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Reuters photo by Joe Skipper, Republican Convention 08-12

With the field still intact on the Republican side and the closeness of the race on the Democratic, pundits are beginning to wax eloquent as to the possibility of a brokered convention. History has three words: Not So Fast!

The last time the nomination went beyond the first ballot was in 1956, when Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson threw the selection of his running mate open to the delegates. It took two ballots for Senator Estes Kefauver to defeat Senator John Kennedy.

As for the Republicans and the presidential sweepstakes, the last time there was a brokered convention was in 1948. It took Governor Thomas Dewey three ballots to clinch the nod.

The simple fact of the matter is history does not lie. Two-thirds of a century of non-brokered conventions is a reliable guide. True, the 1976 Ford-Reagan contest went down to the wire and a shift of 30 or so votes could have deadlocked the delegates. And the 1968 Democratic affair was so contentious over the Vietnam conflict and abusive police tactics in the host city of Chicago that the chaos on the streets could have spilled over onto the convention floor more than it did. However in both instances that did not occur. The imperative of a unified party heading into the general election prevailed and disparate factions united behind a standard bearer. Hence one ballot contests.

There is a reason we refer to the “weight of history”. It is embedded in our constitutional DNA. Consider the Supreme Court for illustrative purposes. The general rule is that the Court will decide along the lines of prior precedents (the principle known as stare decisis) absent extreme situations calling for reversal of the prior holding.

So bear that in mind the next time there is loose talk about pandemonium on the convention floor. Relax and enjoy your drink. It may be fodder for the pundits, but the new established order will assert itself and if history is a guide, the convention choice will be known before the delegates march into the hall—and well before the first ballot ends.

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