Most Heated And Controversial Party Conventions In US Presidential Election History

Some nomination bids for slots on U.S. political parties' Presidential ballots have led to free-for-all fights at party conventions!

Looking back through the history of United States Presidential Elections, it seems that every four years people contend that the cycle at hand is the most cutthroat to ever be seen. This competitiveness, however, occurs well before the general election pits the leading party contenders against one another. In fact, even intra-party nomination bids can be all out wars just to get on the ballot. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the most heated Party Conventions ever seen among candidates wishing to get onto US Presidential Ballots.

7. 1912 Republican Convention

The 1912 Republican Convention of the Republican Party of the United States, held between June 18th and June 22nd, 1912 at the aptly named Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois, witnessed a powerful nomination battle between two former friends. These were the incumbent United States President William Howard Taft and former United States President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. While Roosevelt crusaded for a more active government, Taft, whom Roosevelt had previously endorsed as his successor, sided with the conservative wing of the government which was a vehement critic of Roosevelt’s reformist attitudes, and labelled him as a dangerous radical. When both entered the convention, they were evenly matched but, towards the end, Taft emerged as the winner. The fuming Roosevelt then initiated a whole new party of his own, the Progressive Party, and contested the 1912 Presidential Election on behalf of this new party. However, the internal rife and conflict within the Republicans dealt a fatal blow to their chances of winning. In the 1912 elections, both Roosevelt and Taft lost the battle to the Democrat nominee, Woodrow Wilson.

6. 1924 Democratic Convention

The 1924 Democratic National Convention (a.k.a. the "Klanbake") is remembered as one of the most controversial conventions in the history of the Democratic Party. This 14-day long convention, held between June 24th and July 9th, 1924 at the Madison Square Garden in New York City, was the longest uninterrupted convention in the history of the country. There, a record number of 103 ballots were necessary to ultimately decide the party’s presidential nominee. Heated floor debates occurred between the delegates supporting William Gibbs McAdoo and those supporting the New York Governor Al Smith. The Ku Klux Klan also played a significant role in influencing the results of this convention. and most Klan delegates opposed the nomination of Al Smith, a staunch Roman Catholic. Intense and violent clashes between the convention attendees black-marked this convention as one of the most controversial ones in American history. In the end, John W. Davis was nominated as a compromise candidate. Finally, however, Davis lost the presidential elections to the Republican Presidential Candidate, John Calvin Coolidge.

5. 1948 Republican Convention

The 1948 Republican Convention was held between June 21st and June 25th of that same year at the Municipal Auditorium in Philadelphia. 17 days later, the Democrat Convention was also held in the same city, since Philadelphia housed the main coaxial television cable available at the time, and this relatively new technology allowed the live broadcast of both of the conventions for the first time. Millions of Americans viewed the 1948 Conventions on live television, and became spectators of the tumultuous scene of the Republican Party’s Presidential Candidate Nomination. Though the Republicans gave much consideration to the nomination of Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, a well-known political enemy of President Truman, it was finally New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey who, after winning the primary elections, was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate on the Third Ballot at the convention. The Vice Presidential nomination went to the California Governor Earl Warren. However, the Dewey and Warren ticket lost the final battle to the Democrat ticket of Harry S. Truman and his running mate Alben W Barkley.

4. 1952 Democratic Convention

The participation of major and powerful contestants Senator Estes Kefauver, Adlai E. Senator Richard Russell, Governor Stevenson II, and Averell Harriman made the 1952 Democratic Convention a tough battlefield. There, the respective supporters of the four contestants waged verbal battles against each other to nominate their own preferred Presidential nominee candidates for the party. The convention was held between July 21st and July 26th, 1952 at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, Illinois. Even though Governor Stevenson was initially not interested in being a contesting candidate, after his delivery of an inspiring speech at the convention his supporters renewed their efforts to nominate him. After a tough competition among the four competing candidates ensued, Stevenson was finallynominated as such on the Third Ballot, and Senator John Sparkman was nominated as Stevenson’s running mate. Towards the end of the general election race, Stevenson's charisma failed, and he and his running mate lost the election to the Republican candidates Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon in the U.S. Presidential Election of 1952.

3. 1968 Democratic Convention

The Democrat Convention of 1968 witnessed the Democratic delegates split into two factions on the issue of the Vietnam War. Eugene McCarthy, an anti-war candidate, and his supporters challenged the other delegates supporting the then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey, another potential Democrat candidate for the Presidential nomination bid. The convention, held between August 26th and August 29th at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, Illinois, involved intense debates, physical violence, and verbal abuse, both inside and outside of the amphitheater, that shocked the entire nation watching from home. The scene outside the convention was also quite unpleasant, as thousands of public demonstrators against the Vietnam War were beaten and gassed by the Chicago police force. Though Vice President Hubert Humphrey was finally nominated as the presidential candidate in the 1968 Elections, he lost the elections to the Republican nominee, former Vice President Richard Nixon. The violence between protesters and police outside of the convention remain iconic as reminders of just how badly a party's Presidential nomination convention can go.

2. 1976 Republican Convention

The 1976 Republican Convention, held between August 16th and August 19th in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, witnessed two equally competent potential presidential nominees. These were incumbent President Gerald Ford and former California Governor Ronald Reagan, who found themselves doggedly competing against one another to win the nomination bid. When both entered the convention, they were fairly nearly equally well in the polls. Reagan had his band of highly committed delegates, while Ford had the advantage of Presidential power. However, it was Reagan’s decision to select the liberal Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate that backfired against him, as in so doing he infuriated many of the convention delegates. The nomination was ultimately won by Ford. However, he lost the presidency to the Democratic candidate, the relatively unknown former Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter.

1. 1980 Democratic Convention

The most notable feature of the 1980 Democratic Convention was that, for the last time in the 20th Century, a candidate attempted to release delegates from their voting commitments. The convention was held between August 11th and August 14th 1980 at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. The primary competitors for the presidential nomination at the convention were the Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy and incumbent President Jimmy Carter. In a shocking move, Kennedy sought the votes of Carter’s already committed supporters during the convention, but finally lost the battle to Carter. In the end, Kennedy delivered a moving speech in support of his rival President Carter, which won him huge praise from the media and public. In the national elections that followed, Carter and the Democrat Vice Presidential nominee, Walter Mondale, lost the general elections to the Republican candidates, Ronald Reagan and his running mate George H.W. Bush.

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