New Book on How Democratic Party Switched Vice-Presidential Nominees in 1972

Joshua M. Glasser has just published “The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign Crisis.” The book is published by Yale U. Press. In July 1972, the Democratic national convention chose Thomas Eagleton for vice-president, and George McGovern for president, and certified the names of the nominees to all 50 states and D.C. The following month, Eagleton resigned from the ticket and the Democratic National Committee met and chose Sargent Shriver as the replacement.

The publication of a book on this topic is a welcome development. New and minor parties, and independent presidential candidates, frequently don’t know who their vice-presidential candidate will be until late in the campaign. This was notably true for John B. Anderson, who declared as an independent in April 24, 1980, yet who didn’t choose his v-p until August 27. Unfortunately, the First Circuit, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court, both ruled recently that there is no constitutional right for a newly-qualifying party, or an independent ticket, to make a late decision on the vice-presidential selection. The failure of some states, and some courts, to give flexibility for vice-presidential substitution is an obvious violation of Equal Protection, and having this book in print will make that point easier to explain. Thanks to PoliticalWire for the news about the book.


  1. Well, I was at that Democratic convention (I have an ebook called “Miami Beach Convention: A 21-Year-Old Looks at the Democrats, 1972” that’s taken from my diary, and I can remember us not thinking very much about it. It was I was on a pay phone to my grandmother near the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood when I saw Howie Samuels, then head of NYC’s Offtrack Betting Corp. (see “Howard J. Samuels” on Wikipedia for more info on this forgotten, but very interesting figure) passed by and announced Eagleton’s selection. From my diary:

    >I was in a phone booth calling Grandma Ethel when Howard Samuels – who I hope will run for governor again – shouted out, “It’s Eagleton!” Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Mo., a rather bland guy, will be McGovern’s running mate.

    >People were annoyed, but McGovern’s people are firmly in control, so Eagleton will probably get through tonight.

    That night, a lot of the delegates were not happy:

    >The vice-presidential balloting was the most entertaining part of the convention. Although of course Eagleton won, votes were cast for Peabody and Gravel, Hodding Carter and Cissy Farenthold, and such lesser political lights as Roger Mudd, Bear Bryant, Lauren Bacall, Father Berrigan, Martha Mitchell, and Jerry Rubin.

    >Mikey [my friend from Brooklyn who was one of the delegates in our congressional district and who was staying with my at my grandmother’s – different grandmother’s — condo] voted, God bless him, for Abe Ribicoff. But the hijinks went on for such a long time, it was incredibly late when McGovern got to give his acceptance speech.

    >The theme was “Come home, America,” and it was great, but I think most people, even on the West Coast, were probably asleep because it ended at 3 a.m., midnight Pacific time.

    >(“But it was prime time in Guam,” Leon said on the drive home.)

    It’s not in my diary and perhaps the book — which I plan to read — explains what happened, but my sense is that what took so long was that a few (maybe 4 or 5) of these other people besides Eagleton were also formally put into nomination at the convention with a nominating speech and seconding speeches.

    In the campaign back in Brooklyn, we got a campaign stop from Eagleton promised on a certain date at the subway (el) station, Kings Highway, in our neighborhood. By the time it took place, Sargent Shriver gave the speech there. (I remember he called said, “It’s great to be here on Kings Road,” and the old man next to me said, “He thinks he’s in London.”)

    Very little thought was given to the VP before the convention. After 1972, it was never the same again.

  2. Reading it over, I’m pretty sure the first four names I mentioned — former Mass. Gov. Endicott “Chub” Peabody, Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel [I met them both a few days before and thought they were both idiots; in the 2008 Arizona Democratic presidential primary, I finished 3 or 4 votes behind Gravel], the crusading Mississippi newspaper editor Hodding Carter (pro-integration back when it was dangerous, his son with the same name served as Jimmy Carter’s adviser and press secretary), and Sissy [I spelled her nickname wrong: her first name was Frances] Farenthold, a Texas state legislator and feminist/peace activist (she’s still alive; her step-grandson, Blake Farenthold, is a conservative Republican Texas Congressman) — were the ones put in nomination alongside Eagleton. The whole process took hours, delaying the nominee’s acceptance speech fatally.

    Conventions back then were fun, because they weren’t pre-scripted and actual spontaneity happened. RIP, spontaneity.

  3. I believe that it was Kermit the Frog who said, “It isn’t easy being Green.” For that matter, at least as far as ballot access is concerned, it isn’t easy being Libertarian, Constitution, Reform, Socialist, or any other “third party” either.

    The Democrats and the Republicans have always followed one set of rules while the rest of us have had to follow another. It isn’t right and it isn’t fair, but we have to put up with it election cycle after election cycle. The thing that gets me the most is that when one of them misses a deadline, the other one never objects. While the Democrats and the Republicans always have each others back, they are always ready to stab the “third parties” in the back.

    In 2004, the Republicans missed the filing deadline to place President Bush and Vice President Cheney on the ballot in Florida. Not a problem at all for the Democrats. The priority for the Kerrey-Edwards ticket was challenging Ralph Nader’s petitions.

    As a Green Party candidate for State Representative, I know that I am not going to win. That’s not my job. My job is to offer the voters of my district a progressive alternative to the status quo and to hold the Democratic candidates feet to the fire on the progressive issues that matter to the voters of District 24. What I do mind is having to play by a competely different set of rules to do so.

  4. One more thing: the absurdity of the votes for some of the celebrities who got votes for Vice President indicates the mood of annoyance with Eagleton (and to some extent, a kind of venting of steam after a convention of a divided party where the nominee’s identity was not entirely certain until the afternoon of the voting for President the day before). That today delegates to a Democratic convention would cast votes for analogous people to the ones I mentioned — say, Diane Sawyer, Urban Meyer, Angelina Jolie, Rick Warren, Michael Moore and Ann Coulter — is impossible to imagine.

    I remember someone in our New York delegation cast his vote for VP for our 1968 Senate candidate Paul O’Dwyer (if I had time, I would tell you about when I found the writer Dorothy Parker’s ashes in O’Dwyer’s law office filing cabinet) but the very Southern party official tallying the votes on the platform with Speaker Albert, the convention chair, misheard the name “Paul O’Dwyer” as “Bear Bryant,” so along with winning the votes of about half the Alabama delegation — who’d been strongly backing their governor, George Wallace, in a wheelchair after the assassination attempt a few months earlier — the Crimson Tide football coach also officially received a vote from a delegate in Manhattan!

    Those were the days.

  5. Gerard, I have it on good authority that you will get the endorsement of the Arizona Americans Elect Party although under state law (no fusion/cross-endorsements), we can’t offer you another ballot line.

  6. Richard, thank you for that information. Although it’s not the same thing as a party endorsement, I want you to know that you have my personal endorsement for your congressional campaign.

    For anyone that doesn’t know Richard Grayson, the man is a national treasure. He has been pointing out that “the emperor has no clothes” for over thirty years now. I hope to some day have people say as much about me.

  7. Richard Winger · · Reply

    I also remember the voting for vice-president at that 1972 Democratic convention. Some delegate voted for Roberto Mondragon, and the woman at the podium who was repeating the vote she had just heard, didn’t hear correctly, and thought the delegation had just cast one vote for Mao Tse-Tung. As I recall, this was very late at night, and everyone was very tired.

  8. Michael · · Reply

    Another person placed in nomination was Clay Smothers, a black Wallace delegate from Texas, who later became a Republican state representative. He got 74 votes, most of them from Texas, New Mexico, and Florida. I’d also heard that McGovern later said if he had to do the convention all over again he would have asked to delay his speech until the next Friday afternoon or evening.

  9. Demo Rep · · Reply

    SCOTUS (and LOTS of know it all MORON lawyers) are brain dead ignorant about —

    Separate is NOT equal — Brown v. Bd of Ed 1954 — applying to PUBLIC candidates in PUBLIC elections
    — and

    — each election is NEW and has ZERO to do with anything since humans existed on Mother Earth.

    Too many New Age MORONS to count – lawyers, judges, media.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V. — before it is too late.

  10. Hi my family member! I want to say that this article is amazing, nice written and come with almost all significant infos. I’d like to see more posts like this .

  11. The most memorable part of the 1972 D convention was the paralyzed Gov. Wallace going to the podium to offer a series of amendments to the party platform. Of course they were all voted down. One must been about “school busing”-does anyone have any idea what the others were?

  12. Michael · · Reply

    11) Some were school prayer, cutting government, and a stronger military. I don’t remember the others.

  13. Michael · · Reply

    11) Here are Governor Wallace’s eight 1972 convention planks. 1) End busing. 2) Tax reform. 3) Return of the death penalty. 4) Cut foreign aid. 5) Popular elections of federal judges. 6) Have the US Senate reconfirm all Supreme Court judges each ten years. 7) Return school prayer. 8) Support the Second Amendment. (Paragraph) All of them were voted down by voice votes.

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