In August 1976, the Republican National Convention took place at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. This contested convention resulted in Gerald Ford’s narrow victory over Ronald Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination. GOP Host Committee members—a group of local Republican leaders responsible for bringing the convention to Kansas City—wore this hat during the convention. The event became an opportunity for local and state leaders to showcase Kansas City and Missouri to the rest of the nation. Delegates, journalists, and convention visitors toured the city’s landmarks such as the Harry S. Truman Library and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Meanwhile, politicians and celebrities attended lavish private parties in the Mission Hills district held by the city’s elite. The cowboy hats are emblematic of Kansas City’s duality as a world-class city with a small-town feel. The hats also demonstrate the RNC’s attempt to appeal to Kansas City’s “cowtown” nature to draw in both urban and rural voters during one of the country’s most uncertain presidential elections.
Throughout its history, the Show Me State has hosted eight National Conventions (five Democratic and three Republican), reflecting Missouri’s role in national politics. Often referred to as a “bellwether state,” Missouri represents a microcosm of the US with large blue urban cities on the “coasts,” and a red rural interior. From 1904 to 2004, Missouri voted for the winner of every presidential election except 1956. As such, the state became a must-win by both political parties, pressuring candidates to campaign heavily in Missouri. The state’s bellwether status began to wane after 2008 after narrowly electing John McCain by a .13%. Although McCain lost the election, the campaign signified Missouri’s shift to becoming a red state. Since then, Missouri has voted for Republican candidates by enormous margins, effectively turning the state into a conservative stronghold.
Categories: Politics & Government
Subject: Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo.; Republican National Convention -- 1976; Republican Party
Contributing Institution: Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections
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Region: Kansas City Metro