1936 Democratic National Convention Represented A Year Of Change

The 2016 Democratic National Convention is returning to the same site of its 1936 event.  July 25-28, 2016, will see the DNC commence in Philadelphia.

Though this year’s convention seems fairly straightforward, the 1936 convention was home to a bit more controversy.  Held at Convention Hall from June 23-27, the DNC instituted a new voting rule for the first time.  Previously, a presidential nominee needed to win two-thirds of the vote to clinch the nomination.  Due to the South’s overwhelming representation, they could easily veto any nominee they didn’t favor.

1936 Democratic National Convention Ticket


However, in 1936, the rule was changed to reflect a majority.  Now, as long as a candidate had the majority vote, he’d land the nomination without question or opposition.  Current President Franklin D. Roosevelt had pushed for the removal of the rule and succeeded.  The change in policy was an attempt to unity the party, but it would take decades before true unity took place.

Removing the two-thirds rule proved to work in FDR’s favor.  He won 100% of the convention’s voice vote.  Existing Vice President John Nance Garner also easily took the convention’s VP nomination.

In his acceptance speech, FDR revisited the most important points of the New Deal.  The New Deal was his economic stimulus program put in place to combat the effects of the Great Depression.  The New Deal policies began in 1933.  FDR used his speech to rally support for the New Deal from all sides.  He also vowed to fight against economic inequality.  His 1936 acceptance speech continues to be a well-studied piece of literature.

Similar to 1936, the current year’s DNC has similar themes with both presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders speaking openly about economic policy and equality.  Additionally, both are currently in the process of working together for party unity.  Though it doesn’t look like any voting rules will be changed, Sanders has singled out DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz for corrupt nomination practices.  Both issues strike similar chords as the 1936 convention.

Aside from the continuing reign of FDR, the convention also gave birth to one of his oft-quoted lines: “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people”.  Unlike Republican nominee Alf Landon, Roosevelt had made a name for himself by showing up in person to accept his nominations.  In 1932, he’d flown to Chicago to accept, and in the process, had made United States history.

The practice seemed to work in his favor.  He received the Democratic nomination twice more in 1940 and 1944.  He was the first president to secure a third and fourth term.

The 1936 DNC served as the grounds for history to be made.  It was a year of firsts in both policy and achievement.  2016 offers an interesting parallel in its potential to achieve history.  By nominating the first female Democratic nominee, this year’s convention could follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and write its own chapter in history.