Some things really do change

It’s interesting how we assume that what is has always been. In the realm of presidential politics, the format of the party nominating conventions—four-day long celebrations of a candidate whose identity has been known for months—is a relatively new thing. The Republican convention in 1976 was the last time a major party convention began with any doubt as to who the nominee would be (President Gerald Ford narrowly defeated a strong run by Ronald Reagan, who would win the nomination and the election in 1980). But the primary elections (which determined the delegates, and thus the nominees) weren’t nationally adopted until 1968 for the Democrats, and 1972 for the Republicans. Before that, delegates met at conventions to discuss, debate, and ultimately choose their party’s nominee. Sometimes, it took a lot of debate. In 1924, the Democrats met for 16 days, taking 103 ballots to finally settle on John W. Davis of West Virginia as their nominee (he lost the presidential election to Calvin Coolidge).

But now, the current “issue” (or surprise) is that Donald Trump will accept his party’s nomination at a satellite convention in Florida, even though the Republican convention was scheduled to be in North Carolina, and some of it will still take place there (see this article, for instance). But the in-person accepting of the nomination is also fairly new. The first presidential candidate to accept his party’s nomination in person was Franklin Roosevelt, who in 1932 won the Democratic nomination after the four rounds of voting at the convention. Roosevelt was at home in Hyde Park, New York, on July 1, 1932. He learned of his nomination, and flew to Chicago (where the convention was meeting) to accept the nomination in person on July 2.

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