The Worst Convention in U.S. History?

Historians in the News
tags: election 2016, Trump, GOP Convention



... The agreement was: This one was pretty bad. Whether you measure it by disorganization, by harm to the party or by sheer distastefulness of the message, it ends up on most of our historians' shortlists, if not right at the top. “This Republican convention could certainly be a plausible candidate for, say, the three-to-five worst conventions in American political history,” writes Jack Rakove, though he doesn’t think it will have the lasting negative consequences that, say,1968’s riot-plagued DNC had. And David Greenberg calls it a “hot mess,” though it falls short of Miami’s 1972 DNC in terms of sheer fiasco factor, where “punchy delegates mocked the process, nominating Martha Mitchell (the deranged wife of Nixon’s attorney general), Archie Bunker, the Berrigan Brothers, Mao Tse-tung and other absurdities” and “the circus delayed McGovern’s acceptance speech until almost 3 a.m.—memorably described as ‘prime time in Guam.’”

Others do think that this year’s RNC marks a genuine new low for American politics. It “barely edged out the 1868 Democratic National Convention as the worst in American history” for its “disorganization, infighting, racism and apocalyptic language,” writes Heather Cox Richardson. (In 1868, the delegates appropriated “This is a white man’s country. Let a white man rule” as their slogan.) “The 2016 Republican Convention,” writes Jason Sokols, “was remarkable not for its bumbling shows of discord—culminating in Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement—but for the ways in which it illuminated a consistent message: hatred.” And Federico Finchelstein saw the same hatred, as well as its global reach: “For global historians of fascism such as myself, the convention was something entirely new. … It signaled, at the top of the Republican ticket, the new American preeminence—in line with a strain of xenophobic right-wing populism that is developing around the world.” ...




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