4 Memorable Fiascos from Past Democratic Conventions

The socially distanced Democratic National Convention is sure to give us some high-tech bloopers. <<I’m sorry Governor Cuomo, you’re going to need to take yourself off mute.>> But without live delegates, in a physical stadium, with actual balloons and streamers, and politicians trying to project the best (if not most authentic) versions of themselves, Democrats will be missing something, namely a chance to broadcast cringeworthy flubs, mishaps, and miscalculations to millions across the country.

Here four moments from past DNC conventions that went sideways, and live on in infamy (or at least hilarity):

When Democrats Booed Carter

Nothing like bringing out the boo birds at your own convention. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter was going up against Ronald Reagan who promised a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Carter, eager to project his own strength on a national stage, began a simple recitation of the actions he’d taken after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. But number two on his list — calling for draft registration — did not hit right with Democratic delegates, in an America still reeling from its bloody and senseless misadventure in Vietnam. The leader of the Democratic party got an earful from those who ought to have been his heartiest backers:

The Clinton Macarena

Long before online memes and TikTok teens performing the Renegade, there was the Macarena, the Latin dance sensation that went viral the old fashioned way — awkwardly, at weddings, and birthday parties, and family reunions. To the pain of modern eyeballs, the Macarena infected the 1996 convention in Chicago, where then first-lady Hillary Clinton clapped off the beat, as convention delegates swung their hips and flailed their arms, giving alegría to the cuerpo of absolutely nadie.

The Gore Kiss

Running in 2000, Al Gore had relatability problems. The Tennessee technocrat had a reputation for being a stiff, wooden politician with little of George W. Bush’s common touch. At the convention in Los Angeles, Gore’s advisers had plainly advised him to go out and show a little passion, a little simmer with wife Tipper, who was then known as America’s scold, a crusader against the coarseness of popular music. But as an awkward technocrat, Gore tended to over-correct when given this kind of stage direction. Instead of a spontaneous-seeming display of marital bliss, what ensued was “the kiss” (followed by an equally lamentable bear hug).

The Balloon Drop that Wasn’t

Conventions are all about the pomp and circumstance, and the culmination of the week-long party is the balloon-and-confetti drop to mark the official nomination of the party’s candidate for president. But at the 2004 convention at the Boston Garden, the most of the balloons somehow got stuck up in the rafters. It’s not that balloons didn’t drop. They just didn’t create the spectacle planners were hoping for. This is the kind of small anticlimax that most viewers at home would never notice. But CNN somehow had the fortune to be plugged into the profane backstage feed of the convention director progressively losing his shit as the red-white-and-blue balloons he so anticipated showering John Kerry and John Edwards failed to fall from the ceiling, finally screaming, “WTF are you guys doing up there.”


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