The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention. The primary goal of the Democratic National Convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party. Pledged delegates from all fifty U.S. states and from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and superdelegates which are unpledged delegates representing the Democratic establishment, attend the convention and cast their votes to choose the Party's presidential candidate. Like the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season.
The party's presidential nominee is chosen in a series of individual state caucuses and primary elections. Superdelegates, delegates whose votes are not bound to the outcome of a state's caucus or primary, may also influence the nomination. To secure the nomination for the Democratic party in 2016, a candidate must secure 2,383 delegates. This number includes both pledged delegates and superdelegates.
Prior to 1936, nomination for president was required, not merely by a majority, but by two-thirds of the total number of delegates. Unless there was a popular incumbent, something that only happened three times between the Civil War and World War II, getting that many votes on the first ballot was implausible. The choice was an often contentious debate that riled the passions of party leaders. Delegates were forced to vote for a nominee repeatedly until someone could capture a minimum number of delegates needed. In 1912, 1920 and most notoriously in 1924, the voting went on for dozens and dozens of ballots.
Backroom deals by party bosses were normal and often resulted in compromise nominees that became known as dark horse candidates. Dark horse candidates were people who never imagined they would run for president until the last moments of the convention. Dark horse candidates were chosen in order to break deadlocks between more popular and powerful prospective nominees that blocked each other from gaining enough delegates to be nominated. One of the most famous dark horse candidates nominated at a Democratic National Convention was James K. Polk, who was chosen to become the candidate for president only after being added to the eighth and ninth delegate ballot.
The rules were changed to a simple majority in 1936. Since then only one multi-ballot convention (1952's) has taken place.
Before about 1970, the party's choice of the vice-presidential nominee was usually not known until the last evening of the convention. This was because the presidential nominee had little to do with the process and in many cases was not known at the start of the convention. In 1944 and 1956, the nominee let the convention choose the running mate without a recommendation, leading to multiballot voting, and other times, successful attempts to sabotage the nominee by scattering delegate votes for someone else besides his choice, as in 1972 and 1980, led to disruptions.
In order to prevent such things from happening in the future, the presumptive nominee has, since 1984, announced his choice before the convention even opened, and (s)he has been ratified by voice vote.
By 1824, the congressional nominating caucus had fallen into disrepute and collapsed as a method of nominating presidential and vice presidential candidates. A national convention idea had been brought up but nothing occurred until the next decade. State conventions and state legislatures emerged as the nomination apparatus until they were supplanted by the national convention method of nominating candidates. President Andrew Jackson's "Kitchen Cabinet" privately carried out the plan for the first Democratic National Convention; the public call for the first national convention emanated from Jackson's supporters in New Hampshire in 1831.
The first national convention of the Democratic Party began in Baltimore on May 21, 1832. In that year the 2/3 rule was created, requiring a 2/3 vote to nominate a candidate, in order to show the party's unanimous support of Martin Van Buren for vice president. Although this rule was waived in the 1836 and 1840 conventions, in 1844 it was revived by opponents of former President Van Buren, who had the support of a majority, but not two-thirds, of the delegates, in order to prevent him from receiving the nomination. The rule then remained in place for almost the next hundred years, and often led to Democratic National Conventions which dragged on endlessly, most famously at the 1860 convention, when the convention adjourned in Charleston without making a choice and reconvening in separate groups a short time later, and the 1924 convention, when "Wets" and "Drys" deadlocked between preferred candidates Alfred E. Smith and William G. McAdoo for 103 ballots before finally agreeing on John W. Davis as a compromise candidate. At the 1912 convention, Champ Clark was the first person to receive a majority of the votes who did not go on to achieve a two-thirds vote and the nomination. The 2/3 rule was finally abolished in 1936, when the unanimity in favor of the renomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed it finally to be put to rest. In the years that followed only one convention (the 1952 Convention) actually went beyond a single ballot.
During the time the rule was in force, it virtually assured that no candidate not supported by the South could be nominated. The elimination of the two-thirds rule made it possible for liberal Northern Democrats to gain greater influence in party affairs, leading to the disenfranchisement of Southern Democrats, and defection of many of the latter to the Republican Party, especially during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. Strom Thurmond was one such Democrat who joined the Republican party.
William Jennings Bryan delivered his "Cross of Gold" speech at the 1896 convention. The most historically notable—and tumultuous—convention of recent memory was the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, which was fraught with highly emotional battles between conventioneers and Vietnam War protesters and anoutburst by Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Other confrontations between various groups, such as the Yippies and members of the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Chicago police in city parks, streets and hotels marred this convention. Following the 1968 convention, in which many reformers had been disappointed in the way that Vice President Hubert Humphrey, despite not having competed in a single primary, easily won the nomination over Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern (who announced after the assassination of another candidate, Senator Robert F. Kennedy), a commission headed by Senator McGovern reformed the Democratic Party's nominating process to increase the power of primaries in choosing delegates in order to increase the democracy of the process. Not entirely coincidentally, McGovern himself won the nomination in 1972. The 1972 convention was significant in that the new rules put into place as a result of the McGovern commission also opened the door for quotas mandating that certain percentages of delegates be women or members of minority groups, and subjects that were previously deemed not fit for political debate, such as abortion and lesbian and gay rights, now occupied the forefront of political discussion.
The nature of Democratic (and Republican) conventions has changed considerably since 1972. Every 4 years, the nominees are essentially selected earlier and earlier in the year, so the conventions now officially ratify the nominees instead of choose them. (Even the close race of 2008, which was not decided until early June, did not change the modern function of the convention). The 1980 convention was the last convention for the Democrats that had even a sliver of doubt about who the nominee would be. (Ted Kennedy forced a failing vote to free delegates from their commitment to vote for Jimmy Carter). The 1976 convention was the last where the vice-presidential nominee was announced during the convention, after the presidential nominee was chosen. (Carter choosing Walter Mondale.) After the "ugly" conventions of 1968 and 1972, the parties realized it was in their interests to show a unified party to the nation during the convention, and to try to eliminate any dissent. And as the conventions became less interesting, and television ratings have generally declined (as they have on average for all television shows), the networks have cut back their coverage significantly, which in turn has forced the parties to manage what is televised even more closely.
The 1984 convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco remains the last Democratic Convention to be held in a convention center complex; all others since then have been held at sports stadiums or arenas.
The 1840 Democratic National Convention was held in Baltimore. The Democrats nominated President Martin Van Buren for reelection in 1840 in spite of his unpopularity following the Panic of 1837. Vice President Richard M. Johnson was not retained on the ticket, as he was largely seen as a liability in the 1836 election and had focused much of his time as vice president on his own economic affairs. Former President Andrew Jackson backed James K. Polk for the position of vice president, but Van Buren supported his vice president's renomination. The convention ultimately decided not to nominate a running mate for Van Buren. As a result, Van Buren became the only major party presidential nominee since the passage of the 12th Amendment to seek election without a running mate.Polk and Johnson both received electoral votes for vice president in the general election, but the Whig ticket won the election.Delegates from 21 of 26 states were in attendance. States not in attendance were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, South Carolina and Virginia.1848 Democratic National Convention
The 1848 Democratic National Convention, a presidential nominating convention of United States Democratic Party delegates representing all thirty states in the union at the time, met in Baltimore on May 22, 1848.The Democratic National Committee was established at this convention.1888 Democratic National Convention
The 1888 Democratic National Convention was a nominating convention held June 5 to 7, 1888, in the St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall in St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis won the convention after a presentation in February 1888.1908 Democratic National Convention
The 1908 Democratic National Convention took place from July 7 to July 10, 1908, at Denver Auditorium Arena in Denver, Colorado.
The event is widely considered a significant part of Denver's political and social history.1916 Democratic National Convention
The 1916 Democratic National Convention was held at the St. Louis Coliseum in St. Louis, Missouri from June 14 to June 16, 1916. It resulted in the nomination of President Woodrow Wilson and Vice President Thomas R. Marshall for reelection.1932 Democratic National Convention
The 1932 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, Illinois June 27 – July 2, 1932. The convention resulted in the nomination of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York for President and Speaker of the House John N. Garner from Texas for Vice President. Beulah Rebecca Hooks Hannah Tingley was a member of the Democratic National Committee and Chair of the Democratic Party of Florida. She seconded the nomination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, becoming the second woman to address a Democratic National Convention.1936 Democratic National Convention
The 1936 Democratic National Convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from June 23 to 27, 1936. The convention resulted in the nomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John N. Garner for reelection.1944 Democratic National Convention
The 1944 Democratic National Convention was held at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois from July 19 to July 21, 1944. The convention resulted in the nomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt for an unprecedented fourth term. Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri was nominated for Vice President. Including Roosevelt's nomination for the vice-presidency in 1920, it was the fifth time Roosevelt had been nominated on a national ticket. The keynote address was given by Governor Robert S. Kerr of Oklahoma, in which he "gave tribute to Roosevelt's war leadership and new deal policies."1948 Democratic National Convention
The 1948 Democratic National Convention was held at Philadelphia Convention Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 12 to July 14, 1948, and resulted in the nominations of President Harry S. Truman for a full term and Senator Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky for Vice President in the 1948 presidential election. One of the decisive factors in convening both major party conventions in Philadelphia that year was that the Philadelphia area was part of the newly-developing broadcast television market. In 1947, TV stations in New York City, Washington and Philadelphia were connected by a coaxial cable, so in 1948 two of the three new television networks, NBC and CBS, had the ability to telecast along the east coast live gavel to gavel coverage of both conventions. In television's early days, live broadcasts were not routinely recorded, but a few minutes of Kinescope film of the conventions has survived.1968 Democratic National Convention
The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held August 26–29 at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois. As President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced he would not seek reelection, the purpose of the convention was to select a new presidential nominee to run as the Democratic Party's candidate for the office. The keynote speaker was Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine were nominated for President and Vice President, respectively.
The convention was held during a year of violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest, particularly riots in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4. The convention also followed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5. Both Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been running for the Democratic nomination at the time.1980 Democratic National Convention
The 1980 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party nominated President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale for reelection. The convention was held in Madison Square Garden in New York City from August 11 to August 14, 1980.
The 1980 convention was notable as it was the last time in the 20th century, for either major party, that a candidate tried to get delegates released from their voting commitments. This was done by Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Carter's chief rival for the nomination in the Democratic primaries, who sought the votes of delegates held by Carter.1984 Democratic National Convention
The 1984 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from July 16 to July 19, 1984, to select candidates for the 1984 United States presidential election. Former Vice President Walter Mondale was nominated for President and Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York was nominated for Vice President. Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by either major party for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency. In another first, the 1984 Democratic Convention was chaired by the female governor of Kentucky, Martha Layne Collins. The Democratic National Committee Chairman at the time, Charles T. Manatt, led the convention.1988 Democratic National Convention
The 1988 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia, from July 18–July 21, 1988, to select candidates for the 1988 presidential election. At the convention Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was nominated for President and Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas for Vice President. The chair of the convention was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright.1992 Democratic National Convention
The 1992 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party nominated Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas for President and Senator Al Gore from Tennessee for Vice President; Clinton announced Gore as his running-mate on July 9, 1992. The convention was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York from July 13 to July 16, 1992. The Clinton-Gore ticket then faced and defeated their Republican opponents, President George H. W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle as well as the independent ticket of Ross Perot and James Stockdale in the 1992 presidential election.
The convention's keynote speaker was Georgia Governor Zell Miller who said, "Not all of us can be born rich, handsome, and lucky, and that's why we have a Democratic Party" and added,
"Our Commander in Chief talks like Dirty Harry but acts like Barney Fife." Other notable speakers included Democratic National Committee Chair Ron Brown, Elizabeth Glaser, and New York Governor Mario Cuomo.
The convention, organized by chairman Ron Brown, was seen as a great success. Unlike some earlier Democratic conventions, it had been well planned and run with few gaffes or errors, as even Republicans conceded. As Clinton finished his acceptance speech Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop", which would become the theme song of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, was played several times during the balloon drop and celebration.
Clinton received a significant poll bounce from the convention, due to both the perceived success of the convention, as well as Ross Perot announcing he was withdrawing from the campaign just as the convention was ending (Perot got back into the race in October).
The convention bounce gave the Clinton/Gore ticket a lead that only shrank significantly when Ross Perot re-entered the race. Clinton and Gore went on to defeat President Bush and Vice-President Quayle, as well as independent candidate Ross Perot and his running mate, James Stockdale, in the general election.1996 Democratic National Convention
The 1996 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1996. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were nominated for reelection. This was the first national convention of either party to be held in Chicago since the disastrous riots of the 1968 Democratic convention, and as of 2016, the most recent presidential convention held in the city by either major party.2000 Democratic National Convention
The 2000 Democratic National Convention was a quadrennial presidential nominating convention for the Democratic Party. The convention nominated Vice President Al Gore for President and Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut for Vice President. The convention was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California from August 14 to August 17, 2000. Gore accepted the presidential nomination on August 17, the final night of the convention. This was the second Democratic National Convention hosted by Los Angeles, the first being in 1960.2004 Democratic National Convention
The 2004 Democratic National Convention convened from July 26 to 29, 2004 at the FleetCenter (now the TD Garden) in Boston, Massachusetts, and nominated Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts for President and Senator John Edwards from North Carolina for Vice President, respectively, in the 2004 presidential election.
The 2004 Democratic National Convention included the featured keynote speech of Barack Obama, then a candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois, who would later go on to become the 44th President of the United States in 2009. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson served as chairman of the convention, while former presidential advisor to Bill Clinton, Lottie Shackelford, served as vice chairwoman.
The 2004 Democratic National Convention marked the formal end of the active primary election season, although all meaningful primary elections had finished months earlier. After the convention, John Kerry and John Edwards were defeated by the incumbent George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the general election.2008 Democratic National Convention
The United States 2008 Democratic National Convention was a quadrennial presidential nominating convention of the Democratic Party where it adopted its national platform and officially nominated its candidates for President and Vice President. The convention was held in Denver, Colorado, from August 25 to August 28, 2008, at Pepsi Center. Senator Barack Obama from Illinois gave his acceptance speech on August 28 at Invesco Field in what the party called an "Open Convention". Denver last hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1908. Obama became the party's first nonwhite nominee, and nominee of African descent, for President. Senator Joe Biden from Delaware was nominated for Vice President.
Obama officially received the nomination for President on August 27, when his former opponent, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, interrupted the official roll call to move that Obama be selected by acclamation. U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware accepted the nomination for Vice President on the same night. Obama accepted his nomination the following night in a speech at Invesco Field before a record-setting crowd of 84,000 people in attendance.2020 Democratic National Convention
The 2020 Democratic National Convention, is an event in which delegates of the United States Democratic Party will choose the party's nominees for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The convention is scheduled to be held from July 13–16, 2020.