A Mix of Motives

The Georgia Delegate Challenge to the 1968 Democratic Convention and the Dynamics of Intraparty Conflict

  • Sam Rosenfeld Colgate University
  • Nancy Schwartz Wesleyan University


Scholarly debates over the nature of political parties and the identity of their principal actors have been hampered by relative inattention to the historical processes of internal party change. This study, drawing on archival sources, interviews, and one of the co-author’s personal experiences, analyzes the Georgia delegate challenge to the 1968 Democratic Convention as a case of internal party conflict generating lasting institutional reform, with implications for existing theories of party development, nominating politics, and democratic representation. In a convention marked by an unusually large number of challenges to state party delegations, the Georgia delegate challenge was unique. There, a conflict between the segregationist regulars and the moderate and liberal Democrats was complicated by an internal division in the latter camp between Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy supporters. The McCarthy forces’ success in garnering a dominant position within the challenge delegation alienated many of the Georgia movement’s organizers and leaders. The McCarthy campaign's takeover also linked this southern challenge both to the antiwar politics coloring the national nomination fight and to a particular conception of representation that would influence subsequent party reform efforts. In tracing the origins, dynamics, and aftermath of Georgia’s delegate challenge, we show both that group- and candidate-driven efforts together shape party development over time, and that normative ideas concerning representation can play causal roles in party development.


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