When was the last brokered convention?

President Joe Biden has said he won’t drop out of this year’s election. But if that changes, a brokered convention is likely for Democrats

FILE - In this July 24, 2016, file photo, workers prepare for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

President Joe Biden has come under intense scrutiny since his debate performance on June 27, but he is remaining steadfast that he won’t drop out of this year’s race for President.

If something changes and Biden does drop out, the Democratic Party could end up facing something that hasn’t been seen in over seven decades.

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In order to elect a replacement for Biden — who already has accumulated the necessary delegates following primary elections to be the party’s nominee — the Democrats would likely have to hold a brokered convention when they gather in August.

What is a brokered convention?

A brokered convention is when a party’s nominee isn’t selected by a majority in the first round of delegate voting at the party’s nominating convention, according to Ballotpedia.

At that point, delegates are then allowed to vote for another preferred candidate, which paves the way for input from party leadership and maneuvering.

By convention rules, delegates are bound or pledged to candidates that won state primary elections, according to history.com, so Biden would be the choice at the Democratic National Convention in August if he stays in the race.

If Biden drops out, then a brokered convention is likely.

When was the last time it happened?

Brokered conventions used to happen often, with 18 conventions (10 Democratic, 8 Republican) qualifying as such. The last one to take place was at the 1952 Democratic National Convention, according to history.com.

During that convention, Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver was the frontrunner after winning primaries in 12 states. But some Democrats weren’t happy with his televised hearings about organized crime, and ended up backing Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, a write-in candidate who won the nomination after three rounds of voting.

Stevenson ended up losing badly to Dwight D. Eisenhower in the general election.

How 1968 changed everything

Brokered conventions were somewhat common until 1968, when chaos at the Democratic National Convention prompted the establishment of rules for nominating candidates, according to history.com.

Following the assassination of Democratic frontrunner Robert F. Kennedy, Democrats settled on Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as their candidate, much to the anger of some in the party and anti-war protesters who didn’t like Humphrey’s stance on the Vietnam War.

At that time, delegates at both the Democratic and Republican conventions picked whatever candidate they preferred and results of primary elections in states weren’t binding.

The party seemed more divided than ever even after Humphrey’s nomination.

Humphrey ended up losing the general election to Richard Nixon, and then before the 1972 convention, rules were changed to where delegates were bound by the results of their state’s primary or caucus.

A short time later, the Republican party established the same rules for its convention, and there hasn’t been a brokered convention since.

Time will tell in the coming weeks if that remains the case in 2024, or if the disapproval of Biden by many Democrats will lead to something not seen since 1952.


About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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