The Last Brokered Convention
The last brokered Republican convention was in Philadelphia in 1948. It took Governor Thomas E. Dewey three ballots to beat out several formidable rivals to get a majority of the votes. My grandmother, Florence Doe, was one of those delegates, and late in life she pined for those days when conventions were more than just coronation ceremonies. She attended the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Republican conventions in a time when real excitement ruled the day as each candidate jockeyed for the party’s nomination. Back then no one knew who the nominee would be until the convention was over.
If Grandma is looking down on us right now, she may get her wish this year.
A brokered convention is when no candidate receives a majority of the votes on the first ballot. Many in the Republican establishment, and some of the current presidential candidates, are rumored to be angling for a brokered convention this year to stop the run-away train that is Donald Trump. But Gov. Dewey’s brokered nomination ended up being a disaster as he lost what the Republicans thought was a sure thing against Harry Truman. This loss prompted the GOP to show up in 1952 with their boxing gloves on and it paid off.
The year 1952 was a banner year for my grandmother. Her only son, Russell Doe, graduated UC Berkeley in June and then married his beautiful college sweetheart, my mom, that November. But something else happened that year to put a smile on my grandmother’s face. After 20 years of the Democrats’ domination of the White House, Republicans finally won it back – and they were ecstatic. My grandmother not only played a part in the long-awaited Republican victory, but got to witness her friend and fellow convention delegate, Richard Nixon, take his place in Washington DC as the Vice President.
No one could have predicted that hot July in Chicago that one candidate would win, just barely, after the first ballot. A repeat of 1948 was anticipated as it was assumed several ballots would be taken before a winner could be declared. The candidates were California Governor Earl Warren, General Douglas MacArthur, former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, General Dwight Eisenhower and the senator from Ohio, Robert Taft. They all arrived at the convention with their loyal group of delegates ready to fight, although Sen. Taft was favored to get the nomination.
The California delegation had pledged its votes to Gov. Warren, unless instructed by the California Central Committee to do otherwise. Given that they could change their vote, the California delegates were vigorously campaigned by the other presidential candidates through letters and telegrams. Yesterday’s telegrams were today’s Twitter. They took a few more hours to arrive, but arrive they did, and their messages weren’t too different from what we hear the candidates say today about each other. My grandmother received her telegrams through the Western Union office in Goshen, and then, the day she arrived, at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago. One of those telegrams encouraging my grandmother to change her vote to Gen. Eisenhower came from Colonel J G Boswell.
In one of the telegrams sent by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Gen. Eisenhower’s campaign manager, it says, “Senator Taft, despite his fantastic claims will not reach the 500 mark. These Taft claims are obviously a product of panic and desperation to cover up certain defeat. Senator Taft, in my opinion will never receive 500 votes.”
He went on to say, “The American public has been shocked by the moral disintegration and outright corruption of the present administration. There is a nationwide determination this year to throw the rascals out once and for all.”
On the last day of the Republican Convention, July 11, a straw vote was taken where Sen. Taft did win 500 votes. Gen. Eisenhower won 595, nine short of the required majority. Before the first ballot results could be announced, Gov. Stassen’s 19 delegates broke away and changed their vote for Gen. Eisenhower, putting him over the majority needed. That started a cascade of delegates for Gen. Eisenhower and the California delegation was ordered to do the same so they could be recorded as voting for the winner. And thus, through sheer political maneuvering, the Republicans avoided a brokered convention and Gen. Eisenhower won on the first ballot.
Though Gen. Eisenhower’s first choice of running mate was Gov. Warren or Gov. Stassen, his advisors suggested he choose a young and energetic senator from California, Richard Nixon. Sen. Nixon was a hard campaigner and a staunch anti-communist and the Eisenhower campaign needed to mollify the Taft conservatives. The story goes that Sen. Nixon was so taken by surprise when asked to be the running mate, he found himself frantically writing his acceptance speech sitting in a fold out chair with his California delegation as my grandmother held back his excited colleagues and media to give him space to write.
On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower beat Adlai Stevenson by a landslide and became the first Republican president since Herbert Hoover. Then, four days later, Grandma watched her son get married during a nighttime ceremony at the First Congregational Church in Oroville. My mom addressed Grandma’s invitation to “Mother,” so in the span of four days, she gained a daughter and the political party she so loved was now in the White House.
Grandma’s best year ever wrapped up on January 20, at the presidential inauguration. The group of Californians invited, traveled together, riding in four private train cars from Los Angeles to Washington DC. During the inaugural parade they were seated right across from President Eisenhower’s viewing stand. Grandma and a guest were invited to the inaugural ball. She took her sister, Ruth Walder, and the party didn’t end until 3 am. The next day the women in her group got a private meeting with Mamie Eisenhower at the White House.
Fast forward to July, 2016 and the question is–will a brokered convention happen again? What will happen if the Republicans arrive in Cleveland with no clear winner, or that winner is someone whom the establishment cannot abide? Will Mr. Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio have to jockey for delegates’ votes like the days of old? Do rules still exist that delegates can change their votes and not vote for the candidate for whom their state chose?
Maybe the spirit of my grandmother, and her fellow delegates, could somehow infiltrate the minds and hearts of the current delegates and persuade them to nominate a candidate who is electable and also qualified, like they did in 1952. It would give my grandma something else to do besides roll in her grave over what the Republican Party has now become.
The Only Adult In The Room
Does anyone remember the top-polling Republican presidential candidate early last year? It was Mitt Romney. Now, a year and a half later, everyone is waiting for Gov. Romney and Gov. Jeb Bush to endorse a candidate. As important as their endorsement would have been before Super Tuesday, it did not come.
Who out of the five remaining candidates has the most experience, displays the most diplomacy, and looks the most presidential? The answer to that question is why Gov. Romney and Gov. Bush have not endorsed anyone. They are being pressured into endorsing Gov. Rubio but do not agree with his politics, nor do they think he could win.
Imagine Gov. John Kasich and Secretary Hillary Clinton on the debate stage. Gov. Kasich would have a treasure trove of opposition material to which Sec. Clinton would have no response. Now imagine the same scenario with Mr. Trump. He will invariably pull a Megan Kelly on Sec. Clinton and she will eat him alive. Debate over, election lost.
Both Gov. Romney and Gov. Bush know that moderate Democrats could easily vote for Gov. Kasich over Sec. Clinton, but no Democrat is going to vote for Sen. Rubio. As far as Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz, Democrats will show up in hoards to vote against them. Seeing as there are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, that’s a losing strategy for the Republican Party.
So what is their problem? Why are Republicans actively nominating someone who will lose the election and take down some senators along the way?
The establishment is reluctantly pushing for Republicans to unite behind Sen. Rubio. But Sen. Rubio, besides being the poster child of Big Brother, is member of the Tea Party. These are the people who relish shutting down the government and say intelligent things like, “Keep the government hands off my Medicaid.” When Evangelicals are voting for a thrice divorced, casino-owning former Democrat instead of actual Evangelicals running for president, that is a wakeup call, for everyone.
If Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz are waiting for Gov. Bush, and Gov. Romney’s endorsement they will be waiting a long time. Neither man is going to endorse Tea Party Evangelicals. Who they want to endorse is Gov. Kasich – the only adult in the room and the only Republican candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton.
Making a Deal with the Devil
The first thought that came to mind when I saw Gov. Chris Christie enter the stage in Fort Worth, Texas with Mr. Trump was, “now there’s the Republican Presidential ticket.”
Gov. Christie’s appearance on that stage, and his endorsement of Mr. Trump, confirmed what I predicted a year ago in my column of February 5, 2015. “I don’t think Gov. Christie is running for president in 2016. I think he is running for vice president.”
I predicted last year that Gov. Christie would make it through the Iowa caucus then graciously bow out after proving his mettle as a viable candidate. That’s exactly what he did this year in the last Republican debate when he effectively dressed down Sen. Rubio for being shallow and robotic.
During Gov. Christie’s campaign it was revealed how unpopular he was in his own state. He also has termed out as Governor. From this vantage point, being chosen as Mr. Trump’s running mate must be looking better than being unemployed in New Jersey. But Gov. Christie has made a deal with the devil. The New Hampshire Union Leader has said, “Boy were we wrong,” about their endorsement of Gov. Christie for president, and his campaign finance chair, Meg Whitman, said his Trump endorsement was “an astonishing display of political opportunism.”
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote in an op-ed this weekend, “If it had not been obvious to him before this weekend, his political career is essentially over.” Truer words were never spoken if Mr. Trumps does not chose Gov. Christie as his vice presidential running mate.
Henry Cabot Lodge was a respected Massachusetts Senator, distinguished soldier in WWII and went on to be nominee Richard Nixon’s running mate in his 1960 campaign against John F. Kennedy. Sen. Cabot was the leader of the moderate wing of the Republican Party when he convinced Gen. Eisenhower to run for president in 1952. Senator Robert Taft, who was actually favored to win the nomination, was the candidate of the party’s conservative faction.
It is important to take this into consideration when reading the following biography of Sen. Taft in a magazine produced for the 1952 convention. His biography ended with these thoughts:
Code of a Good Citizen
“As a Good Citizen of Our American Republic……..
I BELIEVE in a government in which I choose, by secret ballot, those I want to represent me in making the laws of the land – and I expect complete honesty in those I elect.
I BELIEVE that by being kind, honest and fair toward all other citizens I shall be building a better America for myself and for my children.
I BELIEVE that each person should have the freedom to worship God as he chooses and freedom to think and write what he wishes so long as he does not plan to change our representative form of government.”
I BELIEVE that all citizens, regardless of race or religion, should have equal opportunities to work – to invest their savings in some honest business – to obtain an education – to be free from search or seizure without a warrant – and if accused, to be given a fair trial by jury.
I BELIEVE that although our American Democracy is not perfect, it is my duty to work toward the perfection or it, to uphold the ideals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and to keep faith with the founders of our country.
Sen. Taft’s biography ends with a quote from James Anthony Froude, “The morale law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust or vanity, the price has to paid at last.”
Here’s look’n at you Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz.