Democratic National Convention

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Featured at the Democratic National Convention are speeches by prominent party figures. Here, former President Jimmy Carter addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The Democratic National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years administered by the Democratic National Committee of the United States Democratic Party. As a national affair, the meeting is attended by delegates from all fifty U.S. states as well as delgates from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico. Like the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season.

The primary goal of the Democratic National Convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for President and Vice President, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party.


Today, the party's presidential nominee is chosen in a series of individual state caucuses and primary elections. Due to the nature of how the caucuses and elections are scheduled, the party's presidential nominee is usually known months before the Democratic National Convention is gaveled to order. Historically however, the choice of the party's presidential nominee was usually not known until the last evening of the Democratic National Convention. The choice was an often contentious debate that riled the passions of party leaders. Delegates were forced to vote for a nominee repeatedly until someone could capture a minimum number of delegates needed.

Backroom deals by party bosses were normal and often resulted in compromise nominees that became known as dark horse candidates. Dark horse candidates were people who never imagined they would run for President until the last moments of the convention. Dark horse candidates were chosen in order to break deadlocks between more popular and powerful prospective nominees that blocked each other from gaining enough delegates to be nominated. The most famous dark horse candidate nominated at a Democratic National Convention was James Knox Polk who was chosen to become the candidate for President only after being added to the eighth and ninth delegate ballots.


The first Democratic National Convention was held in 1832. In that year the infamous 2/3 rule was created, requiring a 2/3 majority to nominate a candidate for president, in order to show the party's unanimous support of Andrew Jackson. Although this rule was waived in the 1836 and 1840 conventions, in 1844 it was revived by opponents of former President Martin Van Buren, who had the support of a majority, but not a super-majority, of the delegates, in order to prevent him from receiving the nomination. The rule then remained in place for almost the next hundred years, and often led to Democratic National Conventions which dragged on endlessly, most famously in 1924 when "Wets" and "Drys" deadlocked between preferred candidates Alfred E. Smith and William G. McAdoo for 99 ballots before finally agreeing on John W. Davis as a compromise candidate. The 2/3 rule was finally abolished in 1936, when the unanimity in favor of the renomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed it finally to be put to rest. In the years that followed only one convention (1952) actually went beyond a single ballot, although this may be more attributable to changes in the nominating process itself than to the rules change.

William Jennings Bryan delivered his "Cross of Gold" speech at the 1896 convention. The most historically notable convention of recent memory was the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, which was fraught with highly emotional battles between conventioneers and Vietnam war protesters and a notable outburst by Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Following the 1968 convention, in which many reformers had been disappointed in the way that Vice President Hubert Humphrey, despite not having competed in a single primary, easily won the nomination, a commission headed by Senator George McGovern reformed the Democratic Party's nominating process to increase the power of primaries in choosing delegates in order to increase the democracy of the process. Not entirely coincidentally, McGovern himself won the nomination in 1972, and in the years since the convention has generally played a declining role in actually determining who the nominee will be, instead generally resulting in the installment of a candidate whose nomination was already made inevitable by victories in the primaries.

The most recent DNC was held in Boston, Massachusetts at the TD Banknorth Garden, then called FleetCenter, from July 26 to 29, 2004. The convention created traffic problems for the Boston area as cars were diverted around the proximity of the convention for security purposes.

See also: 2004 Democratic National Convention, List of Democratic National Conventionsde:Democratic National Convention


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