Here’s what happened.
Every four years, U.S. citizens go to their local polling places in November to elect their president and vice-president. But before they do, major and minor political parties hold quadrennial summer events known as national conventions to select their candidates for those offices.
On July 18, 1988, the U.S. Democratic Party opened its National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, at The Omni. It was the first time a national political convention was held in the city. The Democrats would go on to nominate Massachusetts Governor Michael Stanley Dukakis and Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr., U.S. Senator (Texas), as their candidates.
Here’s why it mattered then.
The growing importance of states from the Old Confederacy in affecting national elections was reflected in the cities selected by the USA’s two major political parties to host their national conventions in 1988. In August, the Republican Party held its National Convention in New Orleans. Incumbent Vice-President George H.W. Bush and J. Danforth “Dan” Quayle, U.S. Senator (Indiana), were nominated.
The Democratic Convention featured several speakers who had been their party’s nominee for president in the past: George McGovern (1972), Walter Mondale (1984), and Jimmy Carter (1980). Each man had lost to his Republican counterpart, although Carter was elected president in 1976.
Here’s why it matters now.
Democrats coined two legendary quotes during the 1988 Campaign. Texas State Treasurer (and later Governor) Ann Richards humorously suggested that Bush could not empathize with middle-class Americans because, through his connections to a wealthy and politically powerful family, he had been “born with a silver foot in his mouth.” During the Vice-Presidential debates. Quayle’s attempt to downplay his youth by identifying with the vigor of another national candidate was dismissed by Bentsen with the stern words, “. . . Senator—you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Arkansas Governor William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton’s nomination of Dukakis is remembered for being the convention’s worst speech. But he returned in 1992 to accept his party’s nomination. Clinton’s presidency (1993-2001) linked George H.W. Bush’s term to that of his son, George W. Bush.
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Jesse Jackson placed second in the 1988 field of democratic candidates. The number of convention delegates pledged to him was so large that they mounted a serious challenge to Bentsen’s nomination. Twenty years later, another African-American from Illinois would actually be elected president, after beating another Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
U.S. Senator (Tennessee) Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr., placed third in the 1988 campaign. In 2000, after two terms as vice-president under Bill Clinton, Gore lost an election against George W. Bush that was so hotly contested that it had to be resolved through a controversial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign in Texas was managed by James Richard “Rick” Perry. Perry later switched his political affiliation to Republican and was elected lieutenant governor in 1998. He became governor in 2000, after George W. Bush resigned to become president.