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National Party Conventions – Best Books (updated)

Here are some of my favorites – let me know about yours.

  1. Paul T. David, et al., The Politics of National Party Conventions, Vintage Books: 1964 – This is a condensed Brookings Institution Study that provides a comprehensive analytical account of the nominating conventions from 1832 to 1960. (There is a 1972 update.)
  2. Douglas E. Egerton, Year of Meteors:  Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and the Election that Brought on the Civil War, Bloomsbury Press: 2010– an excellent account of the presidential election of 1860, including Lincoln’s suprise nomination at the Republican Convention and the five “Democratic Party” conventions, which – as southern fire-eaters had planned –  split the Democratic Party, ensured Lincoln’s election, and provided the excuse for succession.
  3. Ralph G. Martin, Ballots & Bandwagons:  The Exciting Events behind Five Major Party Conventions, Rand McNally & Co., 1964 – very interesting accounts of the Republican Conventions of 1900, 1912, and 1920 and the Democratic Conventions of 1932 and 1956.
  4. Steve Neal, Happy Days are Here Again:  The 1932 Democratic Convention, the Emergence of FDR – and How America Was Changed Forever, William Morrow:  2004 – it’s a fascinating story because FDR needed 2/3 – and people including Al Smith, William Randolph Hearst, and Harry Byrd didn’t want him to get it.
  5. Norman Mailer, Miami and The Siege of Chicago, Signet: 1968 – A good first hand account of the 1968 conventions and one of many on the debacle that was the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.
  6. Richard Reeves, Convention, Hardcourt Brace:  1977 – the 1976 Convention, including wrangling for credentials.
  7. Jeff Berman, The Magic Number:  Inside Obama’s Chase for the Presidential Nomination, Ordway House:  2012 – Obama’s chief delegate counter provides a fascinating account of the 2012 race, including a behind the scenes look at the Denver convention.
  8. Stan M. Haynes, The First American Political Conventions:  Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872, McFarland:  2012 – A good overview – political parties were more fluid in the 19th Century, the vast majority of these conventions took place in Baltimore, and watch out for pickpockets.

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