Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 - Vol. 1

Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 - Vol. 1

Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 - Vol. 1

Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 - Vol. 1

Excerpt

In every American election there are two acts of choice, two periods of contest. The first is the selection of the candidate from within the party by the party; the other is the struggle between the parties for the place. Frequently the former of these is the more important, more keenly fought over, than the latter...James Bryce in The American Commonwealth .

In 1912, A POLITICAL SCIENTIST named Woodrow Wilson won the presidential nomination of his political party on the 46th ballot in the Democratic national convention. He went on to win the presidency with considerably less than a popular majority. Having taken due notice of what also happened at the Republican national convention of 1912, when William Howard Taft was renominated to succeed himself and Theodore Roosevelt walked out, Wilson recommended to Congress in 1913 that the nominating function be withdrawn from the national conventions. He proposed that it be carried out instead through a national presidential primary. He thus gave prominence to an idea earlier sponsored by the first Senator Robert M. La Follette, who had also been one of the first political leaders to secure the enactment of a presidential primary law in his own state.

Eventually it became clear that the Wilson proposal would probably require amending the Constitution. Minor reforms were made in the structure of the Republican convention, although the two-thirds rule under which Wilson had been nominated in the Democratic convention remained unchanged for 24 years more. A few more states enacted presidential primary laws after 1912, but by 1920 the movement for action by the states was already beginning to recede. Some states repealed their laws and others amended them to make them relatively meaningless. The proposal for a national primary became . . .

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