Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Conventions the Way They Used to Be

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Somebody recently likened the Clinton campaign's ability to cling to life to that of Rasputin, the famous and resilient mad monk of the last days of the Romanovs.  I woke up yesterday morning, looked at the news about the tracking polls, and said to Alene:  "It's not going to end tonight."

21i7arurn5l_aa115_ I will date myself here (if I haven't already), but my earliest memories of politics are news stories of the Kennedy-Nixon campaign, which was going on when I was in the first grade.  (I also remember what most puzzled my six-year-old brain:  I didn't understand what the name "Jack" had to do with "John" and what the name "Dick" had to do with "Richard.")  The Democratic National Convention of 1960 was interesting enough for Theodore White to begin his iconic "The Making of the President" series, but there really hasn't been an interesting one since then, at least in terms of there being a real contest when the balloting starts.

Are we going to have a rip-roaring ballot battle this year?  It took John W. Davis (of Davis Polk fame) 102 ballots to get nominated by the Democrats in 1924.  Larry Ribstein thinks an interesting convention is a possibility.

What ruined all political conventions for me was the 1964 potboiler political novel, Convention, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey, the authors of the far more famous Seven Days in May.  I have read it so many times that I almost have it memorized.  Taking place in the "future" of 1972 (Frederick Stuart was elected President in 1968, but chose not to run again for health reasons; nevertheless, his victory "whetted Republican appetites" for more), it is very, very dated.  It opens with a band marching through the hallway of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago right by the door of the suite where one of the candidates is staying.  Yeah, right.  The fact that one of the candidates is using a computer to track delegates is considered evil enough to cause delegates to change sides. Yeah, right.  There is no Secret Service protection for the candidates.  Yeah, right.  But the balloting has the equivalent of Christian Laettner's buzzing beating shot against Kentucky.  It's a great read! 

Charles Manchester could be my president any day.  Enough's enough! Julia Manchester for First Lady!  Archie DuPage for Press Secretary!  And remember the wise words of Obie O'Connell, that fat and grizzled old pol:  "you always win on the last ballot."

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Comments

Am I right to recall that in the 1924 Dem convention, the nominee needed a 2/3 vote, and the southern delegations continually held out to keep northerners from winning? And wasn't the non-Davis nominee less than one ballot from winning?

Hmmmm...well, here's some info on it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1924_Democratic_National_Convention

I think McAdoo was robbed! Particularly b/c he helped build the subway that connects Jersey City and Manhattan.

Posted by: Frank | Mar 10, 2008 7:31:58 PM

oops, wrong McAdoo!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_McAdoo_%28New_Jersey%29

Posted by: Frank | Mar 10, 2008 7:33:13 PM

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