Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

A Look Back at Conventions of Yesteryear

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Image credit: Mallory Benedict, PBS NewsHour/Flickr

Reporters talk about the smoke-filled rooms of previous conventions.

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GOP Convention, Flickr
GOP Convention, Flickr

The Dump Trump campaign is over as organizers failed to gain significant momentum at the Republican Convention. It appears there won’t be smoke-filled-room deals this week with the nomination process, but the convention certainly could be memorable. But is this the most exciting or strange convention in the modern era?

Former Detroit Free Press reporter Patricia Montemurri and former WDET news director Chuck Wilbur join Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson to talk about conventions from yesteryear.

Montemurri recalls the sense of confusion during both the Democratic and Republican conventions of 1988. The Republicans, she says, didn’t know who their vice president would be, and the Democrats were uncertain of the role delegates and super-delegates would play.

She says this year’s Republican convention is relatively tame in comparison. Wilbur agrees.

I think there’s an attempt being made to kind of normalize Donald Trump this week, by the people handling him and handling the convention,” says Wilbur.

The real story of the convention may be what’s not happening at the convention,” he adds, referring to the absence of “typical” attendees, from former presidents to senators.

The fun of watching the conventions, says Montemurri, has been seeing whose speech would “catch fire.” She says it isn’t always the presidential nominee that steals the show, but still looks forward to hearing what Donald Trump has to say.

He’s very comfortable in the spotlight,” says Montemurri. “He’ll have an audience like he’s never had before. Anything is possible.”

Wilbur also referenced a memorable moment in conventions past. In 1964 NBC reporter John Chancellor was swept away while reporting from the convention floor. ”This is John Chancellor, somewhere in custody,” said Chancellor. You can see that moment in this life and career retrospective at the 1:50 mark in the video below.

To hear more about conventions past and present, click on the audio link above.


Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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