Hung Conventions

William Kanninen WKanninen at AOL.COM
Mon Feb 19 11:05:52 MST 1996

All comments on hung conventions are true.   Originally conventions, which
started in the post Andrew Jackson era, existed so that parties could discuss
and decide who would be their best candidate.  The first parties to hold
conventions were new parties, with no members of Congress (up till then the
party caucus in Congress decided on the party's nominee, which is the way
they still do things in Great Britain (British conventions are primarily
rallies and a means of deciding party issues.  For the first 100 years
delegates were picked at party caucus's, much like Iowa's, and a 67% vote was
needed to be nominated.  Both of these factors led to deadlocked or 'hung'
conventions, which were the general rule.  (in 1860 the Democrats convened
for several months, ending finally with Stephen Douglas's nomination.  The
Southerners walked out and nominated Breckinridge at their convention.  The
Constitutional Union party, which was primarily the remains of the southern
Whigs nominated John Bell (by this time the northern Whigs had joined with
anti-slavery Democrats and the remnants of the short-lived but influential
American (or Know-Nothing) party, and nominated Lincoln).  about 50 years ago
the parties adopted a simple majority nomination requirement and in the post
World War II era, primaries have come to dominate the process.  No major
party convention has been hung since that war.

I think that our military correspondent was thinking about John Kennedy's run
for the Democrat Vice Presidential nomination in 1956, when Stevenson allowed
the convention to name it's own choice for Veep.  Kennedy was defeated by
Kefauver (who was in fact supported by the party leadership) and it was a
close vote, possibly not on the first ballot.  No presidential nominee has
since given his party's convention a choice on the Vice President.

With the current convention rules, primary system, and lack of favorite sons
(which are also essentially obsolete), a hung convention is virtually
impossible.  A walkout by the losers is not impossible, although the last one
occurred in 1948, when the Dixiecrats walked out of the Democrat convention
and nominated Strom Thurmond (yes, our own Senator Strom) as President.  He
came in third in the electoral college, and came close to throwing the
presidential election into the House of Representatives.   It is possible
that anti-establishment Republicans could walk out of this year's convention,
in just the right (or wrong) circumstances.  That is why Howard Phillips has
scheduled a nominating conventiion for an independent conservative party to
be held immediately following the GOP convention, also in San Diego, so that
any potential walkers out will have someplace to walk out to.

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