Top 10 memorable Democratic Convention moments
With Joe Biden taking the podium in Charlotte, anything is possible. Let us see if the human gaffe-machine comes up with anything that can match these memorable moments:
1. 1968, Chicago
The 1968 Democratic convention was more notable for what happened on the streets of Chicago than what occurred on the floor of the International Amphitheatre where delegates gathered to nominate the successor to President Lyndon Johnson. Anti-Vietnam War protestors led by the Yippies and members of the radical Students for a Democratic Society tussled with Chicago police outside the convention hall, with the violence on the streets overshadowing the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The ugly backdrop in a year marked by national tragedies was certainly a factor in his ultimate defeat by Richard M. Nixon.
2. 1980, New York
President Jimmy Carter needed a successful convention to re-energize his re-election bid for a presidency that had been gripped by malaise. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who won 12 primary states but came short of gaining enough delegates to upend the incumbent, challenged Carter in 1980. Kennedy brought the challenge to the convention floor by forcing a vote to free delegates from their commitments to vote for Carter. The maneuver failed and after Carter’s acceptance speech (in which he referred to Hubert Humphrey as Hubert Horatio Hornblower), the president was reduced to following Kennedy around the stage, in a failed attempt to secure a unifying handshake with his rival.
3. 1984, San Francisco
As it turned out, it didn’t help the Democrats that they chose ultra-liberal San Francisco as their setting for nominating former Vice President Walter Mondale to take on President Reagan. America got to witness the spectacle of gay activists dressed as nuns parading outside the Moscone Center. Later, with UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick leading the way at the GOP convention, Republicans successfully tarred the other party with the actions of the outrageous behavior of the protesters by leveling the toxic label—“San Francisco Democrats.” Mondale probably cooked his own goose inside the convention center with his pledge to raise taxes. Democrats also began to reprise their trusty class-warfare gambit with New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s keynote address describing how the nation was becoming a “tale of two cities.”
4. 1924, New York
The 1924 Democratic convention saw a record 103 ballots cast and the gathering took over two weeks before the nomination was won. New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith and former Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo were deadlocked for most of the balloting as a resurgent Ku Klux Klan tied up the vote opposing the Catholic Smith and supporting McAdoo. Finally a relative unknown, John W. Davis, former West Virginia congressman, U.S. solicitor general and ambassador to Britain, emerged as a compromise candidate on the 103rd ballot. The left wing of the party bucked the choice of the conservative Davis and bolted to back the third-party bid of Wisconsin Sen. Robert M. La Follette on the Progressive Party ticket. GOP President Calvin Coolidge trounced both opponents in the general election with 54% of the vote.
5. 2008, Denver
Not since the Roman emperors has there been a bigger display of hubris than the Democratic convention in Denver where Barack Obama won the party’s nomination for president. Obama’s acceptance speech was delivered in the cavernous Denver Stadium with 80,000 in attendance and a stage that featured Greek columns. The palatial setting was more than matched by Obama’s self-glorifying rhetoric, as exemplified by this grandiose passage from his acceptance speech: “Generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless … this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
6. 1952, Chicago
Going into the 1952 convention, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson insisted he was not a candidate for the presidency but after an inspiring address welcoming the delegates, supporters insisted that his name be placed in nomination, joining Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, Georgia Sen. Richard Russell and diplomat Averell Harriman from New York. Kefauver led on the first two ballots, but Stevenson overtook him on the third after President Harry S. Truman convinced Harriman to drop out and support the Illinois governor. Southern Democrats extracted revenge by placing Alabama Sen. John Sparkman, a segregationist, on the ticket as Stevenson’s vice president. Stevenson went on to lose to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and tried again in 1956 with Kefauver as his running mate, but lost to Ike a second time.
7. 1896, Chicago
Silver-tongued orator and populist firebrand William Jennings Bryan, a former two-term Nebraska congressman, won the Democratic nomination three times. In 1896, at age 36, Bryan became the youngest presidential nominee in U.S. history, delivering his “Cross of Gold” acceptance speech that excoriated big business for backing the gold standard. Bryan went on to lose twice to Republican William McKinley and a third time to William Howard Taft. Later in life, Bryan had a famed role as the attorney arguing against the teaching of evolution in public schools against famed lawyer Clarence Darrow in the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial.
8. 1988 Atlanta
The 1988 Democratic convention that nominated Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis took a particularly nasty tone against Republican nominee Vice President George H.W. Bush. Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards’ keynote address included the line that Bush was “born with a silver foot in his mouth,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower called Bush “a toothache of a man,” and delegates roared during Teddy Kennedy’s speech in which he repeatedly intoned: “Where was George.” One speech that didn’t go over too well was the debut on the national stage of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, whose 32-minute nominating speech drew cheers when he said, “In conclusion…” The stage in Atlanta was adorned with a large American flag as a backdrop but organizers changed the colors from red, white and blue to salmon, azure and eggshell—hoping the pastel colors looked better on television. Republicans used the flag flap to attack their rivals, saying it proved they were “soft on the issues.”
9. 1936, Philadelphia
After the 1924 convention, which took 103 ballots to decide a nominee, Democrats began to overhaul the process and 1936 was the first convention that required a simple majority of the delegates rather than the two-thirds that earlier nominees required. President Franklin Roosevelt gave the second of his eventual four acceptance speeches, telling a nation still mired in the Great Depression despite his New Deal programs, “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” The convention was also notable for Sen. Ellison Smith of South Carolina walking out of the hall to protest the invocation given by a black minister.
10. 2000, Los Angeles
Democrats thought they had a winner after Vice President Al Gore planted a long, wet kiss on wife Tipper after receiving the party’s nomination. Gore’s acceptance speech distanced himself from the president he had served for eight years, mentioning Bill Clinton just once and at one point declaring: “I stand here tonight as my own man.” While the vice presidential nominee, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, invoked JFK’s New Frontier in his address, Gore stuck to a tedious policy-wonk presentation in his. Fittingly, given the setting near Hollywood, Gore’s name was placed in nomination by his college roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones. Ironically, given the 2000 election results against George W. Bush, the state of Florida was given the honor of casting the ballots that clinched the nomination for Gore.