National political conventions are held every four years to choose a party’s candidates for President and Vice President (Berman, Russell). Conventions also are held to set platforms that articulate the party’s stance on issues. In the Democratic conventions of 1928 and 1932, a major issue discussed was Prohibition, also known at the Volstead Act, which implemented the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making it illegal to buy, sell, or make alcohol. Prohibition was in place in the U.S. for thirteen years, from 1920 to 1933, until President Franklin D. Roosevelt eventually repealed it. In the debate over Prohibition the expression “wet-dry” alluded to whether a candidate was for or against prohibition. “Wet” meant the candidate wanted alcohol to be legal, while “dry” meant the candidate wanted alcohol to be illegal. This was an ongoing debate that preceded the 1928 convention and lasted through the Democratic convention of 1932.
The Democratic convention of 1928 was held in Houston (“United States History”). Hosting the convention in Texas was a big deal because it was the first time the South had hosted the Democratic convention since the Civil War (“Prohibition Repealed 1920-1933″). Alfred E. Smith was a Democrat from Houston who was an anti-prohibitionist. He was also the first Roman Catholic nominated as a presidential candidate. He wanted to destroy the Volstead Act.
During that convention Alfred E. Smith was a “wet” candidate, who supported the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Smith entered the convention with the majority of the votes. Going into the convention with this stance influenced the Democratic party to also be “wet” because of how trusted Smith was as a politician (“United States History”). Since Smith went into the convention without much competition from other Democrats, his platform was adopted as the Democratic platform for the 1928 election. Therefore, the outcome of the 1928 convention was that the Democratic party would be “wet.”
Despite the efforts of Smith, Herbert Hoover eventually won the presidency. Hoover was a “dry” Republican from Kansas City. Charles Curtis was his Vice President and also was pro prohibition alongside Hoover (“1928 Conventions”). Hoover continued to uphold the 18th amendment during his time as president.
Four years later, the national Democratic convention was held in Chicago (“United States History”). In 1932, the question of whether the candidate representing the party would be “wet” or “dry” was still up for debate. Then-New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, a “wet,” entered the Chicago convention with the majority of the votes (“Franklin D. Roosevelt”). “FDR had been a “dry” candidate, but as he built his campaign for the presidency in 1932, he agreed to become a “wet” in order to receive the Democratic Party nomination. He made a campaign promise to overturn the 18th Amendment and to legalize drinking.
“Wets Pour it On”, an editorial in the Dallas Morning News refers to the Democratic convention that would take place in Chicago in 1932 from June 27 — July 2. When Roosevelt’s campaign manager realized that his candidate could not win the presidential nomination without the votes that John Garner, a politician and lawyer from Texas had been promised, he arranged a meeting with Garner’s campaign manager to see if Garner would consider running as Vice President with Roosevelt (“John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President.”) However, the two men took different stances on the issue of prohibition at the beginning, and that played a big role in the 1932 convention.
It wouldn’t make sense for Democrats to be “wet” when such an influential person as John Garner was “dry.” The editorial criticized the two men’s differing political stances to the wet-dry question. Preferring to be part of the ticket, Garner decided to team up with Roosevelt in the middle of the convention. After changing his position on the issue, Garner was then nominated to run for Vice President for the Democratic party. Roosevelt and Garner both ran “wets.” Franklin Roosevelt eventually won the Democratic nomination for President and presidency alongside Texan and current Speaker of the House, John Garner as Vice President and called for prohibition’s repeal (1932 Conventions). He did exactly what he promised to do. The results for personal liberty and the economy were immediate. FDR certainly gained an “ally” at Budweiser (“The Real Reason for FDR’s Popularity”).
John Knott’s cartoon is essentially a flashback to the same issues of prohibition that were still being debated in 1928 and 1932. The comic portrays a man looking at the sky during the previous convention in Houston saying, “It might blow over.” He is referring to the political storm over the “wet-dry” platforms of each candidate. The umbrella he is holding in his hand reads, “referendum.” It refers to the popular vote by the electorate to go “wet” or “dry”. The cartoon by John Knott, “Weather Forecast for Houston: Cloudy, Probably Shower” in the Dallas Morning News refers to the Democratic convention held in Houston in 1928. The cartoon retrospectively depicts the outcome of the Democratic Party’s stance in 1928 before their national convention in 1932 where they were still discussing what their party’s stance would be on prohibition. The accompanying editorial, “The Wets Pour It On” also from the Dallas Morning News, foreshadows the upcoming convention in 1932 based upon the outcome of the 1928 convention. In the 1932 Democratic convention the two candidates that ran together, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Garner originally ran with different stances on prohibition. This is what sparked the editorial being published.
Knott’s cartoon is a depiction of the “wet-dry” question that Democratic politicians were grappling with during their party’s presidential conventions of 1928 and 1932. This cartoon was published right before the latter convention to remind people that the “wet-dry” problem would be discussed again in the upcoming gathering in Chicago. This was significant because the Democratic party might change their stance on being “wet” or “dry” depending on who they nominated. Knott’s cartoon alludes to the “wet-dry” storm that would hopefully “blow over” at the 1928 Houston convention. Knott was poking fun at the fact that America was still not in agreement about the law against alcohol. The whole controversy ended up “blowing over” in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act which amended the Volstead Act.
Berman, Russell. “What Actually Happens at the U.S. Presidential Conventions?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 July 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/a-laymans-guide-to-the-republican-and-democratic-national-conventions/489560/.
“Franklin D. Roosevelt: Campaign Address on Prohibition in Sea Girt, New Jersey – August 27, 1932.” The American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=88395.
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“THE PROHIBITION QUESTION.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Jul 15, 1928, pp. 1, ProQuest, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/162149171?accountid=7118.
“The Real Reason for FDR’s Popularity | Mark Thornton.” Mises Institute, 19 Oct. 2010, mises.org/library/real-reason-fdrs-popularity.
“United States History.” Election of 1928: High water mark for Republicans, www.u-s-history.com/pages/h893.html.
“Wets Pour It On” Dallas Morning News, 24 May. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.
“1928 Conventions.” National Party Conventions 1831-2008, CQ Press, 2010, pp. 111-113. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2145700035/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=df1e0435. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.
“1932 Conventions.” National Party Conventions 1831-2008, CQ Press, 2010, pp. 113-116. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2145700036/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=fb7dca73. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.