primary, Reagan took the lead in the polls, and had he won New Hampshire, his candidacy most certainly would have spelled doom for Ford. However, Ford’s campaign found a winning issue to improve his fortunes. In September, Reagan gave a speech in which he proposed an overhaul of federal government programs to give states greater control. Inherently appealing to conservatives, the devil turned out to be in the details since Reagan suggested the plan would save the government $90 billion. Ford’s advisers crunched the numbers, and to reach that level of savings and keep the programs afloat states would need to increase taxes, which proved unacceptable to New Hampshire voters. Though Reagan campaigned effectively in appearances across the state, Ford secured more delegates in the contest. Ford won the next four primaries, including the important state of Florida. While Reagan faced pressure to bow out, he refused and a victory in North Carolina rejuvenated his effort.

Ford and Reagan split the remaining primaries. After the California primary in June, neither had won the needed 1,130 delegates to take the nomination. Both campaigns sought to secure pledges from delegates in the remaining caucus and convention states as well as uncommitted delegates. James Baker III took on the effort of winning additional delegates for the president, and here Ford’s incumbency helped. Recently Baker told CNN he “went to more state dinners than anyone in the Ford administration with the possible exception of Betty and Gerald Ford because that was a perk that was perfectly legal.” Reagan did not have the same ability to provide perks, but Baker did note he had a committed movement behind him, which could be important if the party failed to select a nominee on the first ballot. Baker’s hard work added to Ford’s numbers, giving him a slight edge over Reagan—1,102 to 1,063—by July. Still, Ford had not secured the nomination.

In an attempt to shift the delegate count in Reagan’s favor, John Sears, his campaign manager, suggested announcing a vice presidential nominee before the convention opened in August. The staff scouted for a more liberal Republican who would assist the ticket in the Northeast, where Reagan tended to poll lower. Ultimately, Sears suggested Richard Schweiker, a senator from Pennsylvania, who potentially could swing his state’s uncommitted delegates to Reagan’s column, thereby securing the nomination. While Reagan and Schweiker represented different ideological ends of the party, Reagan agreed to meet with the Pennsylvanian to discuss the prospect. The meeting convinced Reagan the pairing could be beneficial in spite of their differences. And so, a week before the convention, Reagan announced his choice. Fairly quickly, the Reagan camp found out the negatives of their choice outweighed the positives as many leading conservative backers felt betrayed and delegates on the fence moved closer to Ford (who thought surely when his aides told him about the announcement they were joking).

When the convention finally began in Kansas City on August 16, Reagan’s opportunity to win the nomination had certainly decreased. Nevertheless, his team still had a few opportunities to create some momentum toward their candidate. First, they proposed a rule requiring all candidates to announce their vice presidential selections before the balloting. Although Reagan had significant delegate support when the proposed rule went to the floor for a vote, it did not pass. Second, they sought to dictate the contents of the platform most noticeably through the “Morality in Foreign Policy” plank. Reagan had long been critical of Ford’s decision to continue détente, the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy which sought to promote peaceful coexistence with the communist world, and this proposal undermined future Republican support for a practical as opposed to an ideological approach to foreign policy problems. Ford decided not to challenge the proposal so as to avoid a fight over the platform on the convention floor that might cost him delegate support.

Gerald Ford won the Republican nomination in 1976 by holding on to his delegates and adding enough uncommitted delegates to put him at 1,187 to 1,070 on the first ballot. Ronald Reagan, per arrangements made between the two camps before the convention, dutifully supported his opponent in the general election. Conservative Republicans might have lost the nomination, but they won the platform fight. Reagan’s committed delegates pushed through several seemingly small changes that collectively had a significant impact on the tone of the platform. Historian Stephen F. Hayward called it “a full-throated conservative manifesto.” Ford, then, had to campaign on a platform to the right of his own views, which compounded his difficulties in the general election. After the convention, Jimmy Carter, the Democratic Party candidate, had almost a thirty-point lead in the polls. Ford managed to close the gap before November, just barely losing to Carter in the popular vote. However, the divisions in the Republican Party, which played out in the primary season, made it nearly impossible for Ford to win the presidency in his own right.

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About the Author

Sarah Katherine Mergel is an associate professor of history at Dalton State College in Northwest Georgia. She is the author of Conservative Intellectuals and Richard Nixon: Rethinking the Rise of the Right. She is passionate about researching, writing, and teaching on political, intellectual, and diplomatic history since the end of the Civil War. When not studying history, she loves anything about classical music (especially when it involves playing the oboe).

In Place of a Lion | 1916 Republican National Convention

It is against the backdrop of the Great War that the Republican National Convention commences, the Party ailing from a firm loss to the Roosevelt/Bryan Ticket four years ago, and bleeding many of its members to the Progressive Party.

John W. Weeks, Senator of Massachusetts, is one among the few of the ‘Major’ Presidential Candidates, and is a notable conservative with establishment ties. He opposes women’s suffrage.

Theodore E. Burton, Senator

Theodore E. Burton of Ohio is another of the contenders, and despite his background as a corporate lawyer has resisted the interests of Big Business, and promotes an ideal of fiscal conservatism.

Charles W. Fairbanks, Former Vice President

Charles W. Fairbanks, the former Vice President, is perhaps the key frontrunner, and holds a fierce opposition to many of Roosevelt's ideals going back to his tenure as Vice President, likely to smoke out the last of the Progressives in the Party if he were to be nominated.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Senator

Henry Cabot Lodge is the final among the major contenders, the elder statesman and senator, and despite the tenuous state of the Republicans with Roosevelt, has maintained an amiable relationship with the President. While his history is long and storied, he is a major proponent of European Interventionism.

-The Vice Presidential Candidates-

Henry Cabot Lodge, Senator (and still hot)

Henry Cabot Lodge -Above-

William Borah is perhaps the last true progressive left in the Republican Party, at least some people say. While a furious and outspoken progressive, he has yet to bolt to the Progressive Party.

Elihu Root was Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt and won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 1912, and is viewed as the Conservative Candidate, and is a noted opponent of women’s suffrage.

As far as I know, no-one has actually been able to go back in time to change history, contrary to all the time-travel movies Hollywood pumps out with numbing regularity. History is truth, period, right, wrong, ugly and beautiful. It was what it was. To try to tell an altered history is to tell lies, plain and simple. If there is one thing that separates us from the other living things on this planet it’s our ability to tell lies and call it truth.

I hope that the date is corrected soon. It is 1619 instead of 1916. This is a very important information. Thank you for keeping us informed.

Only in America can someone write something like this, have it published and then have it being taught in educational entities all over our country. You cannot rewrite history just because you so desire. What next? will every country in the world have distress, riots, damage and their history try to be rewritten?

America, it is time to pray to our Lord, heal our country, our government. Return us to peace.

The title of your article: “THE 1916 PROJECT AND THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE U.S.” is inconsistent with the real date being discussed: 1619.

Please proofread before publishing. Thanks and God bless you.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for protecting truth regarding America’s history. Bring truth into favor with young people that they would desire it. Tear down the platforms used by those promoting anti-godliness with God’s blessing and favor biblical justice! Msu you infuse Christians with power from on high to influence culture and bring Jesus into daily living.
In Jesus name and His precious blood. Amen

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Republican Philadelphia

Resolved: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism - Polygamy, and Slavery.

From the Republican Platform of 1856, the founding document of the Republican party, presented at the first Republican Convention in Philadelphia.

Horace Greeley, one of the founders of the Republican party

The year is 1856. The issue of slavery divides the nation and threatens to tear it apart. As the country expands, tensions between slave-states and free states flare. Opponents of slavery are determined to halt the spread of the abominable practice into the new territories, eventually ending it altogether. A new political party, the Republican party, is formed to meet this ambitious goal

The earliest representation of the Republican party as an elephant, appeared in an 1874 Harper's Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast

The Republicans called for the exercise of federal authority to halt the expansion of slavery, while the southern slave states defended their "peculiar institution" on the principle of state's rights.

The new party held its first convention in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has gone on to host the convention a total of six times, most recently in 2000.

1916 Republican National Convention

Play media

The 1916 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago from June 7 to June 10. A major goal of the party's bosses at the convention was to heal the bitter split within the party that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. In that year, Theodore Roosevelt bolted the GOP and formed his own political party, the Progressive Party, which contained most of the GOP's liberals. William Howard Taft, the incumbent president, won the nomination of the regular Republican Party. This split in the GOP ranks divided the Republican vote and led to the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Although several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination—most prominently conservative Senator Elihu Root of New York, Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts, and liberal Senator Albert Cummins of Iowa—the party's bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to all factions of the party. They turned to Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had served on the court since 1910 and thus had the advantage of not having publicly spoken about political issues in six years. Although he had not sought the nomination, Hughes made it known that he would not turn it down he won the presidential nomination on the third ballot. Former Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks was nominated as his running mate. Hughes is the only Supreme Court Justice to be nominated for president by a major political party. Fairbanks is the last former vice president, to be nominated for vice president.

Then-Senator Warren G. Harding is credited with coining the phrase "Founding Fathers" during his keynote address.

Republican Party

The term "Republican Party" has been used twice in American history. The first Republican Party was organized by Thomas Jefferson in opposition to the Federalist Party after he resigned from Washington's cabinet in 1793. It is more often referred to as the Democratic-Republican Party. Andrew Jackson dropped the Republican part of the name, which became simply the Democratic Party around 1830. Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams adopted the name "National Republican" for a time, but when all the major opponents to Jackson merged into the Whig Party in 1834, the name "Republican" went into abeyance for twenty years. It was revived in 1854, following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The exact date of the Formation of the Republican Party is not certain, but it is generally credited to a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, on February 28, 1854. The first convention that endorsed a statewide slate of candidates was in Jackson, Michigan, on July 6, 1854. Many more conventions and meetings were held on July 13, the anniversary of the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which had prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River. In fact, the use of the word "Republican" recalled the first Jeffersonian Republican Party, and Jefferson was regarded as one of the instigators of the Northwest Ordinance. Support for the new Republican party came principally from the dying Whig Party and the Free-Soil Party, plus some disaffected Northern Democrats. By 1856, the Republicans had coalesced into a national party. The first presidential candidate of the Republican Party was John C. Frémont in 1856. Although he didn't win, he carried eleven states. Support for Fremont could be dangerous for a Southerner. The phrase "black Republicans" was frequently used, and it did not refer to race. Professor Benjamin S. Hedrick, who taught chemistry at the University of North Carolina, publicly expressed his support for the Fremont ticket, and was publicly attacked. When he declined to resign, the board of trustees dismissed him. In 1858, Republicans increased their representation in Congress and in 1860 nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. In a four-way contest in November, Lincoln received a plurality of the popular vote and a clear majority in the Electoral College. Southern states began to secede soon after Lincoln's election and the first actual combat of the Civil War took place not long after his inauguration. The Republican Party during the Civil War was not united behind Lincoln. The Radical Republicans in Congress criticized him for being slow on emancipation, and soft on Southerners. For the Election of 1864, the Republican Party substituted "National Union Party" for their original name and matched Lincoln with a Democrat, Andrew Johnson. This presented a serious problem after Lincoln's assassination in 1865, when Johnson's preferences for reconstruction came into sharp conflict with the Congressional Republicans. After Johnson fired Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act, Republicans obtained his impeachment and came within a vote of convicting him in the Senate. Ulysses S. Grant was the choice of the Republican Party in 1868 and again in 1872. As a popular war hero, and with the southern states still held in check by Reconstruction, Grant won easily both times, although the dismay which the rampant corruption of his administration generated led to an alternative Liberal Republican faction in 1872 that lasted only one election. After Grant, the Republican Party was convulsed by a struggle between proponents of civil service and other anti-graft measures, called Half-Breeds, and opponents, called Stalwarts. The party generally supported high tariffs to protect domestic manufacturers and sound money. The epitome of this tendency was the election of William McKinley, with the backing of Mark Hanna, on a decidedly pro-business platform in 1896, defeating the populist William Jennings Bryan. When McKinley's vice president Garrat Hobart died in 1899, the Republican Party needed a replacement for the ticket in 1900. Largely with the intent of removing an irritating person from a position of influence, party leaders pressured New York governor Theodore Roosevelt to take the spot. This backfired when McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and Roosevelt assumed the presidency. Within a few months, he began to make it clear that he intended to take a different approach to big business, as well as conservation. During his presidency, he goaded the Republican Party into supporting a progressive agenda. Not choosing to run again in 1908, Theodore Roosevelt put his support behind William Howard Taft, whom he considered to be a useful instrument for the continuation of his policies. When Taft proved unsatisfactory to Roosevelt, a campaign was undertaken to give Roosevelt rather than Taft the Republican Party nomination for the Election of 1912. The convention, however, stayed with Taft and Roosevelt's partisans bolted to form the Progressive Party. Roosevelt drew away so many Republican votes that Taft finished third, but the winner was Woodrow Wilson of the Democrats. Although the progressives returned to the fold, Wilson won again in the election of 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." Soon after his second inauguration, Wilson led the country into war. During the Roaring Twenties, the Republican Party supported prohibition and maintained a pro-business attitude. It's first president of the decade, Warren G. Harding, was amiable and attractive but allowed corruption to infect his administration. After his death, Calvin Coolidge restored public confidence in the integrity of government. In 1928, Coolidge passed the baton to his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who brought a solid reputation as a humanitarian and effective administrator. Unfortunately for Hoover, the Republican Party and, of course, the whole country, the United States entered The Great Depression within the first year of Hoover's administration. Hoover was not complacent about the depression, but his endeavors, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation of 1932, struck many as aimed at helping the rich and powerful more than those most in need. In the election of 1932, the Republicans were swept from office by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats. In 1936, the party hit bottom, winning only two states behind Alf Landon, governor of Kansas. In the next two elections, the Democrats won again with Roosevelt but the Republicans were able to chip away at his winning percentage. Following the war, the Republicans seemed poised to regain the White House in the election of 1948. Candidate Thomas Dewey, encouraged by the belief that victory was in the bag, ran the equivalent of a football "prevent defense" for his campaign, while Harry S. Truman conducted an active "whistlestop^ campaign that gained him popular sympathy and, in November, election to the presidency in his own right. Republicans finally returned to national power in 1952, with the election of World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower as president. Although he won again in 1956, Eisenhower's "coattails" were not strong and the Republicans did not control Congress except in 1952. In 1956, Eisenhower became the first president since Zachary Taylor to begin his term facing opposition control of both houses. Eisenhower's vice-president Richard M. Nixon was nominated by the Republican Party for the election of 1960 and lost narrowly to John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was able to exploit public concerns about the missile gap and overcame enough of the prejudice against Catholics to become the first president of that faith. After Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, fulfilling a pledge to continue Kennedy's programs but deeply alienating the conservative Southern Democrats. When the Republican Party nominated the ultraconservative Barry Goldwater to oppose Johnson in the election of 1964, Republicans lost the support almost every state except some from the Deep South. The Republicans malaise didn't last long. Despite a crushing defeat at the polls in 1964, the Republicans soon found themselves watching a Democratic Party tear itself apart over the Vietnam War. The renascent Richard Nixon was nominated in 1968 and defeated Hubert Humphrey by a modest margin in that year, and a weak opponent by a larger margin in 1972. The Watergate Scandal ended Nixon's second term prematurely and the aftershocks brought defeat at the polls in the 1974 midterms and the 1976 general election. Meanwhile, conservatives were reasserting themselves. With a new standard bearer in Ronald Reagan, the conservative wing had challenged Gerald Ford strongly in the 1976 convention. By 1980, they were in a position to take control. Reagan skillfully packaged programs that were not much different from Goldwater's in a manner that was acceptable to a majority of Americans. Republican victories from 1980 to 1988 were based on policies of a strong military and tax cuts regardless of budget deficits. The term GOP is an abbreviation for "Grand Old Party," a phrase first applied to the Republican party by the Chicago Tribune after the Election of 1888. "Grand Old Party" is no longer current, but the abbreviation GOP is handy for newspaper headlines. Important Republican party dates: Date of First Meeting: Ripon, Wisconsin, February 28, 1854 Date of First Convention: Jackson, Michigan, July 6, 1854 Date of First National Convention: Philadelphia, June 17, 1856 Date of First National Election Win: November 6, 1860

1924: The Wildest Convention in U.S. History

Nearly 100 years ago, it took the Democrats 103 ballots and 16 sweaty days to select a nominee. Could the GOP be headed for a similar showdown this year?

Jack Shafer is Politico ’s senior media writer.

Like a mighty bulldozer that has thrown a track, the Donald Trump campaign for president has lost its forward momentum, causing analysts and Trump foes to speculate on what will happen if the Manhattan mogul fails to drag himself over the 1,237-delegate hump required to win the Republican Party’s nomination on a first ballot.

If Trump stalls, the Republican convention could enter brokered mode. (See this Boston Globe piece for the specifics, especially this piece on the intricacies of Rule 40.) Ohio Gov. John Kasich is almost banking on a convention that would free delegates pledged to candidates—by virtue of primary or caucus victories—to cast their subsequent ballots for a candidate of their choosing, namely Kasich. At this point, the struggling Marco Rubio is lullabying himself to sleep with the vision of a brokered convention, and Ted Cruz is probably humming the tune, too.

The free-for-all of a brokered convention would unleash the greatest display of political back-stabbing and double-dealing since the 1924 Democratic National Convention, which took a record 103 ballots and 16 sweaty days to select a nominee. For the journalists amassed in Cleveland for the Republican convention, it would be like covering a small war, a tsunami and a mass shooting simultaneously, and nearly as dangerous.

The parallels between the Democrats’ 1924 convention and the Republicans’ upcoming one are there for a columnist’s taking. The 1924 Democratic Party was as divided as the Republican Party is today, maybe more so. The convention is often called the “Klanbake” because one of the front-runners, white shoe lawyer and former Wilson Cabinet member William G. McAdoo, was supported by the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was a major source of power within the party, and McAdoo did not repudiate its endorsement. The other front-runner, New York Governor Al Smith, a Catholic who represented the party’s anti-Klan, anti-Prohibition wing (McAdoo also backed Prohibition, which was then the law of the land), and his faction failed by a slim margin to pass a platform plank condemning the Klan. The convention, which was held in Madison Square Garden, had no black delegates.

As a two-thirds vote was needed to win the nomination, McAdoo and Smith essentially canceled each other out and the scores of “favorite sons” placed into nomination prevented either man from collecting even a simple majority of votes. A total of 19 candidates got votes on the first ballot. By the time the thing concluded, 60 different candidates had received a delegate’s vote. Floor demonstrations abounded between ballots, with the chants for “Mac! Mac! McAdoo!” countered by Smith’s forces who cried out, “Ku, Ku, McAdoo,” as Robert K. Murray writes in his splendid 1976 book The 103rd Ballot. Fistfights and screaming matches, featuring choice obscenities were common. On Independence Day, the 10th day of the convention, 20,000 Klansmen amassed across the Hudson River in New Jersey to burn crosses and punish effigies of Smith.

H.L. Mencken, who covered the rowdy, sweltering, never-ending convention for the Baltimore Evening Sun, wrote, “There may not be enough kluxers in the convention to nominate McAdoo, but there are probably enough to beat any anti-klan candidate so far heard of, and they are all on their tiptoes today, their hands clutching their artillery nervously and their eyes apop for dynamite bombs and Jesuit spies.” The ensuing deadlock inspired Mencken to pen this oft-quoted passage about political conventions in a July 14, 1924, post-mortem of the Madison Square Garden spectacle:

For there is something about a national convention that makes it as fascinating as a revival or a hanging. It is vulgar, it is ugly, it is stupid, it is tedious, it is hard upon both the higher cerebral centers and the gluteus maximus, and yet it is somehow charming. One sits through long sessions wishing heartily that all the delegates and alternates were dead and in hell—and then suddenly there comes a show so gaudy and hilarious, so melodramatic and obscene, unimaginably exhilarating and preposterous that one lives a gorgeous year in an hour.

I really should discuss the results of 103 ballots, one by one, as an Andy Kaufmanesque experiment in journalistic terror, but I won’t. Like Trump, McAdoo came to the convention fully expecting to be the nominee, and led through the 77th ballot. Smith’s purpose, as Murray writes, was primarily to block McAdoo—and he did. As the convention wore on, Mencken filed a story with this lede: “Everything is uncertain in this convention but one thing: John W. Davis will never be nominated.” But ultimately neither McAdoo nor Smith got enough votes, and a “compromise” candidate was selected: Corporate lawyer Davis, the guy Mencken bet against.

“When the debris began to fall, somebody looked underneath the pile and dragged out John W. Davis,” wrote New York Times reporter Arthur C. Krock. The 1924 convention wasn’t the Democratic Party’s first experiment in conventional chaos. The 1912 convention took 46 ballots to select Woodrow Wilson, and the 1920 convention spent 44 ballots on picking James Cox. But the 1924 convention appears to have wounded the Democratic Party, which failed spectacularly in the fall election. Davis collected only 28.8 percent of the vote against the winner, Republican President Calvin Coolidge (54 percent), and third-place finisher Progressive Party candidate Robert M. La Follette Sr. (16.6 percent).


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