National convention

The 1980 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden

From August 11 to August 14, 1980, the Democratic National Convention took place in New York at Madison Square Garden. This year’s Democratic primary candidates included incumbent President Jimmy Carter of Georgia, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin. At the end of the convention, President Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale were nominated for re-election, receiving 2,123 or 64% of the delegates’ votes, compared to Kennedy’s 34.7% and Proxmire’s 0.3%.

However, the road to Carter’s formal appointment to the convention was strewn with strife. As the primary election season wore on, tensions arose between Kennedy and Carter due to their stark differences in political decisions – Kennedy was interested in moving the Democratic Party to the left, while Carter adopted a more moderate approach. During the first two days of the convention, Kennedy’s forces attempted to take over 2,000 votes from Carter’s delegates, but failed to win a vote in favor of a open congress. If an open convention had been secured, delegates could have voted for any candidate they chose, regardless of their district’s main results.

Button used by the Kennedy campaign to win votes at the 1980 Democratic National Convention from the 2,000 delegates who had already signed up to Jimmy Carter in the primaries. Photo of Wikimedia Commons (Flickr).

Although they failed to secure that crucial vote – which many believe lost the Senator’s nomination – Kennedy and his team were determined to embarrass Carter. They did so by pushing for a series of political initiatives that went against the president’s normal agenda. These included a $ 12 billion stimulus spending package, measures to tackle unemployment, and approval of wage and price controls. The vote for these initiatives was due to take place after Kennedy’s speech, and Carter’s team feared that this would help create the perfect atmosphere to push delegates towards more liberal policies.. After spending the previous day saying “no” to Kennedy’s whips trying to get them to change their vote for the senator, delegates were ready to say “yes” to anything else.

During August 12, the tension between the two dueling factions became so intense that two high-ranking members almost broke out in a brawl. Harold ickes, director of ground operations for Kennedy, used an obscure rule of procedure to put an end to the afternoon of ground debates – spoiling the scheduled television program for the convention. Done out of sheer spite, Ickes said to justify his actions: “I mean we weren’t thinking of the country. We weren’t even thinking about the general election. It was, F-em ‘. You know? To be frank about it.

The response to Ickes’ decision was swift. Tom donilon, who was responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the convention, was furious at the major disruption. Leaving the confines of his office, Ickes charged across the scene, finding Carter a lawyer named Tim Smith struggling with Ickes. The two began to scream and curse each other, only seconds to come to blows. Their fight ended minutes later, interrupted by a phone call from Kennedy and his advisers to Ickes – telling him it was time to move on to the convention.

1980 Democratic National Convention. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library).
Carter and Mondale holding hands at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Wikimedia Commons (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library).

Hours later it was time for Kennedy to deliver his speech titled “The dream will never die. ” Written by Bob shrum, the speech defended post-WWII liberalism, arguing for the implementation of a national model of health care. Lasting 32 minutes, the speech began with a concession to the presidential campaign. As a result, Kennedy immediately distinguished himself from Carter, declaring that he had come “not to argue as a candidate but to assert a cause”; one such cause was to serve “the humble members of society – the farmers, mechanics and laborers”.

Next, Kennedy directly attacked Regean’s conservative political ideas, arguing that its policies were fiercely against unions, urban centers, the elderly and the environment. He did so by appealing to a nostalgic defense of old liberal values, pointing out that while social programs can become obsolete over time, the fundamental ideal of fairness will always endure. He said: “The great adventures offered by our adversaries is a trip down memory lane. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What’s good for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win. “

To further support his arguments, Kennedy used a technique known as prosopopoeia, a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates with his audience by speaking like another person or object. Throughout the speech, Kennedy told real-life stories of people he met during his campaign, drawing on their experiences to build support for the Democratic Party. Some vivid examples of the speech include anecdotes about a glassblower in Charleston, West Virginia, a Trachta family who operated a farm in Iowa, and a grandmother in East Oakland. In addition, Kennedy also focused on the sites he saw during the election campaign, highlighting the closed factories in Anderson, Indiana and South Gate, Calif., And the impact of their loss on working families. daily.

Senator Ted Kennedy, whose speech "The dream will never die" has become one of the most memorable speeches in modern American political history.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Babel Hathitrust).
Senator Ted Kennedy, whose speech “The Dream Shall Never Die” has become one of the most memorable speeches in modern American political history. Photo of Wikimedia Commons (Babel Hathitrust).

Towards the end of the speech, Kennedy returned to the current main event, making his only remarks on Carter for the night. However, rather than congratulating the candidate for bringing the party behind him, Kennedy’s words about Carter were rather subdued. “I congratulate President Carter on his victory here. I am convinced that the Democratic Party will come together on the basis of Democratic principles and that together we will move towards a Democratic victory in 1980. ”

Following this, Kennedy referred to his late brothers, John and Robert. He implored his audience to look beyond the campaign fanfare and keep faith in the good times and in the bad times. After quoting a passage from Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses,” Kennedy ended the speech with these enlightening words: “For me, a few hours ago this campaign ended. For all those whose concerns have been our concern, the work continues, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream will never die.

At the end of “The Dream Shall Never Die”, Kennedy received sustained applause and cheers from the crowd for half an hour. The New York Times The editorial page noted that the speech was “one of the greatest emotional outpourings in conventional history.” Today, “The Dream Shall Never Die” is known as one of Kennedy’s most famous speeches in his Senate career and in modern American history, helping to lay the foundation for the modern Democratic Party platform. . The speech was so successful that two of Kennedy’s three proposals were later accepted by Carter’s team – it was the $ 12 billion stimulus package and a call for a bill on the use.

In contrast, Carter’s speech for the night was not as successful as Kennedy’s. As Carter began to speak, a series of firecrackers were set off about 100 feet to her left by a woman named Signe Waller of the Communist Workers’ Party, causing the president to flinch and interrupt her childbirth. After recovering, Carter made another big mistake, referring to the former vice president, senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey like Hubert Horatio, horn ringer, the fictional protagonist of the popular CS Forester novel seriess.

President Jimmy Carter, who was to make a series of blunders during his August 12 speech at the Democratic National Convention, where he received his party's candidacy for re-election.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
President Jimmy Carter, who made a series of blunders during his August 12 speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, where he received his party’s nomination for re-election. Photo of Wikimedia Commons.

While the rest of the speech went as planned, its ending again did not help build support for the president. As Carter’s wife Rosalynn, Mondale and his wife Joan joined the president on stage, the balloons that were to fall from the ceiling got stuck when the mechanism to release them malfunctioned. Only a net of balloons would eventually work.

Sadly, Carter’s embarrassment didn’t end there. While awaiting Kennedy’s return to Madison Square Garden from the Waldorf Astoria hotel, Robert Strauss – Carter’s campaign chairman – was forced to call various political figures on stage to keep the crowd cheering. Upon arrival, Kennedy and Carter came face to face on the convention stage. After Kennedy finished shaking hands with Rosalynn, Carter’s daughter Amy and Mondale, Carter moved to center stage in front of the catwalk – a clear attempt to bring Kennedy with him so the two could pose. for photos to present a united front. Kennedy refused to give in and stayed a few steps from the podium. Carter tried again, this time reaching out for a handshake, but he did so with his hand almost at shoulder height, inviting Kennedy to take his hand and hold it up high. Although Kennedy stepped forward to shake Carter’s hand, he refused to lift her with him. Instead, Kennedy chose to raise his own hand against the crowd alone. This continued four more times, and with each attempt, Carter received a dry handshake and a polite dismissal. In front of more than 20 million viewers, the President of the United States found himself crawl for a photo with a man he had defeated.

In the end, the 1980 Democratic National Convention failed to unite the Democratic Party behind Carter – the president ultimately lost to Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in a shift of 489 to 49. The convention’s many blunders raised questions not only regarding the merit of Carter’s candidacy but also the future of Democratic Party politics.

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