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Monday, August 27, 2012

If It Ain't Brokered, Fix It!

Fun to read today that Ron Paul backers are at least going to enter his name in nomination at the GOP convention and even make some kind of fight on rules.  But conventions, just a few years ago, usually offered some kind of drama--a big platform fight or some kind of last minute challenge to a likely nominee.  So while we paused for the unexpected day off in Tampa, let me briefly recall the 1924 Democratic convention, when a compromise candidate indeed came out of nowhere and earned the nod. This was the gathering that inspired the famous Will Rogers line, "I don't belong to any organized party, I'm a Democrat."

The convention was held in New York City from June 24 to...seemingly forever. Two powerful candidates headed the field - Gov. Al Smith of New York and William G. McAdoo, former Secretary of Treasury. There were some parallels to Obama and Clinton in 2008, with Smith deemed unelectable by many because he was a Catholic and McAdoo having a close familial relationship to a former president, as son-in-law of Woodrow Wilson.

They each had strong, very separate constituencies. McAdoo had the backing of Protestants, farmers, the vast majority of delegates from the South, Midwest and West. Smith, of course, was favored by Catholics, ethnics, liberals, those in big cities, especially in the Northeast. McAdoo's people favored Prohibition and refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan; Smith's fans were against both.

Now here's a key point: A nominee then had to gain two-thirds of the delegates to win the nod. If that were true today, a brokered convention would probably be inevitable. McAdoo got a majority on the first ballot, 431 votes, not close to the two-thirds needed,. with Smith gaining 241. Will Rogers, who would have been my candidate, got one vote; Franklin D. Roosevelt earned two. With so much anger on both sides, neither candidate backed down, and the balloting went on, and on.

By the 100th ballot, Smith was in first place but Gov. John W. Davis, the obscure former congressman and "compromise" candidate, had now overtaken McAdoo in the number two slot. It was now July 9, more than two weeks into the affair - no wonder today's cable news gasbags are salivating - and Will Rogers was exclaiming that New York had invited the delegates tot visit the city but not move there permanently. On the 103rd ballot, the delegates threw up their hands and nominated Davis.

He would be trounced by the seemingly weak Republican - a successor to the unpopular, disgraced, Warren G. Harding -- "Silent Cal" Coolidge.

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