Blunder Road

Democrats have made many mistakes over the years, as this slide show by Joe Horton makes clear.

In fact, they've made too many to include in a single slide show. So here, a couple of honorable mentions:

Honorable Mention: Worst Presidential Candidate

With due respect to the Democrats of the 1920s, Walter Mondale’s 1984 showing and George McGovern’s campaign that was two years too early for Watergate, the worst Democratic candidate in history was New York publisher Horace Greeley, endorsed in 1872 by the liberal Republican and Democratic parties to face Ulysses S. Grant.

Greeley (namesake of Greeley, Colorado) variously supported Lincoln, decried slavery, supported the Emancipation Proclamation, opposed Lincoln, said Southern states had the right to secede but should be forcefully brought back into the fold, signed the bond to free Confederate President Jefferson Davis from prison, supported Grant, joined all wings of the Republican Party, fought Grant’s re-election bid and denounced the Democratic Party that would then endorse him. His wife, Mary, believed that her son was a conduit to the afterlife and would ask him to contact the dead. After he died, she fell ill and soon died herself. AFter that, Greeley went mad. He died before his electoral votes could be counted.

Honorable Mention: Worst Convention Ever

Hindsight is 20-20, but back in 1924, Democrats should probably have been able to see early on that a president who drew his support in no small part from the Klu Klux Klan was no fine choice. William McAdoo, future senator and former Secretary of the Treasury, found sizeable support from the Klan and the dry supporters of Prohibition. His nomination fight at the convention produced the infamous 103-ballot deadlock debacle with New York governor Al Smith, who was not supported by the Klan and was favored by people who liked to drink. Brawls broke out on the floor; the governors of Colorado and Kentucky fought with radicals trying to steal the state’s banners. After sixteen days, the Democrats, not wanting to alienate the Klan, et al., broke the deadlock by selecting neither candidate and nominating John W. Davis, a congressman from West Virginia. Fortunately, the Democrats didn’t need to live with any decision for very long, as GOP incumbent Calvin Coolidge mauled Davis by the second-largest popular vote percentage margin ever. -- Joe Horton

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun