From conventions to candidates to hanging chads, South Florida, and Miami in particular, has a legacy oF influencing presidential elections.
John Wayne’s speech at the opening of the August 1968 Republican National Convention was entitled “Why I Am Proud to Be an American.” Convention organizers had urged the actor to craft something inspirational rather than tired political clichés. Wayne certainly delivered: “I have a feeling that a nation is more than just government, laws, and rules,” he said. “It’s an attitude. It’s the people’s outlook. [I’m] grateful for every day of my life that I wake up in the United States of America.” The applause inside the Miami Beach Convention Center thundered for more than four minutes.
It was a difficult year for America: Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April of 1968 and Senator Robert F. Kennedy that June, resulting in riots and political unrest in more than 100 cities. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had announced he would not seek reelection, did not attend the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Understandably, the public had more to think about than Miami and the GOP. Nevertheless, the one-two Republican punch of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew went on to win the general election that November.
Today, Florida is the third-most-populous state in the nation and pivotal for both political parties, as evidenced by the hanging chad debacle of 2000. This election cycle also brings special notoriety: The Sunshine State boasts two potential 2016 presidential candidates, former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio. While political pundits and voters alike carefully watch Florida during election years, 2016 is sure to attract an outsize amount of attention. Will either make it all the way to the party’s nomination or, potentially, the White House? Only time will tell.
Photography by: photography by State archiveS of florida, florida MeMory