Monday, March 21, 2016

The Last Contested Convention

Interesting narrative from a Republican veteran:
When the Republican convention opened in Chicago on July 7, 1952, Taft's forces controlled its machinery. Taft led in committed delegates but not enough to be nominated. Some 70 were in dispute.

Rules and credentials were the center of the struggle even as policy issues fueled intense emotion. There was even a bitter two-hour debate over which rules the convention should follow.

I was on the floor of the convention during this debate. My father was a Utah Taft delegate. I was a volunteer teenager for Taft along with Yvonne Romney, the young daughter of the Taft western regional chairman; the campaign gave us signs reading, "Utah Bees Buzz For Taft." We were told to march in front of the New York delegates, who were seated on the convention floor directly facing the speaker's podium.

As we innocently paraded in front of Dewey and his delegates, Illinois Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen, in a booming voice from the podium, roused the Taft delegates and pointed his finger down at Dewey, shouting: "We followed you before, and you took us down the road to defeat. Don't do this to us."

The convention erupted. Delegates booed, rising to their feet and screaming epithets at Dewey. Republicans' pent-up bitterness over the 1948 loss overflowed, resulting in long, heartrending screeching.

I too was overwhelmed and vehemently waved my sign at the New Yorkers. A man, at least a foot taller than my 5 feet, leaped out of the New York delegation, yelling, "Hey, girlie, how much did they pay you for that?"

I was furious. The idea that anyone would pay me to do my patriotic duty was more than I could stand. I hit him with the sign, shouting something about how dare you say such things.

My Taft buddies and a security guard escorted me gently off the floor. I was okay, more angry than frightened. Not until later when I learned of other violent incidents — less modest than mine — did I realize how dangerous the convention floor had become.

The next day, after a long battle over whose delegates would be recognized, the balloting began.

At the end of the first ballot, Eisenhower was nine votes short of the required number for nomination. The governors of Minnesota and Maryland changed their votes for Eisenhower. Dewey and his team had again defeated Taft.
Maybe Trump is right that his people would riot if he were denied the nomination.

In the rest of the article the author emphasizes that the convention ended peacefully partly because both Eisenhower and Taft were very calm men completely opposed to any sort of convention floor shenanigans, making the implicit comparison with Trump.

I have to think that more Republicans are afraid of a convention disaster than are afraid of Trump, so I expect a first ballot win for him even if he doesn't have all the delegates he needs when the primaries end.

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