Televised Democratic convention in 1952 was as open as can be

Expats who think that the current round of U.S. primary elections is less than exciting should just wait for an open Republican convention.

The last one was in Chicago in 1952 featuring names that have been lost to history: Adlai Stevenson, Estes Kefauver, W. Averell Harriman and others.

The conventions that year were the first to be televised, and there was real competition for the nomination. Candidates come with support but not many were committed delegates picked by primary elections in the various states.

The selection of Adlai Stevenson of Illinois took three ballots, but these were anything but quick events. As each state voted, other delegates had the right to poll those in the delegation. Since some delegates for political reasons had just half a vote, the polls could involve many more than the 1,230 official votes.

Then those individuals announcing their vote just had to give a little political speech to justify their 30 seconds on the black and white television screen. Three days of little speeches.

Interminable is a good word for the voting with Walter Cronkite on CBS trying his best to make the sessions interesting.

The Democrats met for five days, so the voting took up at least three days. Stevenson’s main opponent was Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who was the front runner at the start of the convention.

There is some speculation that Rafael “Ted “ Cruz, the Republican establishment choice is really a surrogate to prevent
Trump from winning the nomination. Some observers suspect that the establishment will dump Cruz if the 2016 nominee is not decided by the start of the July convention.

That is basically what happened in 1952. Democratic leaders, including president Harry S. Truman, were not comfortable with Kefauver, who came from a state with restrictive laws against black citizens.

As the Illinois governor, Stevenson delivered a spirited welcome address to the convention that got him attention and some supporters for the nomination. Eventually he prevailed, and the convention named Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama, a segregationist, as the vice presidential nominee.

The 1950s was the beginning of the civil rights movement, and Democrats had to curry favor with segregationists to hold the southern vote.

Of course, the Republican nominee, Dwight Eisenhower, the World War II general, won the general election.

The Republicans realized that television was the way to get votes, and Stevenson was an intellectual who did not fare well on television and generally spoke above the level of the average voter.

And maybe the lengthy rounds of voting at the Democratic convention turned off some viewers.

Walter Cronkite again as anchor at the later 1956 convention and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

Walter Cronkite again as anchor at the later 1956 convention and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

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