1972 Political Conventions in Miami Beach
In the summer of 1972, Miami Beach hosted the Democratic and Republican national conventions, the last time one city hosted both conventions. For a few days, as the Democrats met in July and the Republicans in August, the Miami Beach Convention Center became the center of American politics. The national political scene was turbulent. The nation was torn by the war in Vietnam. The 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago had shocked the nation with its violence.
Four years later, Republican President Richard Nixon was running for reelection and Democratic opponent George McGovern was campaigning on a platform of withdrawal from the decades-long conflict in Vietnam. Wide-scale protests were predicted, hippies pitched tents in Flamingo Park and Miami Beach’s tiny police force, led by Chief Rocky Pomerance, was reinforced with Secret Service agents.
The Democrats brought a lot of celebrity firepower with them to Florida, with Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Henry Fonda making appearances. Although the mood outside the convention center remained relatively peaceful, the party suffered from internal turmoil that led to McGovern’s acceptance speech being delayed until almost 3 a.m.
The Republican convention faced the opposite situation. Inside the convention center, the nominating process ran smoothly. Nixon was a slam-dunk as the nominee, with Spiro Agnew his new running mate. Other politicians on the rise, such as Ronald Reagan, played strong roles in the convention. But outside, in the steamy August heat, protestors erupted, shutting down traffic, tear gas was deployed and police began arresting people. Yippie party leader Abbie Hoffman roamed the streets of Miami Beach, Jane Fonda spoke against the war and protesters staged sit-ins.