Labor Day every four years used to be the official kickoff of the presidential campaign.
Even as late as 1968, I can remember walking up the center of New York’s Fifth Avenue with then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the annual parade celebrating the nation’s working men and women as he began his two-month effort to keep the White House under Democrat control.
He darn near did, too, despite entering the fray miles behind the Republican, Richard Nixon.
The starting date doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything going on in advance of that. But the official date was tied to the national political conventions, now mere pep rallies to certify the results of primaries. Humphrey entered no primaries and became his beleaguered party’s choice only after the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy that June.
The party out of power always holds its convention first, and there usually are a couple of weeks when that nominee isn’t doing much campaigning, waiting for the incumbent’s party to put the official stamp on his nomination.
All this used to come before Labor Day. This year, the Democrats met in Charlotte, N.C., after the traditional end of summer. But the stumping has been going on for months, degenerating into negative railing from both camps at levels of historic proportions.