As I writer this article, it appears that the Democratic Convention of 2016 is anything but normal. Many people say that the country is falling apart and we have lost our values and the Democratic Convention is an example of how politicians have lost touch with the populace and the elections are all rigged. While the convention is unfolding before us my suggestion is to sit back and enjoy the fireworks, this is not the first convention to have its’ share of turmoil. The 1924 convention was even more tumultuous.

The convention was a rowdy event. Roman Catholic delegates would stand in the corridors of the New York hotels demanding that the Ku-Klux-Klan be denounced by the Democratic convention. William Jennings Bryan fought to keep the Klan issue out of the convention. When he went to speak on the floor of the convention he was horribly jeered by the Tammany Hall forces from New York and it took thirty minutes before he could utter the first word of his speech. Tammany Hall was the New York political leadership headquartered in New York City, . Ultimately the proposition to denounce the Klan failed by seven votes; however this did note changes that were going on within the party.

This convention displayed the deep divisions within the Democratic Party. With the exceptions of the 2016 convention, today’s political conventions are a tame event when compared to the 1924 convention. Modern conventions usually select the presidential candidate on the first ballot. When the first ballot of 1924 was cast the leader was William McAdoo. Al Smith of New York was second. Seventeen other candidates also received votes. By the time the fifteenth ballot was cast the convention was being referred to as the “klanbake” due to the chaos from the issue of the KuKluzKlan. It was noted that possibly twenty-five percent of the delegates were members of the Klan. After fifteen days and one hundred ballots later the convention was no longer the glamorous affair that it began. Delegates had run out of money and were telegraphing for funds to pay for their hotel rooms. Everyone was exhausted and New York was hot in July. Smith had taken the lead in delegate votes at the one hundred ballot count but his Catholic religion made it a sure thing that be could not be elected. McAdoo’s support of the clan doomed his chances. Finally, on the one hundred and third ballot, compromise candidate John Davis won the nomination. After sixteen grueling days the Democrats had a candidate.

Religion played a more robust part in politics than today, though religion is a factor of the candidate. Back room politics prevailed as Al Smith was identified as non-electable due be Catholic. This was noted by Democratic power player, Joseph Kennedy, father of the future President and the first Catholic elected to the office, John F. Kennedy.

The party was so divided that it lost the general election to Herbert Hoover and it would not be until Franklin Roosevelt took office in the middle of the Great Depression that the Democratic Party coalesced.

More of the history of the Democratic Party can be found in, “I Called Him Grand Dad, The Lost Political Papers of Harvey G. Fields.”

 

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