Every four years, I am treated to thousands of Presidential commercials on TV. I get numerous fliers and brochures in the mail, created in a such a way as to convince me of a particular candidate’s viability. I get dozens of phone calls (which I almost never answer) reminding me of the importance of voting.
From all possible paths, thirty-second soundbites are driven into my consciousness. It’s become a rather painful experience. Since this year is one of those “every four years” (and we’re only in June), I’ve got about five more months to endure. And because this promises to be one of the most expensive elections – I recall Newt Gingrich saying that President Obama would likely raise close to $1 billion and, in all likelihood, Mitt Romney won’t be far behind – I expect that my senses of sight and hearing will be assaulted like never before.
This summer, we’ll be invited to watch each party’s national convention on television. As of now, we don’t know who’s going to speak or what will be said, but we can expect hours of endless banter about the silliness of the opposing party’s platform, the inability of the opposing party’s candidate to lead, and the disasters that await our country should the opposing party win. And we pretty much know the outcome of each convention: President Obama will be the Democratic nominee and Mitt Romney will stand for the Republican Party.
There won’t be any 1880 surprises. Remember that one?
The 1880 Republican Convention opened on Tuesday, June 2nd in Chicago with not one front-runner, but three viable candidates. Two-term President Ulysses Grant was running for a third term. James Blaine, the Senator from Maine, was also running, as was Treasury Secretary John Sherman. Throughout the week, there was jockeying between the candidates and their supporters. On Saturday evening, each of the candidates was presented to the floor by a speaker.
The speaker for Sherman was James Garfield, who had originally supported Blaine, but switched when Sherman entered the race. Taking the stage after Roscoe Conkling had whipped up the crowd in support of Grant, Garfield was nervous. He had no prepared speech, and didn’t have the political power of Conkling, a Republican strongman. But he was an excellent extemporaneous speaker, and did an admirable job.
On June 8, 1880, the convention moved to the voting phase. The delegates knew that no single candidate had a majority of the votes required to secure the nomination, so it would require at least two votes. But no one could have guessed how crazy this process would become, nor how it would end. Beginning at 10:00am, the first ballot (as expected) didn’t produce a nominee. Neither did the second ballot, but it did produce a small surprise. One vote, from a Pennsylvania delegate, was cast for James Garfield. And vote after vote, the gridlock continued…along with one little vote for Garfield. Eighteen ballots were cast before dinner and ten after, yet no one candidate could garner the necessary 379 votes.
It was late, nerves were frayed, and it was time for bed. The convention adjourned for the night. The next day would see an incredible turn of events…but that’s for tomorrow.
Recommended Reading: Destiny of the Republic – An excellent read!