The GOP Convention kicks off this afternoon and the preliminary festivities are already underway. Credentials have been distributed, and AZ delegates are equipped with snazzy delegation polos, clear carry-all bags for security, and obligatory Trump gear. Last night, Cleveland treated the delegates to fireworks along the Lake Erie shore.
Here are a few interesting facts about the earliest conventions:
The first presidential nominating conventions began with the campaign of 1832, when three political parties—the Anti-Mason Party, the National Republican Party (not the current GOP), and the Democratic Party (the early version of today’s Democratic Party)—all descended on Baltimore in the five months between September 1831 and May 1832.
Our current two-party system didn’t dominate American politics until after the Civil War. Prior to that, a plethora of parties and factions with colorful names emerged, dotted the political landscape for a brief time, only to fade into political oblivion. Some of these—the Locofocos, Bucktails, Wide-Awakes, Hard Shells, Soft Shells, Carpetbaggers, Doughfaces, Swallow-Tails, Butternuts, Fire-Eaters, copperheads, Barnburners, Hunkers, Short-Hairs, Woolly Heads, Stalwarts, Mugwumps, Know-Nothings, Silver-Grays, and Scalawags, according to the excellent two-part history of American conventions by Stan M. Haynes, The First American Political Conventions.
Modern conventions are elaborately staged shows of unity for the voters. But earlier conventions were fraught with division. Democrats in 1924 cast 103 ballots before nominating John W. Davis (who?) In 1860 it took 59 ballots and two conventions to nominate Abraham Lincoln’s debate foe Stephen Douglas. And Abraham Lincoln was nominated at a contested convention the same year.
The first Republican Party Convention was held in Philadelphia in June of 1856, nominating war hero John C. Fremont and Sen. William Dayton of New Jersey to the party’s ticket. At this convention, the Republican National Committee (RNC) was born.
There’s much more history, and surely more to be made today.
And so we begin today … the official nominating convention of the Republican Party of 2016–the Party of Abraham Lincoln, heir to the 1856 anti-slavery Republican Party, pro-liberty, pro-peace-through strength, pro-free markets and economic liberty. Let’s convene.