Election 2008

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‘Brokered’ Democratic Convention Would Recall 1952

February 11, 2008 11:27 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The tight race for the Democratic nomination could echo the experience of both parties in 1952, the last time America saw brokered conventions.

30-Second Summary

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Hillary Clinton’s lead on Barack Obama narrowed from 3.3 to 3.1 percent of the popular vote over the weekend primaries, according to Real Clear Politics.

In terms of delegates, the count that really matters, Obama is ahead, with 1,143 to Clinton’s 1,138. If neither candidate reaches the magic number of 2,025 out of 4,049 delegates, this year’s Democratic National Convention could mirror the contests of both parties in 1952, when nominees were chosen by party insiders.

The early 1950s were the end of the era of political bosses, who worked behind the scenes to broker national conventions. In today’s Democratic convention, superdelegates would take the place the bosses once occupied.

One of the reasons the reign of political insiders ended in 1952 was that year marked the first time national conventions were televised. This exposed the internal workings of party politics to an audience of 70 million Americans. It was not a pretty sight.

Presidential Candidate Sen. Robert Taft managed to expel 38 of his opponent’s delegates from the Republican Convention. The Harvard Crimson decried the move as “a solid knee to the groin of the Republican Party.”

In turn, Taft’s challenger Dwight D. Eisenhower questioned the voting credentials of three states’ delegates, replacing them with his supporters.

The Democratic convention saw Adlai Stevenson triumph after three rounds of voting, despite a backroom campaign to “Stop Stevenson."

Today, the Democratic Party will be hoping to avoid the public dismay that followed the spectacle of political infighting at the 1952 conventions.

Headline Link: ‘Candidates and superdelegates and brokered conventions … oh my’

Historical Context: The 1952 conventions

Republican National Convention
Democratic National Convention

Opinion & Analysis: Shades of 1952 at the 2008 convention

Related Topics: Superdelegates

Reference: Vote and delegate counts

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