10 Things You Didn’t Know About The DNC

Every four years, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) transitions American politics into a global stage while sealing the end of the primary election period.

Statue of Liberty
UNSPLASH Brandon Mowinkel

At the end of a festive week designed to unite the party, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) officially nominates the candidacy for the U.S. President and his/her running mate. Regardless of your political views, these are some things you might have not known about the Democratic National Convention.

1. Congressional nominating caucus.

Founded by George Washington, the congressional nominating caucus was meant for congressmen to nominate a President and a Vice President from their political party. By 1824, however, the system continuously to fail which then gave birth to the idea of a national convention.

2. The start of a national convention.

Washington DC
UNSPLASH Louis Velazquez

State conventions and legislatures rose as a temporary method of nomination since many believed that states should play a larger role in nominating candidates, while caucus system advocates supported the former approach. Starting from 1831, the national presidential nominating conventions replaced the congressional nominating caucus.

3. New Hampshire, 1931.

American flag
UNSPLASH Kevin Morris

The first Democratic National Convention was privately implemented by President Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet” in 1931. In New Hampshire, the first public call for the first DNC took place.

4. Baltimore, 1832.

The first set of rules were executed, including: a candidate needs to obtain 2/3 delegates’ vote in order to show the party’s backing. In 1832 and 1840, this rule was waived but exercised again in 1844.

5. Charleston, 1860.

Democratic National Convention
Wood engraving illustrating the Charleston convention. PHOTO loc.gov

This convention famously failed to nominate a President and a VP from the party. Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas was pegged as the front runner and won the majority on the first presidential ballot but never passed the 2/3 vote due to his support for Freeport Doctrine regarding slavery. The convention later regrouped in Baltimore with the exclusion of several pro-slavery Southern delegates who were. As a result, the convention added a new component to follow constitutional decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States, particularly relating the subject of slavery. Although Douglas was nominated once again, Southern Democrats held their own convention and nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. In the same year, it was Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln who won the presidential election.

6. Madison Square Garden, 1924.

Ambassador John W. Davis of West Virginia
Ambassador John W. Davis of West Virginia. Underwood & Underwood – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c03176

Known as the longest running convention in U.S. history, the 1924 DNC broke the record for collecting 103 ballots in order to nominate a presidential candidate. It was also the first major party national convention where a woman was nominated for the role of VP: Lena Springs. In the end, John W. Davis won the presidential nomination but was later defeated by Republican candidate Calvin Coolidge.

7. Chicago, 1968.

The year President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to run for reelection was also the year of debate regarding the Vietnam War. Major political upheaval, social chaos and riots broke out in 100+ cities throughout America. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was followed by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Senator from Hawaii Daniel Inouye was the keynote speaker during the convention which nominated VP Hubert H. Humphrey who later lost to Richard Nixon.

8. Madison Square Garden, 1976.

Carter and Mondale stand alongside their wives on the final day of the convention.
Carter and Mondale stand alongside their wives on the final day of the convention. PHOTO loc.gov

This was the last DNC where the VP nominee was announced during the convention. In order to show a party with a united front as well as to better manage televised coverage which was cut back due to low ratings. The party nominated Jimmy Carter as the Democratic Presidential candidate with Walter Mondale as his running mate. The Carter Mondale ticket went on to win the presidential election that year. Congresswoman Lindy Boggs made history by becoming the first woman to preside over a national political convention. 

9. San Francisco, 1984.

This was the only Democratic Convention held in a convention center. All the other modern conventions had been held at sports arenas or stadiums.

10. Milwaukee, 2020.

DNC 2020 Michelle Obama

Originally set to take place in Milwaukee, due to COVID-19 the convention has been  atypical with short online programs and remote speeches.

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