It Happens Every Four Years


Only twice, though, has this struggle taken on any resemblance to that in 1860. In 1912 the “Insurgent” opponents of the Old Guard in the Republican convention were defeated in their attempt to control it and to nominate Theodore Roosevelt for a third term. They walked out, charging defeat by fraud. Their secession was followed by the nomination of Taft by the Regulars and Roosevelt by the Seceders, which in turn opened the White House doors to Woodrow Wilson.

No other spectacular development occurred until 1948. Here the conservative elements concentrated in the South, rather than accept Harry S. Truman as the standard bearer of the Democrats, walked out, in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of 1860. Some of the marchers indeed were bearing Confederate flags. But despite the fact that they nominated a candidate, and that a fourth party under former Vice President Henry A. Wallace appeared, more radical than Truman, the latter was re-elected.

The political convention, obviously, is an occasionally unpredictable instrument. It has been an established feature of American life for well over a century now, and very often it is geared to the desires of the politicians rather than to the necessities of the general public. Occasionally, as in 1860, political wisdom and leadership are lacking in it, with deplorable results. Most of the time it works fairly smoothly. In any case, it is the machinery by which the Constitutional electoral setup is enabled to work.