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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Intriguing and profound aspects of elections requiring an absolute majority.

Before John Fitzgerald Kennedy ran for President he ran for Vice President and his father was furious. The year was 1956 and Adlai Stevenson was the again the Democratic Nominee for President.  In 1952 Stevenson ran with John Sparkman of Alabama as his running mate but lost to the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket. In 1956 instead of picking a Vice President, Stevenson in a surprise move  opened  the vice presidential nomination  to the convention.

Kennedy wanted that nomination but father Joe who could sniff the wind as well anyone knew that Stevenson would  lose to Eisenhower and Kennedy's Catholicism  would be blamed. Just  like Al Smith in 1928. There were however many reasons why Smith lost in 1928. He was a "wet" when prohibition was still popular. Smith also was an old style  politician with ties to Tammany Hall. Last but not least in 1928 the country was still prosperous. The crash of  29 was a year away. Regardless Al Smith's religion was always the first factor cited in his defeat. Joe was afraid the same thing would happen to son Jack.
The Nomination for Vice President went three ballots. Deals were made in hotel suites and on the convention floor. State Delegations switched their votes and forgot about favorite sons. On the second ballot Kennedy came with in 15 votes of the required number for victory. On the third vote the momentum shifted to winner Estes Kefauver.
 In the 56 years since neither a Democratic or Republican convention has had more than one ballot. There is a reason for this. Kennedy knew the old guard in the Democratic Party weren't going to  nominate him.In 1960 he hit the primary trail to prove his support. He beat Minnesota  Senator  Hubert Humphrey in Wisconsin and later in West Virginia where he addressed the religious issue. Ever since candidates have  used an expanded primary process to come to the convention with enough delegates to win. Gone are 100 ballot elections that were decided in smoke filled rooms. The last of those was before Roosevelt, (Television, and air conditioning. Somewhere in 1920's would be a good guess.
The Ballots after every Vatican Papal election are burned. Black
smoke means no decision. White smoke means a new Pope.

The same political process working the 1956 Democratic National Convention works for the Vatican and the selection of a Pope by the College  of Cardinals. In fact their saying "He who enters the Conclave a Pope comes out a Cardinal " is a favorite of politicians everywhere.

Angelo Roncalli was the fourth child of 13 born into an Italian Village of sharecroppers. His election as Pope in the fall of 1958 surprised everyone.  He was  a so-called "stop gap " Pope, a compromise whose best attribute was his age. Meaning he wouldn't live very long and probably wouldn't do any harm.He lived almost five years but his vigor and energy changed the face of Roman Catholicism. Today many consider Pope John XXIII to be the greatest Pope's of the Twentieth Century.

Crowd in St Peter's Square awaiting the 
smoke then cheering the outcome

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