This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice, Louisiana, USA the week of July 27, 2015

The election season is upon us. I enjoy observing the actions that take place during this period. Swings of presidential polls and followed by the introduction of new campaign issues and how the candidates handle these are what makes the elections so interesting. This builds to a frenzy as potential presidential candidates vie to become the candidate of choice to represent their representative political party.
Today issues such as the economy and foreign relations are at the forefront while racism is simmering below the surface. By the time the conventions are held today it is fairly well known who the candidate will be and the date of the end of the convention is known before it begins. This has not always been the case. Even though the issues have remained the same over the years the method to select the presidential candidate has evolved to what we have today.
Today states hold caucuses and decide on which candidate the state will support for the candidacy of the president of the United State. The person the state will support at the convention is usually known prior to the convention is known before the convention is held. It has not all ways been this way.
In 1924 the Democratic National Convention was to be held in New York. Transportation to the convention was by rail and for many it would take days to arrive. Air conditioning was not available and the 24 convention was held in the middle of summer. Today we enjoy business casual dress wearing slacks and short sleeved shirts. In 24 gentlemen were expected to wear suits and ties.
The opening event of the convention was the banquet and this was probably the only civil part of the convention. A major issue of the convention was the Ku Klux Klan. The Roman Catholic delegates from the North would stand in the halls of the hotel and demand that the Klan be denounced by the National Convention.
William Jennings Bryan had dared to attempt to break up the large monopolies of the industrial giants such as Andrew Carnagie and JP Morgan in the early 1900s. They banded together and threw their financial backing to a rival candidate that would defeat Bryan. He was the Democratic candidate for president on several occasions but was unsuccessful in his run. In 1924 he would be the vice presidential candidate and the same year he would defend Tennessee law to not teach evolution in the public school system at the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Bryan realized that if the KKK issue was brought to the floor of the convention it would break up the party for the upcoming election. When he went to speak to the convention he was horribly jeered by the New York political machine known as Tammany Hall. After thirty minutes he was able to address the convention. When the vote was finally cast the recommendation to keep the KKK issue out of the convention failed by seven votes. It was reported that as many as twenty-five percent of the Democratic convention delegates were members of the Klan. The press referred to the convention at the “Klanbake”.
This was not the only crisis at the convention. Today we select the candidate on the first ballot of the convention. In 1924 the first ballot saw nineteen potential presidential candidates receiving votes. Al Smith received the second most votes of the first ballot. Fifteen days later the convention was not the glamorous event that it normally is. One hundred ballots had been voted on and there was still no candidate. Back office negotiations were going on while convention delegates were suffering in high temperature and patience was running thin. Some delegates were running out of money and they were telegraphing for funds so that they could pay their hotel bills.
At the one hundred ballot point in the convention the leader was Al Smith and William McAdoo was second. McAdoo was deemed to be unelectable as President due to his support of the Klan. Smith was not considered to be electable either as he was a Catholic. On the one hundred and third ballot a compromise candidate, John Davis was selected to represent the Democrats in the presidential elections. Ironically, a major critic of Al Smith was Joe Kennedy who said that a Catholic could not be elected. Kennedy was the father of John Kennedy who was eventually the first Catholic elected to the post of President of the United States.
Eventually Al Smith would become head of the corporation that would build and operate the Empire State Building while McAdoo would divorce his wife when he was seventy-one and marry his twenty-four year old secretary.
This convention has highlighted an important aspects of American politics. This facet is that a political party that is divided and contains infighting will not win the presidential election. We are at the beginning of the presidential election season. Enjoy the journey.


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