Talk Elections

Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion => Election What-ifs? => Topic started by: Cath on February 17, 2019, 09:43:04 PM

Title: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on February 17, 2019, 09:43:04 PM
The Age of Extremes

Chapter 1: Ten Days That Shook the World

The Bolshevik coup in Russia was supposed to be only the start. Russia had entered the Great War the most conservative of the Great Powers of Europe. It left underneath a revolutionary government determined to turn the world upside down. The Bolshevik foreign policy—to drop all the international commitments of their predecessors in favor of worldwide revolution—was to have a substantial impact throughout the industrialized world.

1918 was to be the year the war ended. Surrender. Victory. Armistice. Instead, all the powers of the civilized world found themselves struck by an epidemic of protest, labor unrest, and political violence. Even as the world was made safe for democracy, it was as though liberalism's promises had been thoroughly shattered by five years of mechanized warfare. Instead of a "peace dividend", what Europe encountered was the rise of political extremism not seen since the days of the Jacobins. Ironically, mainstream socialist parties were the first to fall. Across the entire continent, social democratic parties had acquiesced to the calls of king and country, marching in lockstep with their liberal and conservative counterparts into war.

After Russia, Germany was the first to go. The economy in shreds, the empire dismembered, and the state's coercive capacity smashed, there was little to stop the far-left Spartacist League from gaining control. They were immediately recognized by Moscow, which was glad to find a friendly face among the capitalist powers of the West. In any other time period, a revolt of such magnitude--far greater, for example, than the Paris Commune that Germany itself had smashed in 1871--would have invited foreign invasion from every corner. Instead, the Spartacists' enemies exhibited only exhaustion. Great Britain alone appeared to still have the energy for foreign misadventures, but even the globe-spanning empire was unwilling to again place British boots on German soil. All in all, the primary political beneficiaries Europe and the United States were Bolshevik-supporting radical socialist outfits and reactionary conservatives. In the midst of what was shaping to perhaps be a global battle for civilization, liberalism's emphasis on the free market and individual rights appeared less and less important by the day.

The United States was no exception. President Wilson didn't have much time to mourn his abortive League of Nations--the organization had, in the end, become a club of impotent anti-socialists more concerned with tamping down on domestic threats than crafting another Holy Alliance--as he was met with economic stagnation, strikes, anarchist bombings, and the rise of vigilante groups. Democratic losses in the mid-terms meanwhile deteriorated the President's domestic support. The lat two years of his term thus saw the White House shift focus. While Wilson's first term had seen great strides in domestic policy, and 1917 and 1918 saw him shift to foreign policy, the president spent his final years in office fixated on stopping the spread of international socialism. Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer led the charge at home, trampling civil liberties in order to combat anarchist violence. Internationally, the White House collaborated with Great Britain and the Whites in the ultimately failed Operation Polar Bear. Even as the Bolsheviks lost a war to their west with the newly independent Poland, they managed to secure--for a time--Russia's immense far east.

While for Wilson being the man of law and order was an uncomfortable fit, for Teddy Roosevelt, it seemed a role he was born to play. The former president had waited years for the opportunity to return to the White House. Roosevelt had twice been thwarted at such a project. But this chaotic new world, born out of German artillery blasts, seemed his for the taking. The former president had already raised his profile immensely campaigning for the Republicans in the 1918 elections. The wounds of the past had healed. Taft was long out of the picture by 1920. America needed a strongman.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Riot like its 1776! on February 17, 2019, 09:53:28 PM

(Seriously though I’m stoked!)

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: YPestis25 on February 17, 2019, 09:56:45 PM
Will be following closely!

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Elcaspar on February 18, 2019, 12:00:00 AM
Looks cool, i am looking forward to more of this!

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on February 18, 2019, 08:21:13 AM
Thanks guys. My apologies for the garbage prose—the overall goal of the first few posts will be to get us to the 1920s—with the 1930s as our main area of interest. While I plan to bring world history into this substantially more than in my previous timelines, the focus will still be primarily in the United States.

Credit to Eric Hobsbawm for the title.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on February 18, 2019, 10:22:31 PM
The transformation in scope, focus, and—very much—type of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency was not enough to dampen his spirits. An incorrigible fight, Wilson resolved that the only way to repair and cement his legacy—to complete work he had begun at home and revive work he had done abroad—was to secure a third term. The Virginia native ignored the behests of his advisers, wife, and Vice President in doing so. Wilson was not alone in seeking the Democratic nomination, however, and one-term Governor of New York Al Smith posed a surprisingly energetic challenge to the incumbent President. Smith’s surrogates managed to secure the support immigrants, urban machines, and “wets”, and several delegations from the Northeast and Midwest arrived in San Francisco pledged to the newly-minted national politician. The President, however, retained the loyalty of Southern and Southwestern delegations, and carried with him as well a substantial vote for “continued reform” from many state parties. It appeared Wilson was not his only believer.

1920 would find itself a battle of two presidents, as Theodore Roosevelt fought his way to the Republican nomination. His was a nomination far more contested than Wilson’s. While there were some isolationists within the Democratic fold—notably Burton Wheeler—the Republican urge to “return to normalcy” was far stronger. Moreover, the “Bull Moose” faced assaults on both his right and left, as progressive Bob La Follette had cultivated substantial support in the Midwest while the Eastern establishment groped for any candidate to stem what some bemoaned as the “red tide” within its own ranks. The former president nevertheless secured support in a number of key industrial states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania heading into the convention. It was not, however, geography or backroom deals that saved Roosevelt’s nomination, but the crowds gathered outside. Roosevelt would later remark he had successfully made the GOP “the working man’s party”, as mobs organized by more conservative unions rallied at the entrances of the Coliseum in downtown Chicago.

Accepting his third presidential nomination, Roosevelt promised a return to domestic stability through “a square deal and fair courts”. Abroad, he promised to “beat back the tide of Bolshevism that promises to stain Europe red yet again. Imperialism, socialism, and all other forms of domination must be swept aside, and it is our call as Republicans to do it, just as sixty years ago we did for slavery.” Despite the groans from La Follette, Hiram Johnson, and several other party veterans, the convention met him with thunderous applause. In order to appease conservatives and emphasize the Republican commitment to rule of law, Governor of Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge, who had only last year faced down a Boston police strike, was selected for Vice President.

After the convention, La Follette met with a number of his supporters from the delegations of states like Minnesota and Nebraska. While “TR” might have been a cowboy in the Dakota territory, it was the Wisconsin senator who had learned how to secure these people’s support. “Something’s got to be done. If the Democrats renominate Wilson, I’m afraid this country will have for it only the choices of war and more war.” In early July, the plan was afoot.

The Socialists, for what it was worth, nominated their stalwart, Eugene Debs, from a prison cell. The Socialists had taken a legal beating the past four years. Yet, their message seemed more relevant than ever. Unlike their mainstream comrades in Europe, the SPUSA had opposed any U.S. involvement in the war. The bodybags that had streamed back home and the chaos that engulfed the other side of the Atlantic were ever a reminder of the dangers of combat.

Despite the candidacies of Debs and several other minor party nominees, 1920, like 1912, proved to be a showdown between Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—with, as before, a less-than-minor third man. Meeting in Minneapolis in August, an emergency convention nominated a “People’s” ticket of Robert La Follette and George Norris. Though the two nominees were both former Republicans, there had been substantial participation from a variety of minor defectors from the Democratic party, and a favorable speech by Montana’s Burton Wheeler. Despite the La Follette candidacy, which found support primarily in the West and Midwest, the battle would take place primarily in the Northeast and industrial belt, where varied economies and diverse populations allowed for substantial room for battle between the two major party nominees. Though in 1912 the then-New Jersey Governor had been an energetic speaker, by 1920 the President was tired. He attempted to embrace once more the campaign trail lifestyle he had employed as recently as 1918. However, a debilitating stroke in early October—hidden from the press, luckily—kept him off of the campaign trail during the crucial last month of the election. Meanwhile, few men could match a Teddy Roosevelt candidacy that had both major party backing and an incumbent to oppose.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt (Republican-New York)/Governor John Calvin Coolidge (Republican-Massachusetts) 302 electoral votes, 41.3% of the popular vote
President Woodrow Wilson (Democrat-New Jersey)/Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Democrat-New York) 164 electoral votes, 33.3% of the popular vote
Senator Robert Marion La Follette Sr. (People's Progressive-Wisconsin)/Senator George William Norris (People's Progressive-Nebraska) 65 electoral votes, 19.7% of the popular vote
Mr. Eugene V. Debs (Socialist-Indiana)/Mr. Seymour Steadman (Socialist-Illinois) 0 electoral votes, 4.2% of the popular vote
Others: 1.5% of the popular vote

Ultimately, it would be "middle America"--in the literal sense of a portion of the country wedged between the Northeast, South, and West--that brought the election home for Roosevelt. Later sociologists and political scientists would attribute his success in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and so on to a combination of small farmers, upper-level industrial laborers, and professionals. While each of these groups had Republicanism somewhere in their past, they were each brought together in a narrow and divisive election to give the party one more victory. Comparativists in political science and sociology would later note the importance of similar coalitions in the rise of fascism.

Up Next: The White Terror

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Riot like its 1776! on February 19, 2019, 08:20:20 PM
I dig the use of orange for the Democratic Party.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on February 20, 2019, 04:22:57 PM

As it implies on the tin, I'll need the color red free for a political force that finds the color far more appropriate.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: YPestis25 on February 22, 2019, 08:25:56 PM
Ooh white terror? I wonder if that mean the Palmer Raids 2.0 or something more sinister?

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on March 02, 2019, 04:13:14 PM
Chapter Two: The White Terror

Theodore Roosevelt's legacy as chief executive would be one of the more controversial. While some in office could be regarded as universally positive or universally negative, and many others were simply forgotten, Roosevelt's tenures as President would be both consequential and difficult to assess. Some historians would point to an early, "progressive" Roosevelt, the peak of which was in 1912, and attribute a perceived turn to the right in the 1910s as a product of the First World War and the rise of violent leftist movements. Others would attempt to fit  his entire ideology into a comprehensive framework that was based in a combination of nationalism, patriotism, environmentalism, statism, and a sense of "fair play". Even within those historians who saw him within a single paradigm, there was debate as to whether or not he constituted a radical or reactionary. Intellectuals would struggle to come to a consensus as to whether or not he constituted a forerunner of American fascism, or the country's greatest bulwark against it.


Nevertheless, whether as a matter of context or conversion, Roosevelt's second time occupying the White House would have a far more conservative emphasis, as trust busting gave way to using the state far more nakedly as an instrument of social control. While Socialist parties and labor organizers had chafed under the latter day policies of the Wilson era, they hardly compared to the "Rooseveltian terror". The two major policies that began this were, first, a "campaign finance" act that in reality constituted the outright banning of any foreign (Bolshevik) contributions to political campaigns, parties, or causes; and, second, the strengthening of laws against "insurrectionary" movements such as those that even claimed vague allegiance with revolutionaries.

As such, even as the increased militancy of both sides of the labor-capital dispute resulted in the radicalization of industrial laborers, they found fewer and fewer legitimate outfits to express their concerns. As such, contemporary progressives, such as Robert La Follette, who opposed Roosevelt's policies on the grounds of civil liberties, Democratic liberals, and outright Marxists found themselves in common cause. The Socialist Party was essentially knee-capped by the jailing of numerous members of its leadership who were convicted based on statements "indicating intention to overthrow the United States government" and the watchful eyes of police officers at their demonstrations. This resulted in the creation in 1922 of the ostensibly patriotic "American Farmer Labor" party. While many on the American left voiced support for their right to exist, the only mainstream legislator who joined at the time of their creation was La Follette, who was believed to be preparing a 1924 run for President.

While Roosevelt's social policies--including the 1922 Immigration and Nationalization Act--were doubtlessly conservative, it was in economic policy that the president forged a mixed legacy. His first presidency had been marked by populism and calls to contain corporate power. In his second presidency, he built on this initial program, successfully passing legislation creating a limited form of worker's compensation and social security. Proponents of the "conservative" school of thought point to the 1922 Labor and Bargaining Act as not a liberal proposal, but rather an effort to forge greater social cohesion and increase productivity by tamping down on strike activity. The Act created a federal arbitration system that essentially formalized the personal bargaining Roosevelt had undertaken in the 1900s between coal miners and mine owners. Some even tie the president to European anti-capitalist conservative "corporatists" who advocated for an integral state. Nevertheless, more conventional scholars painted him as a twentieth century Bismarck or D'Israeli who attempted to make capitalism more durable and less prone to upheaval.

Because of Roosevelt's repression of labor activism and desire to constrain (if not outlaw) "foreign influence", many had begun to refer to his presidency as a "White Terror", comparable to instances of mass slaughter by the Whites in Russia's freshly-wrapped up civil war. Nevertheless, the phrase came to have a far more ominous meaning for black and Jewish Americans.

The Second Klan, as it came to be called, was founded in 1915 at Stone Mountain in Georgia. President Woodrow Wilson has been seen by some as tacitly encouraging it--he, after all, voiced support for D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation. The organization was white supremacist, Christian nationalist, anti-socialist, and its rhetoric displayed a distrust of large, particularly international, corporations. As the Klan gained membership after the First World War, it spread into the Midwest, and even infiltrated the heights of Indiana politics.

Some class analyses of the Klan pointed to its popularity among petty bourgeois whites, particularly those that were freshly middle class. The organization, despite it being an extra-party entity (in Northern states the Klan found greater popularity among Republicans than Democrats), in that regard came to be compared to far right fascist groups in Europe. It nevertheless found its appeal in the post-war anomie that seemed to paint a picture of society torn asunder. To those who joined, the Klan thus represented an attempt to impose order--racial, sexual, national--on a chaotic nation.

While President Roosevelt was opposed to the Klan as it increased its "activism"--including terrorist acts, lynchings, and the like--local and state law enforcement throughout the South was complicit or even supportive of the group. The President mobilized the relatively new Federal Bureau of Investigation against both left-wing radicals and the Klan, creating what constituted a three-sided conflict in the South. The "White Terror", having thus acquired racial overtones as well, spurred the creation of a new Underground Railroad to ferry black families north, west, or even out of the country. The Klan's infiltration of many state Democratic parties, meanwhile, would have a profound effect on even national elections.

As with domestic policy, foreign affairs was dominated by the apparent necessity to contain and, if possible, eliminate left-wing radicals. While the President was careful to maintain national sovereignty and interventions in the 1920s were primarily limited to the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt and his colleagues in Europe acted to strengthen the breakaway governments from the shattered Russian Empire--the Baltics, Poland, and Romania, the latter of which had absorbed Moldavia. It was too late to save independent governments in the Caucasus, and Central Asia was on no one's agenda. Aid came in the form of diplomatic recognition, training, and weapon sales and donations. While Roosevelt did not commit American troops, Great Britain stationed soldiers in the independent post-colonial nations for the purpose of deterring any Bolshevik expansionism akin to their war against Poland. The effort to identify and destroy a purported multi-national network of communists, socialists, and anarchists as well led to some of the first information-sharing mechanisms between governments on matters of law enforcement and intelligence.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on March 09, 2019, 11:46:15 PM
The 1922 mid-term elections were in many ways a vindication of Roosevelt's policies. Despite an increase in the political activity of labor unions, actual labor unrest was stifled by the combination of carrots and sticks the president had employed upon inauguration. La Follette's American Farmer Labor Party did make gains in the rural Midwest--where the old populist and progressive spirits had been strongest--and had a strong showing in the New York City region. Nevertheless, Republicans captured key Senate and House seats throughout the Northeast, Upper South, and industrial Midwest.

As such, Roosevelt entered 1923 in what appeared to be a very firm position. Strong controls had been placed on both capital and labor, meant to ensure the continued employment of both in furthering the nation's economy and productivity. Whereas radicals had stalled factories and assembly lines in the late 1910s, they now remained contained--safely, it was hoped--in explicitly political and democratic spaces. Meanwhile, Eugene Debs was still behind bars.

Nevertheless, in the president's mind, the nation was still in need of bold and attentive stewardship. Roosevelt, who had always been energetic and hard-working, set what seemed like new records as chief executive, much to the consternation of his family--and his doctors. On February 3rd, 1923, the president collapsed at his desk from breathing problems. Vice President Coolidge, who spent much of his time as president of the Senate in Vermont, was notified via telegram and made his way back to DC, arriving on the 5th. Roosevelt quickly recovered, and seemed to be in good spirits the rest of the week. Nevertheless, on the night of the 7th, the president awoke with a start suffering similar symptoms. Lingering for a few hours before slipping into unconsciousness, Theodore Roosevelt passed away on the morning of February 8th, 1923.

Some would remark, with caustic irony, that "an anarchist's bullet brought Theodore Roosevelt into the presidency, but it was only a blood clot that took him out." It was doubly ironic that left-wing terrorism had been such a feature of his final election and final term. In 1901 he was the youngest-ever inaugurated president, and in 1923 the nation's longest serving chief executive. His legend stretched from the New York State Assembly to the plains of the Dakota territory, to San Juan Hill in Cuba and finally to Washington, DC. "Big" was how one might characterize everything about the once-troubled and asthmatic boy. He left a large legacy and even larger shoes to fill.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on March 10, 2019, 12:05:11 AM
Chapter Three: The Silent Era

Theodore Roosevelt's funeral was intended to be small, attended mainly by family and close friends. The 26th and 29th President of the United States was laid to rest in Oyster Bay a few days after his passing in a mostly private ceremony. Most eulogies avoided any political clarion calls to take up the mantle in the name of conservation, trust-busting, anti-communism, or the like--though it was impossible to avoid reflecting on his effect on America. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes quipped, in ending his remarks, that "I believe the first half of the 20th century will be known as the age of Roosevelt."

John Calvin Coolidge was in many ways his predecessor's opposite. A small, quiet man descended not from New York City's dutch aristocracy, but rather from New England Puritan stock, he seemed the sheer, unadulterated, and disappointing antithesis to the larger-than-life Roosevelt. Republican bosses, while breathing a sigh of relief that the conservative New Englander posed no greater threat to their wealth and privilege, felt he was not up to the task of leading what by then was a sprawling bureaucracy against "the twin foes of Communism and Klanism". Almost immediately, political operators began contemplating who might be a "truly worthy successor to late Theodore."


Nevertheless, Coolidge, despite what would in retrospect be seen as stark policy differences with the late president, moved early on to make peace with Oyster Bay. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., a member of the New York State Assembly and his father's eldest son, was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Progressive Roosevelt appointments like Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover were retained. However, the ship of state was soon sent in a very different direction.

Coolidge's pardon of Eugene Debs set off waves of protests, particularly in the South. The new president, though a firm opponent of socialism, was very much in the Madisonian tradition, holding fast to the idea of a government of laws, not of men. As such, he opposed what he privately called "Roosevelt's war on the press, on free association, and on free expression." He likewise lifted the embargo on the Worker's Republic of Germany, though the stalemate with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was maintained.

The AD, as the People's Republic of Germany was initialed in its native tongue, welcomed Coolidge's minimal rapprochement. The world's second socialist nation, unlike its Russian colleague, had avoided expansionist politics after reasserting control over much of the former German Empire in Europe. Nevertheless, it had borne the brunt of substantial hardship from other European powers over the crushing terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which it de jure did not honor, but in practicality abided by. Whereas Bolshevik Russia would have to grapple with the lack of a substantial industrial base, the AD at the very least could embark on the next step toward "communism" by nationalizing and then disbursing to workers the large industrial apparatus that had made Germany a power to be reckoned with. The agricultural issue was soon solved by establishing a simple grain-for-goods exchange with Russia via the Baltic.

The calming of relations was not without its price for either actor. Formal acceptance of some of the mandated repayments to Europe, which in turn were funneled to creditors in the United States, was demanded through a plan devised by Charles Dawes. Under intense international strain, this was accepted by Germany's socialist leadership. Meanwhile, Coolidge at home faced criticism. This, combined with his pardoning of Eugene Debs and other socialists, cast him in the eyes of some as merely another stooge of international socialism. Coolidge's economic policies should have put a stop to that speculation.

The Roosevelt-Coolidge contrast would come to represent one of the dividing lines in the Republican party in its waning days. While Roosevelt was certainly cast by some historians as a radical--a product of his own design--there was a definite argument to be made that he was hoping to create a more sustainable and stable system that would therefore ward off further changes. Coolidge's approach was in many ways the opposite: the current class system was to be preserved, and capital given mostly free reign, with the intention that it work out best for all involved. As such, 1923 saw the cutting some corporate taxes and the weakening of the large regulatory regime that had resulted from years under Roosevelt, Wilson, and Taft. Thew new president's economic philosophy could be best summarized in his own saying, "the business of America is business." This notable shift in policy, combined with accusations of "communist sympathy" would create large hurdles to the president's nomination in 1924.

The last major policy push of the president's first year in office was the strengthening of international law. While Roosevelt had been loath to tie the United States' hands in weapons proliferation--and the late Theodore had been no great hater of war--the new president was determined that the Great War be the last war. Thus, despite a foreign policy outlook that was by-and-large opposed to foreign intervention, war, and ceding state sovereignty, the Coolidge administration made movements in 1923 to host a large arms control conference in Washington, DC in the coming year.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on April 14, 2019, 08:35:52 AM
The Washington Arms Conference was found to take substantially greater effort to put together than hoped. While America had been riven by internal strife, it was nothing compared to Europe, where heads of state were concentrated primarily on dealing with labor action, separatism, civil rights protesters, and reactionary veterans groups. Nevertheless, in retrospect, things were far from their peak and most European governments, seeing the domestic catastrophes that the Great War had birthed, came to the conclusion that "the next war will be the last war." For these statesmen, civilization itself was at stake.

Delegates gathered in March of 1924 in Washington, DC, and President Coolidge's diplomatic staff undertook extensive negotiations in limiting the size of armies and navies in Europe, North America, and East Asia. Germany and Russia were not in attendance, a situation that was to the mutual benefit of governments on both sides of the capitalist/socialist divide. The Conference would wrap up in September of that same year and resulted in a number of treaties being signed between multiple groups among the attending parties. Nevertheless, this accomplishment was, for the president, to be overshadowed by the hectic and divisive election that year.

Observers would say that the token Republican primaries in the runup to the Republican National Convention were a sign of things to come. California Senator Hiram Johnson, the late Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 running mate, had managed to garner substantial support out West and in major farming states, a number of which La Follette had won in the 1920 general election. Meanwhile, some activists in state parties were launching self-initiated campaigns for Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the late Teddy's son and the current Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Far more palatable to Republicans in Ohio and the Northeast than the "rabble rousing" Johnson, yet granted by his father with some working-class appeal, it appeared for a while in the spring that the convention might turn into a coronation for "King Theodore II". Nevertheless, Coolidge's heavy majorities in the Northeast and the younger Roosevelt's active opposition to the campaigns in his name gave the president some good headway going into the convention.

Coolidge was nominated on the first ballot easily over Johnson and some token opposition. Nevertheless, when it came time to choose a Vice President, delegates from across the country "joined the insurgency" and the floor was filled with shouts of "Teddy! Teddy!" Theodore Roosevelt Jr. privately was outraged and somewhat embarrassed. Nevertheless, he took to the stage with some grace, declining any offers of nomination to the Vice Presidency. "The President's son, more cautious than his father, had a keen sense of the shape of things to come." Coolidge loyalists were eager to shore up any residual Roosevelt support, however, and received the consent of Major General Leonard Wood, Governor-General of the Philippines, to be nominated for Vice President en absentia.

There had been moments of contention at the Republican convention, but any revolt of the delegates had been quelled. The 1924 Democratic National Convention was a different animal entirely. Beginning on June 24th in Madison Square Garden in New York City, the convention erupted into chaos in mere hours, as Klan marches in favor of the ambivalent Wilson acolyte (and son-in-law) William Gibbs McAdoo found themselves in a street war with the city's large Catholic and immigrant populations. New York Governor Al Smith, who was the candidate of the party's urban left, saw his delegates assaulted and hauled out of the convention. McAdoo, who said little to nothing condemning the Klan activity--"how had they even accessed the convention?" some wondered--instructed his speakers to indict "the New York Governor's failure to maintain law and order in his own state." Balloting continued throughout the next few days as police entered the fray outside of the convention as a third side in the intermittent guerrilla warfare. As this occurred, McAdoo surrogates skillfully negotiated with delegates from rural states. Smith's own status as the "urban candidate", his heavy New York accent, and his alienation from rural concerns did most of the work in bringing delegations from Nebraska, Montana, Oregon, and the like into the McAdoo camp. Finally, on the seventh ballot, the former Treasury Secretary was nominated. Charles W. Bryan, the late standardbearer's brother and the Governor of Nebraska, was named the party's Vice Presidential candidate.

The American Farmer Labor convention was a far less contentious affair. Ironic for a party dubbed "radical" and "disruptive" by the Eastern Establishment since its foundation. The AFP constituted a merger between Socialist and labor groups, on the one hand, and the left arm of Midwestern progressives on the other. "Fighting Bob" La Follette, the populist Wisconsin Senator, former Republican, and 1920 third party candidate, was the obvious leader and candidate for the party. Instead of nominating a labor activist, the Vice Presidential spot was granted to Burton K. Wheeler, the Senator from Montana.

On the campaign trail, Coolidge proved a poor stand-in for his fiery and rugged predecessor. "Silent Cal" by contrast was an introvert by nature and a wooden stump speaker. Much of his activity resembled the "Front Porch" and "Rose Garden" strategies of the past, with the nominee receiving guests at his home or the White House rather than embarking on a Bryan-esque tour of the nation by rail car. There were, however, attempts to mold an image of Coolidge that could be received by rural voters throughout the country, one rooted in his farming background in rural New England. It was a poor answer to La Follette's energetic campgin style and a pale imitation of Roosevelt the outdoorsman. Even McAdoo, understanding how tenuous the Democratic position was compared to merely eight years ago when the party had commanded almost a majority of votes for the presidency, decided to embark on a limited circuit of speeches. Despite having substantially alienated much of the party faithful in New York City, the Democratic campaign was determined to bring them into the fold, with surrogates and stump speakers denouncing the immigration and naturalization acts of the last few years and implying that Prohibition was a product of the Republican administration.


The 1924 election was, in many eyes, turning into a rerun of 1920 or 1912. An embattled incumbent, challenged within his own party, facing both a powerful challenge from the opposition party and an insurgent third party. And, like 1912 and 1920, the outcome was not to the benefit of the incumbent. Several weeks after ballots were cast, the outcome was still in doubt, with New York, the most populous state in the Union, still counting ballots. Nevertheless, as November became December, it became clear that the Klan-backed candidate himself, William McAdoo, had taken New York by a hair margin. Historians debate to this day by what fraudulent means he might have won the state. In a letter Theodore Roosevelt Jr. received in January, a colleague remarked that "in an age of Bryan, Wilson, and La Follette, these sorts of losses are what happen when the Party abandons a program of reform and good government in favor of the moneyed interests."

Former Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo (Democrat-California)/Governor Charles Wayland Bryan (Democrat-Nebraska) 302 electoral votes, 39.2% of the popular vote
President John Calvin Coolidge Jr. (Republican-New York)/Major General Leonard Wood (Republican-New Hampshire) 164 electoral votes, 36.5% of the popular vote
Senator Robert Marion La Follete Sr. (American Farmer Labor-Wisconsin)/Senator Burton Kendall Wheeler (American Farmer Labor-Montana) 65 electoral votes, 29.4% of the popular vote
Others: 3.9% of the popular vote

Up Next: The Last Liberal President

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Cath on June 18, 2020, 09:05:48 AM
May be looking to update this.

Title: Re: The Age of Extremes
Post by: Elcaspar on June 18, 2020, 09:23:45 AM
May be looking to update this.

A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.