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The 1988 Democratic Convention by Jo Freeman

Atlanta 1988 political buttonDukakis and Bentsen political buttonThe Democrats met at the Omni Center in Atlanta, Georgia July 18-21, where they nominated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas for Vice-President.

Agreeing that unity was necessary to defeat the Republicans, credentials challenges and disagreements over rules were resolved before the convention began. Two minority reports to the platform were debated on the floor, before losing in a roll-call vote.

When primary season began six men were campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

the candidates stand in a group

The New York Democratic Party held a forum for the Democratic presidential candidates in December, 1987. From L to R are Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbit, Illinois Senator Paul Simon, Missouri Representative Dick Gephardt, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tennessee Senator Al Gore.

Dukakis political buttonPaul Simon political buttonGephardt political buttonJesse Jackson political buttonGore political button

After the last primaries were over in June, Dukakis was the undisputed winner with Jackson a strong second. Of the 22.7 million people who had voted in a primary or caucus, 43 percent had voted for Dukakis, 29 percent for Jackson, and 28 percent for all the others put together.

Jackson had run a major campaign for President in 1984 and ran another one in 1988. No one expected him to get the nomination, but the number of people who voted for him made him a national figure and a major voice within the Democratic Party. Coming in a strong second place meant his representatives negotiated the platform with the Dukakis campaign and he got a prime time slot to speak to the convention. While he didn’t endorse Dukakis, he praised the nominee and urged his followers to unite behind the Democratic ticket.

Jesse Jackson speaks to a crowd on the street

Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in Brooklyn, NY, while campaigning in the New York Democratic primary. He received over 37 percent of the April 19 vote statewide. Dukakis got a little over 50 percent. At the convention Dukakis received 194 of New York’s 292 delegate votes. Jackson got 97.

a sea of Dukakis and Bentsen signs

On July 12, Dukakis announced that his running-mate would be Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. Putting a moderate on the ticket was an attempt to offset Dukakis' image as a liberal in order to draw middle-of-the-road voters away from the Republican nominee. The many Democratic Party groups and caucuses which didn’t like Bentsen’s position on their issue (e.g. abortion) bit their collective tongue and said nothing.

The Women’s Caucus
The Jackson Campaign
The Protests
The Convention

Related Article: Women at the 1988 Democratic Convention

The Women’s Caucus

A women’s caucus met every day of the convention to debate the platform and listen to speakers. It was not an official party caucus but put together by an informal coalition of women’s organizations and prominent political women.

A series of women applaud

Gerry Ferraro and Bella Abzug flank a panel of elected and formerly elected women.

Harriet Woods

Missouri Lt. Governor Harriett Woods speaks to the women's caucus.

A large group of women candidates

Women candidates for public office line up before the women's caucus on Tuesday.

None of the men who ran for the Democratic Party nomination for President spoke to the women's caucus. Dukakis and Jackson sent representatives.

Lloyd Bentsen

Lloyd Bentsen addressed the women's caucus on Wednesday.

A series of women applaud

Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke on behalf of the Jackson campaign on Thursday.

Molly Yard

Molly Yard of NOW passes out ERA YES stickers on Wednesday.

Pat Schroeder speaks

Cong. Pat Schroeder (CO) spoke on Thursday. She contemplated a run for President in 1987, but dropped out when she couldn't raise enough money to run a respectable race.

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