Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

dcharleos

Donor
There's actually been a few comments today on theme and story, and in that vein, I just wanted to commend you, Pyro, on the great job you've done so far.

I've been following this since the first post, IIRC, and while I've always liked it, it's really starting to grow into itself. You're developing into a better storyteller as well, and you've always been a good enough storyteller that I've wanted to keep reading, so that's really saying something.

And I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to consistently write creatively. The fact that you've kept this going so long is an accomplishment in and of itself, that it keeps getting better, and hasn't turned into a flabby, bloated mess in the homestretch, even more so.

I'm staying tuned.
 
And I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to consistently write creatively. The fact that you've kept this going so long is an accomplishment in and of itself, that it keeps getting better, and hasn't turned into a flabby, bloated mess in the homestretch, even more so.
I would also like to propose a toast to Pyro.

Fiction is an artform as nuanced and beautiful as any other. And this story is an example of that.
 
There's actually been a few comments today on theme and story, and in that vein, I just wanted to commend you, Pyro, on the great job you've done so far.

I've been following this since the first post, IIRC, and while I've always liked it, it's really starting to grow into itself. You're developing into a better storyteller as well, and you've always been a good enough storyteller that I've wanted to keep reading, so that's really saying something.

And I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to consistently write creatively. The fact that you've kept this going so long is an accomplishment in and of itself, that it keeps getting better, and hasn't turned into a flabby, bloated mess in the homestretch, even more so.

I'm staying tuned.
I would also like to propose a toast to Pyro.

Fiction is an artform as nuanced and beautiful as any other. And this story is an example of that.

Thanks so much! I'm glad you're enjoying the story :)
 
Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 186
strike1.png

Striking Rail Workers, Summer 1920 - Source: Libcom

With the Democrats' nomination of Coleman Blease for president, the stage was set, and the players took their positions. Disillusioned Northerners within the old bastion of Jeffersonian democracy could do little else but grin and bear the pain, irked to the nth degree over having been outmaneuvered in plain sight. Some took refuge in the fact that Blease's running mate, freshman Senator Joseph Folk of Missouri, was much more in line with the progressive mold and theoretically balanced the ticket. Bryan submitted his formal endorsement in early July, citing the "just and noble" qualities of the party platform. He asserted that the election of a Democrat would, "help this world to abolish alcohol, and after that to banish war. The day is past when the liquor machines and Wall Street interests of the big cities can successfully dictate to the great moral majority of the nation." Although he was personally averse to the selection of Blease, Bryan urged his supporters to brush off the South Carolinian's history of overt white supremacist behavior and past advocacy of lynching. "To let the fate of America fall into [Johnson or Stedman's] hands is the gravest sin one can commit."

It appeared the American populace would be made to decide among three bitterly opposed parties with vastly differing ideologies and conceptions for how best to improve the country. The future of the United States was at stake, and the winner of the upcoming race had the potential to dramatically alter the ship of state's course. Previous presidential contests offered a comparable paradigm, as was the case in 1904 with the ascension of the Progressive Party and in 1916 with the rejection of Bryan's peace plan, but never had the choices all represented such radical shifts. Neither Johnson, nor Blease, nor Stedman professed a desire to return the country to prewar normalcy and stability. None presented a vision of maintaining the status quo. None professed that all was well in the nation. All three of the top contenders outwardly declared that something was severely wrong with the current condition of the United States, and that control of the Executive Branch was of paramount importance in remedying the situation.

Newspapers playfully dubbed the general election a
"Showdown of the Century," eagerly, somewhat naively, expecting an enjoyable, sportsmanlike contest. U.S. Elections were famously peaceful transitions of power, and with the rare outburst or claim of voting irregularity, discrepancies betwixt the candidates were universally understood to be settled squarely at the ballot box. Yet, it was not hard to conceive of a tumultuous road ahead when considering the poor socio-economic health of the country at the time. Essentially, each party sought to convince the electorate that their opposition represented a fundamental danger to their ways of life. Johnson's opponents called him a tyrant and an enemy of the working class, those who opposed Blease waved the bloody shirt and questioned his commitment to the Constitution, and Stedman's foes believed him a stooge for Lenin and the Russian Communists. To make matters worse, the heightened tension of the race took place alongside an upsurge in labor activism.

The Rail Strike, albeit thoroughly demonized by the press and suffocated by the employment of strikebreakers, remained a threat to the industry in pockets across the country. The Locomotives Act had expired on its own once Congress exited its session in June. The Johnson Administration was unmoved by the labor stoppages and redoubled its obligation to privatizing the rails, going as far as to commend the legislature for resisting the temptation to act in defiance of the White House. However, privatization took time, and even if Johnson took it upon himself to expedite the process as much as possible, the duty to complete the task would assuredly fall to the winner of the November election. Therefore, thousands of railroad workers in Cleveland, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Kansas City refused to give up the fight. Stedman himself appeared at union events throughout the fiasco to celebrate their resilience and cheer on their efforts. At one stop he stated, "It is your labor, and labor of your forebears which built the sprawling tracks from coast to coast. These railroads belong to all men as a public service free of private ownership." He deemed the reinstatement of the Locomotive Act a bare minimum, pledging the introduction of such a proposal to Congress on Day One of his administration.

This call to reverse the law's expiration served as a serious threat to President Johnson and the wealthy interests lined up behind the now-fused Republican and Progressive parties. Not only would Stedman's proposal make permanent the nationalization of the railroads and furthermore legalize the authority of some sixteen labor unions, but it provided for the framework to fully nationalize all public utilities. Such an idea, if brought to reality, would certainly tamper down on the Rockefellers' and Carnegies' oligarchical rule, and potentially revolutionize the entire global economy. Johnson caught on immediately, knowing the inevitability of the "socialistic" unions coming around to endorse the candidate of the Socialist Party. Boosted substantially by the rail, shipping, and automotive industries, the Johnson Campaign fiercely condemned Seymour Stedman's ideas as poison to the American economy.


It was merely a campaigning tactic at first, and not an unfamiliar one to the Left. They named Stedman an enemy of the people, a figure worthy of national scorn. Johnson blasted Stedman's "Bolshevist" program at length, oftentimes connoting nationalization with subjugation. He implored the country to fervently deny the Socialists and the IWW a chance to overthrow Western democracy. [...] Palmer, a man treated more as a running mate than a Cabinet official, traveled town to town with the president early in the campaign. The words of the attorney general were likewise ingrained with fiery charges of treason, espionage, and subversion. Neither offered to American workers any sense of salvation on the horizon, not a nibble of reform apart from tighter immigration restrictions and a roadmap to economic expansion in conjunction with Zollverein. The days of uplifting progressivism were long gone. The Columbians singularly promised protection. Protection from the demonic Communists and the "Lost Cause" Democrats. That was the core of his re-election campaign at its outset.
H. William Ackerman, Columbians in Washington: Great Expectations and the Hope of a Nation, 2013

Since the inauguration of Hiram Johnson in August of 1918 and his overseeing of the events of Bloody September, the president was upheld as a hero by a certain demographic of Americans. To those individuals susceptible to the language of the Red Scare and anti-immigration sentiment, Johnson was a symbol of stability and growth in a world otherwise shrouded in danger. Various organizations associated with the promotion of patriotism, predominantly the Roosevelt Defense Leagues and the Societies for Americanism, awakened once again to answer the call of Columbia. The RDL under astute management of Carnegie Steel shareholder Lawrence Cowie Phipps mainly operated as a Pinkerton-adjacent agency for the use of clamping down on labor strikes and labor organizing activities, and during the 1918 wave was instrumental in bringing the Steel Strike to a bloody end. It was ceremoniously applauded by Johnson on multiple occasions for its work in curtailing strikes. This was not the case for the SA. However similar in their overarching objectives, the SA and RDL did not see eye-to-eye on the proper methodologies needed. In contrast to the professional open volunteerism of the RDL, the SA, by 1920, employed rather rigorous standards for its members and frequently worked beyond the confines of the law.

Your typical Society for Americanism chapter conducted itself as a vigilante group in the late 1910s for the express purpose of putting an end to,
"seditious street oratory," and left-wing radicalism. The SA was utilized extensively by Governor William Stephens in raiding IWW offices and, following Theodore Roosevelt's 1918 Pershing Address, took matters in their own hands by staging decentralized and arbitrary attacks on "treasonous" labor union organizers. As Hiram Johnson continuously demanded the American people rise to combat, "dogmatic foes of liberty," the SA opened its doors to meet the moment. The nationalist organization experienced rapid growth, particularly in industrialized cities, and by the end of the decade were a recognizable presence in the streets alongside labor rally-goers. Members commonly wore stiff, high-waisted suit jackets with shortened lapels, a look purposefully made to mimic that of the U.S. military in the Great War, and always traveled in gangs of three or more. The SA skulked in the background as election season reared its head, awaiting the president's dog whistle to pounce. Now, with a renewed purpose to stop the rise of American leftism in the polls, scattered Society branches voted unanimously to bound together, "to cleanse the land from Balkan rats, Bolshevik drunkards, and Catholic heretics, to protect the sacred flag of the United States by any means necessary."
 
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Bryan's attempt to salvage this is noble if one ignores practically everything about Blease. Unfortunately, one cannot and I suspect that a considerable portion of the remaining Democrat force will seek answers elsewhere. This is chaos, and it's not going to end well even if the best man for the job wins!
 
Jeez, binging through this the past few days has been fun.

Thinking the socialists would place second behind Blease in the popular vote, though I feel like I'm underestimating the extent of the appeal of Americanism. And while the Progressives are clearly screwing themselves over with fusion, Johnson having the support of two of the main Capitalist parties should still give him a boost in some regions.

It's gonna be close- I expect this one to go to the house.
 
Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 187
blease.png

Senator Blease on the Campaign Trail, August 1920 - Source: Wiki Commons

American working classes had endured a rough two years under the stewardship of Hiram Johnson. From the unanticipated losses of both Theodore Roosevelt and James Garfield to the sudden onset of a deadly pandemic, to the disruptive shape of the economy, many Americans were purely exasperated at the thought of a full, four-year term for the incumbent. Regardless of Johnson's constant insistence that this-or-that scapegoat was to blame for the troubling times, the fact of the matter was that the U.S. was in no better condition than it was when he assumed the presidency. For dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, upper-class Progressive voters, and RDL nationalists, choosing to re-elect the president seemed a no-brainer. They trusted in his word and too were utterly convinced of a Pax Americana hovering just beyond the horizon. Others needed convincing.

The Johnson Re-Election Campaign of 1920 was, in its time, the single most expensive electioneering operation in history. Surrounded by special interests and in no shortage of corporate funding, the fusion candidacy outspent its rivals nearly 2-to-1. William Stephens as the president's campaign manager invested roughly $50,000 per day on various expenditures, financing political advertising, surrogate events, and extensive rail travel. Yet the incumbent's greatest asset was not his extraneous spending in the election, but rather the individuals chosen to speak on his behalf. Johnson, after all, as Roosevelt's protégé and chosen successor, inherited the prestige and notoriety associated with wartime heroism. As was the case at the Republican National Convention, prominent veterans of the Great War like Admiral Knight espoused the need to maintain Johnson's rulership in Washington. General Leonard Wood excelled at this task, oftentimes headlining events and gathering tremendous applause afterward. "None could match it," wrote Ackerman. "Wood articulated what Johnson and Palmer could not, that being the merits of unapologetic Americanism and the righteousness of fighting Bolshevism to the end."

On the opposing end of the spectrum, Senator La Follette began speaking out more fervently against the Johnson Administration in the summer of 1920. His initial declaration of war was met with curiosity by the press and praise by the Socialists, but headlines and partisan adoration was far below the aims of the Wisconsinite. La Follette needed his speeches to make waves regularly in order to attract so-called 'Lost Progressives' and gradually chip away at the president's chance of re-election. Only then, he figured, would he have served his purpose. As such, the orator traveled throughout the Badger State in search of reputable allies, fruitful sources of fundraising, and tools to better expand the necessary coalition for a Stedman victory. La Follette also sought to gain the confidence of the Conference for American Progressivism, a Washington-based organization co-founded by the senator long ago. CAP emerging in fierce opposition to the vicious practices of the Johnson Administration and the PNC's self-destruction would gift a bombshell report to the political press. He did eventually persuade CAP to tepidly withdraw support for the president, but its board steadfastly refused to issue a statement of condemnation. Several Progressives did join La Follette along the way, however, including Nebraska Senator George Norris and Chicago City Councilman Harold Ickes, which kept Fighting Bob in the news.

The Democratic Party likewise focused its fire on the White House. Albeit a less grandiose operation than that of the Republicans', the Blease Campaign was extraordinarily active and widespread. Just as they had at the DNC, Blease's proxies highlighted their populistic economic message in areas unreceptive to the race angle, and did the reverse as needed. Blease enjoyed immense support when touring the South, but rather unexpectedly found welcoming audiences in places like Indiana and Ohio. Some of it may have been due to his proposal for a national prohibition law or tighter immigration restrictions, but, quoting Fort Wayne's The Journal Gazette, "all are exhilarated at the thought of an all-new administration. Anyone but Johnson, they tell us." Democratic advocates in this cycle quickly determined it unnecessary to magnify their chosen candidate's qualifications when simply tearing apart the incumbency did wonders for their poll numbers. They preyed on that discovery, and by August their messaging centered mainly on Johnson's faults. Not since 1908 had the Democrats run with such a negative slant, pointing out the innate flaws in the Johnson legacy and deeming him a poor substitute for Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the more famous political adverts of 1920 was an illustration submitted by a Socialist cartoonist and sponsored by a Democratic publication. It pictured Hiram Johnson as a pudgy man in small glasses (not an uncommon depiction for the leader) sailing in a rowboat with a man beside him labeled "Palmer." Their boat was named the S.S. Columbia and it flew the flag of the German Empire. This tiny vessel sailed not on an ocean of crisp water, but one of sludge-like darkness. Below the murky liquid sat piles of human skeletons. Name cards on the drowned corpses read "John, Steelworker," "Mary, Suffragette," and "James, U.S. Army." Pointed toward a monsoon titled "Four More Years," Palmer asks whether the two should dock at a nearby harbor and take refuge. Johnson replies, "The dockworkers are unionized, and we have no bullets!"

When it came to coalition-building and enticing new partisan disciples to their cause, the Socialist Party fared spectacularly compared to the Democratic and Republican-Progressive parties. Seymour Stedman, a relatively unknown figure at the start of the election season, blossomed into a popularized bullhorn for systemic change. It baffled the competition. An eloquent speaker less divisive than any man yet nominated for the Socialist ticket, Stedman easily found his footing and conducted a sprawling campaign worthy of Eugene Debs' commendation. Theodore Debs once more fell into the role of campaign manager despite being named Stedman's running-mate, but in that position orchestrated a momentous effort which crisscrossed populated centers across America. Along the renewed Red Express, Stedman and Debs first traversed the East Coast and the Midwest, gathering momentum in swing cities like Charleston, Philadelphia, Boston, and Milwaukee. They crusaded alongside fellow aspirational Socialist candidates whenever possible, joining their endeavors and boosting audience participation in the process. Above all Stedman worked to associate his quest for political power with that of the labor movement. Encapsulating that association, campaign events would often start late as the Chicagoan routinely stopped the Red Express to converse with laborers in industrial towns.

The Stedman Campaign coalesced perfectly with the U.S. population's deep crave for sweeping reform. It was evident to those not blinded by ideological loyalties that the Socialists in 1920 stood virtually alone in seeking actual progress. With Progressive independence now formally surrendered to the Republicans, no other political faction presented a progressive program free of reactionary caveats. Stedman himself staked out a solid middle-ground position in socialist circles, offering to the nation a social democratic revision of the status quo but not an outright overhaul of the country in the vein of the Bolsheviks or the SFIO. He believed acting as one with the IWW was of crucial importance, but, opposing Haywood's "Union First" doctrine, political action was of supreme importance. Echoing Eugene Debs, he claimed, "political action [is] one of the essential means of waging the class struggle. Political appeal has been made our most potent and effective means of achieving the maximum results. The Socialist Platform is sound and complete. All the powers of capitalism are exhausted in vain to misrepresent it. Millions are today sympathetic who but yesterday were hostile."

Socialism under the Stedman/Debs banner attracted swathes of support from a generational demographic who had come of age during the Great War and experienced profound disillusionment as a result. Those born in the final decades of the nineteenth century had grown up in a world void of humanity, one content with sending millions to their certain doom for some alien conception of divine glory. Young women were eminently vocal in their support for systemic change, brought up seeing generations of feminist activists fight on for their basic rights. They were no less enraged by the government's pure contempt for equal rights and universal suffrage. Second-wave immigrants also found themselves trapped by the two parties in alignment over xenophobic law-making, so in a fashion never seen to such a scale, such communities flocked to Stedman and his pledge to prohibit oppression for all.


Stedman was gaining traction faster than any thought possible. Of this Johnson and Blease were not unawares. Defeating him required the correct counterplan and the means to carry it out. While the president doubled-down on the protection narrative, exclaiming without evidence that he alone could save the citizenry from an unruly and insatiable mob, the South Carolinian populist upgraded repertoire with an untried component. Republicans had the courageous General Wood at their disposal, the Socialists fully exploited the talents of orators Upton Sinclair and Bob La Follette, but the Blease Campaign suffered from a severe shortage of national surrogates. Woodrow Wilson broadcasting Democratic affirmations at the Iowa State Fair did not have as meaningful an impact as intended. Blease coveted an emphasis on anti-establishment sentiment, not this wishy-washy vow-making by Washington insiders and do-nothing moderates. Recall, if you will, his election to Congress was made possible as a result of Bryan Democracy and White Populism, two inherently anti-plutocratic ideals, returning to the forefront of the party. The Populist modus operandi was based on external, decentralized agitation. The Champ Clark elements, those which blanketly insisted nativism was at odds with Democratic votership in the Midwest, were viewed by Blease as the problem, not the solution. Before long, Wilson and Cox disappeared as headliners. Taking their place were two notable entities in the realm of Populist Democracy: The young, fiery Louisiana State Representative Huey Pierce Long and famed Texas Congressman Samuel Ealy Johnson. [...] Blease was nipping at the president's heels, inching ahead in every Bryan state.
Thomas O'Conner, A Radical History of American Politics: Vol. 5, 2016

Literary Digest Poll
September 1920

Hiram W. Johnson 35% Pop., 295 Electoral Votes, 21 States
Coleman L. Blease 34% Pop., 208 Electoral Votes, 24 States
Seymour Stedman 29% Pop., 028 Electoral Votes, 03 States
Other 02% Pop., 000 Electoral Votes, 00 States
 
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Well, well, thigns are definitely getting interesting as the socialists begin getting more and more power and becoming more of a prominent influence
 
Taking their place were two notable entities in the realm of Populist Democracy: The young, fiery Louisiana State Representative Huey Pierce Long and famed Texas Congressman Samuel Ealy Johnson.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fuck.

This is one of the more interesting things about the idea of a prominent third or fourth party entering to challenge the two party system, how exactly some of the bigger names of history will react to this new paradigm. Sam Johnson's inclusion here indicates an interesting future for young Lyndon, and Huey Long? Ugghhhh. Worrying to say the least. Have to say, I'm glad that Stedman is making such a splash, but even so...hmm....this is going to be a tough one. I suppose the more interesting results will be the Congressional ones.
 

dcharleos

Donor
blease.png

Senator Blease on the Campaign Trail, August 1920 - Source: Wiki Commons

American working classes had endured a rough two years under the stewardship of Hiram Johnson. From the unanticipated losses of both Theodore Roosevelt and James Garfield to the sudden onset of a deadly pandemic, to the disruptive shape of the economy, many Americans were purely exasperated at the thought of a full, four-year term for the incumbent. Regardless of Johnson's constant insistence that this-or-that scapegoat was to blame for the troubling times, the fact of the matter was that the U.S. was in no better condition than it was when he assumed the presidency. For dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, upper-class Progressive voters, and RDL nationalists, choosing to re-elect the president seemed a no-brainer. They trusted in his word and too were utterly convinced of a Pax Americana hovering just beyond the horizon. Others needed convincing.

The Johnson Re-Election Campaign of 1920 was, in its time, the single most expensive electioneering operation in history. Surrounded by special interests and in no shortage of corporate funding, the fusion candidacy outspent its rivals nearly 2-to-1. William Stephens as the president's campaign manager invested roughly $50,000 per day on various expenditures, financing political advertising, surrogate events, and extensive rail travel. Yet the incumbent's greatest asset was not his extraneous spending in the election, but rather the individuals chosen to speak on his behalf. Johnson, after all, as Roosevelt's protégé and chosen successor, inherited the prestige and notoriety associated with wartime heroism. As was the case at the Republican National Convention, prominent veterans of the Great War like Admiral Knight espoused the need to maintain Johnson's rulership in Washington. General Leonard Wood excelled at this task, oftentimes headlining events and gathering tremendous applause afterward. "None could match it," wrote Ackerman. "Wood articulated what Johnson and Palmer could not, that being the merits of unapologetic Americanism and the righteousness of fighting Bolshevism to the end."

On the opposing end of the spectrum, Senator La Follette began speaking out more fervently against the Johnson Administration in the summer of 1920. His initial declaration of war was met with curiosity by the press and praise by the Socialists, but headlines and partisan adoration was far below the aims of the Wisconsinite. La Follette needed his speeches to make waves regularly in order to attract so-called 'Lost Progressives' and gradually chip away at the president's chance of re-election. Only then, he figured, would he have served his purpose. As such, the orator traveled throughout the Badger State in search of reputable allies, fruitful sources of fundraising, and tools to better expand the necessary coalition for a Stedman victory. La Follette also sought to gain the confidence of the Conference for American Progressivism, a Washington-based organization co-founded by the senator long ago. CAP emerging in fierce opposition to the vicious practices of the Johnson Administration and the PNC's self-destruction would gift a bombshell report to the political press. He did eventually persuade CAP to tepidly withdraw support for the president, but its board steadfastly refused to issue a statement of condemnation. Several Progressives did join La Follette along the way, however, including Nebraska Senator George Norris and Chicago City Councilman Harold Ickes, which kept Fighting Bob in the news.

The Democratic Party likewise focused its fire on the White House. Albeit a less grandiose operation than that of the Republicans', the Blease Campaign was extraordinarily active and widespread. Just as they had at the DNC, Blease's proxies highlighted their populistic economic message in areas unreceptive to the race angle, and did the reverse as needed. Blease enjoyed immense support when touring the South, but rather unexpectedly found welcoming audiences in places like Indiana and Ohio. Some of it may have been due to his proposal for a national prohibition law or tighter immigration restrictions, but, quoting Fort Wayne's The Journal Gazette, "all are exhilarated at the thought of an all-new administration. Anyone but Johnson, they tell us." Democratic advocates in this cycle quickly determined it unnecessary to magnify their chosen candidate's qualifications when simply tearing apart the incumbency did wonders for their poll numbers. They preyed on that discovery, and by August their messaging centered mainly on Johnson's faults. Not since 1908 had the Democrats run with such a negative slant, pointing out the innate flaws in the Johnson legacy and deeming him a poor substitute for Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the more famous political adverts of 1920 was an illustration submitted by a Socialist cartoonist and sponsored by a Democratic publication. It pictured Hiram Johnson as a pudgy man in small glasses (not an uncommon depiction for the leader) sailing in a rowboat with a man beside him labeled "Palmer." Their boat was named the S.S. Columbia and it flew the flag of the German Empire. This tiny vessel sailed not on an ocean of crisp water, but one of sludge-like darkness. Below the murky liquid sat piles of human skeletons. Name cards on the drowned corpses read "John, Steelworker," "Mary, Suffragette," and "James, U.S. Army." Pointed toward a monsoon titled "Four More Years," Palmer asks whether the two should dock at a nearby harbor and take refuge. Johnson replies, "The dockworkers are unionized, and we have no bullets!"

When it came to coalition-building and enticing new partisan disciples to their cause, the Socialist Party fared spectacularly compared to the Democratic and Republican-Progressive parties. Seymour Stedman, a relatively unknown figure at the start of the election season, blossomed into a popularized bullhorn for systemic change. It baffled the competition. An eloquent speaker less divisive than any man yet nominated for the Socialist ticket, Stedman easily found his footing and conducted a sprawling campaign worthy of Eugene Debs' commendation. Theodore Debs once more fell into the role of campaign manager despite being named Stedman's running-mate, but in that position orchestrated a momentous effort which crisscrossed populated centers across America. Along the renewed Red Express, Stedman and Debs first traversed the East Coast and the Midwest, gathering momentum in swing cities like Charleston, Philadelphia, Boston, and Milwaukee. They crusaded alongside fellow aspirational Socialist candidates whenever possible, joining their endeavors and boosting audience participation in the process. Above all Stedman worked to associate his quest for political power with that of the labor movement. Encapsulating that association, campaign events would often start late as the Chicagoan routinely stopped the Red Express to converse with laborers in industrial towns.

The Stedman Campaign coalesced perfectly with the U.S. population's deep crave for sweeping reform. It was evident to those not blinded by ideological loyalties that the Socialists in 1920 stood virtually alone in seeking actual progress. With Progressive independence now formally surrendered to the Republicans, no other political faction presented a progressive program free of reactionary caveats. Stedman himself staked out a solid middle-ground position in socialist circles, offering to the nation a social democratic revision of the status quo but not an outright overhaul of the country in the vein of the Bolsheviks or the SFIO. He believed acting as one with the IWW was of crucial importance, but, opposing Haywood's "Union First" doctrine, political action was of supreme importance. Echoing Eugene Debs, he claimed, "political action [is] one of the essential means of waging the class struggle. Political appeal has been made our most potent and effective means of achieving the maximum results. The Socialist Platform is sound and complete. All the powers of capitalism are exhausted in vain to misrepresent it. Millions are today sympathetic who but yesterday were hostile."

Socialism under the Stedman/Debs banner attracted swathes of support from a generational demographic who had come of age during the Great War and experienced profound disillusionment as a result. Those born in the final decades of the nineteenth century had grown up in a world void of humanity, one content with sending millions to their certain doom for some alien conception of divine glory. Young women were eminently vocal in their support for systemic change, brought up seeing generations of feminist activists fight on for their basic rights. They were no less enraged by the government's pure contempt for equal rights and universal suffrage. Second-wave immigrants also found themselves trapped by the two parties in alignment over xenophobic law-making, so in a fashion never seen to such a scale, such communities flocked to Stedman and his pledge to prohibit oppression for all.


Stedman was gaining traction faster than any thought possible. Of this Johnson and Blease were not unawares. Defeating him required the correct counterplan and the means to carry it out. While the president doubled-down on the protection narrative, exclaiming without evidence that he alone could save the citizenry from an unruly and insatiable mob, the South Carolinian populist upgraded repertoire with an untried component. Republicans had the courageous General Wood at their disposal, the Socialists fully exploited the talents of orators Upton Sinclair and Bob La Follette, but the Blease Campaign suffered from a severe shortage of national surrogates. Woodrow Wilson broadcasting Democratic affirmations at the Iowa State Fair did not have as meaningful an impact as intended. Blease coveted an emphasis on anti-establishment sentiment, not this wishy-washy vow-making by Washington insiders and do-nothing moderates. Recall, if you will, his election to Congress was made possible as a result of Bryan Democracy and White Populism, two inherently anti-plutocratic ideals, returning to the forefront of the party. The Populist modus operandi was based on external, decentralized agitation. The Champ Clark elements, those which blanketly insisted nativism was at odds with Democratic votership in the Midwest, were viewed by Blease as the problem, not the solution. Before long, Wilson and Cox disappeared as headliners. Taking their place were two notable entities in the realm of Populist Democracy: The young, fiery Louisiana State Representative Huey Pierce Long and famed Texas Congressman Samuel Ealy Johnson. [...] Blease was nipping at the president's heels, inching ahead in every Bryan state.
Thomas O'Conner, A Radical History of American Politics: Vol. 5, 2016

Literary Digest Poll
September 1920

Hiram W. Johnson 35% Pop., 295 Electoral Votes, 21 States
Coleman L. Blease 34% Pop., 208 Electoral Votes, 24 States
Seymour Stedman 29% Pop., 028 Electoral Votes, 03 States
Other 02% Pop., 000 Electoral Votes, 00 States

Another great update, although I do think that Long would be a Socialist ITTL. Wasn't there a major labor event in New Orleans ITTL, or am I thinking of someone else?

He was pretty consistent in deemphasizing racial appeals. And there was no tactical reason for him to do so--he just kind of hated dudes like Blease and Gene Talmadge and so forth. I've studied him a lot, and I will gladly admit that a lot of the accusations flung at him were true. He was corrupt and authoritarian. But he was working within a political system that was corrupt and authoritarian. It was Jim Crow Louisiana. By any standard, an all-time-level corrupt and authoritarian place. And a place where right wing corruption and authoritarianism was not only tolerated, but actively encouraged, as long as it was neutral or favorable to the interests of the oligarchs that controlled the state. Long's corruption was in furtherance of left wing interests, which is what pissed people off. The guys that owned the newspapers hated him. But even Long's most rabid detractors never accused him of the violence and murder routinely practiced by the reactionary oligarchs that controlled the state. Plus, he was never in with the establishment politicians, even as a young politician. He was always a rebel, never a guy who got in with the establishment and then moved toward populism to solidify his own career. This TL especially, Long would be a member of the Socialist party.
 
Another great update, although I do think that Long would be a Socialist ITTL. Wasn't there a major labor event in New Orleans ITTL, or am I thinking of someone else?

He was pretty consistent in deemphasizing racial appeals. And there was no tactical reason for him to do so--he just kind of hated dudes like Blease and Gene Talmadge and so forth. I've studied him a lot, and I will gladly admit that a lot of the accusations flung at him were true. He was corrupt and authoritarian. But he was working within a political system that was corrupt and authoritarian. It was Jim Crow Louisiana. By any standard, an all-time-level corrupt and authoritarian place. And a place where right wing corruption and authoritarianism was not only tolerated, but actively encouraged, as long as it was neutral or favorable to the interests of the oligarchs that controlled the state. Long's corruption was in furtherance of left wing interests, which is what pissed people off. The guys that owned the newspapers hated him. But even Long's most rabid detractors never accused him of the violence and murder routinely practiced by the reactionary oligarchs that controlled the state. Plus, he was never in with the establishment politicians, even as a young politician. He was always a rebel, never a guy who got in with the establishment and then moved toward populism to solidify his own career. This TL especially, Long would be a member of the Socialist party.

Ah I do see your point, and it's something I thought a lot about in preparing this section of the story. First I'd say that you're absolutely right in pointing out Huey Long's political sensibilities. We'll be getting way more into Long and how his career goes from here on out, but I have little doubt that he would personally identify as a socialist ITTL. The issue comes with the difficulties faced by the Socialist Party in the South, as running on a Socialist ticket meant certain defeat even in the more class-conscious America depicted here. I would imagine that the SP would have some representation in areas with a large trade union presence, but only Democrats are dominating statewide. Long may picture the spotlight an opportunity to tear down those reactionary oligarchs in control of the state, especially with the national Democratic establishment having been recently deposed at the Denver convention.
 
Due the 1918 election results and IOTL KKK strength in Midwestern States before the infamous DC Stephenson Scandal I sense Blease could get it, both directly or by a contingent election.
 

dcharleos

Donor
Ah I do see your point, and it's something I thought a lot about in preparing this section of the story. First I'd say that you're absolutely right in pointing out Huey Long's political sensibilities. We'll be getting way more into Long and how his career goes from here on out, but I have little doubt that he would personally identify as a socialist ITTL. The issue comes with the difficulties faced by the Socialist Party in the South, as running on a Socialist ticket meant certain defeat even in the more class-conscious America depicted here. I would imagine that the SP would have some representation in areas with a large trade union presence, but only Democrats are dominating statewide. Long may picture the spotlight an opportunity to tear down those reactionary oligarchs in control of the state, especially with the national Democratic establishment having been recently deposed at the Denver convention.

Well, to that point, I'm pretty sure* that Winn Parish (Long's hometown) was something of a hotbed of Socialist support in Louisiana, OTL. Long's father or grandfather might have even been a Debs booster. Imagining Long as an American Lenin, taking it to the KKKossaks...well, I've heard of worse ideas.

*Meaning that I read this, IIRC, in T. Harry Williams' bio of Long, several years ago at this point. There's a good chance that I'm messing up something in the details.

And just, Long associating himself with Blease...eh.

Blease was literally so racist that Ben Tillman even thought he was too racist. That's like Darth Vader thinking someone was too serious. And he was kind of famous for getting nothing done except stirring up race hatred (I mentioned that there were some current politics parallels).

Even though Long was involved in politics at the height of the Jim Crow regime, he was still known as something of a friend to black people.
And Long was so damned charismatic that he generally didn't compromise his *political* ideals. (Ethics are a very, very, separate issue.) He usually didn't need to--the elections weren't that close. Definitely was some minor race baiting early in his career (almost like Jimmy Carter), but generally not. So it's kind of hard to imagine Huey going all out for someone who he probably would have despised ideologically and operationally. Honestly, I'm not even sure if Huey was temperamentally *capable* of doing that for someone who he would have respected so little.

All that being said, you're the creator, I've liked what you've done so far, and I'm sure you already had ideas about how to resolve all this stuff before I opened my big mouth about it.
 
It pictured Hiram Johnson as a pudgy man in small glasses (not an uncommon depiction for the leader) sailing in a rowboat with a man beside him labeled "Palmer." Their boat was named the S.S. Columbia and it flew the flag of the German Empire. This tiny vessel sailed not on an ocean of crisp water, but one of sludge-like darkness. Below the murky liquid sat piles of human skeletons. Name cards on the drowned corpses read "John, Steelworker," "Mary, Suffragette," and "James, U.S. Army." Pointed toward a monsoon titled "Four More Years," Palmer asks whether the two should dock at a nearby harbor and take refuge. Johnson replies, "The dockworkers are unionized, and we have no bullets!"
Fantastic imagery. Is it inspired by a historical cartoon, or an original creation?
 
I'd much prefer Long over a lot of other candidates
(I can only see him using the Democratic party as a way to get his own goals of reform

But that's only in viable areas(the ones where they're popular)


In others he would likely be a firm socialist


He's smart and knows how to play an audience


(Call him authoritarian all you want but he still help black people be able to read for it pennies on the dollar, and and denounced social security saying that it would negatively affect black people.)
 
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Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 188
halibut.png

Fished Halibut in Eureka, CA, Est. 1920 - Source: ResearchGate

Opinion polling taken at the tail-end of August showcased a more-or-less even split betwixt the three top contenders for the presidency. To the disbelievers of the day, it was quite the shock to witness Stedman of the Socialists nearly toe-to-toe with the incumbent president of the United States. This phenomenon, compounded by the enormity of Stedman's audiences at campaign stops, illustrated the public's accelerating, not decelerating, enthusiasm for democratic socialism. Not only had Johnson's incessant demonization of the American Left been ineffective in dissuading such a curiosity, but some signs pointed to the Red Scare proving outright counterproductive. For historian Michael Landis, "With scant evidence to show to merit the Justice Department's crackdown on civil liberties, Palmer resoundingly lost the trust of the American people. Returns depreciated the harder they drove it in, and at this juncture the Left easily whipped up a hardened opposition."

Nevertheless, President Johnson and his accompanying supporters refused to shy away from their election strategy. In the face of labor resistance, notably the resilience of certain pockets of unrest in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Columbian spokespersons ramped up their inflammatory language. They blamed "disloyal unionism" and "Red Labor" for the national woes. Some cited the radical women's movement as a destructive entity as well, with surrogates like Senator Frank B. Brandegee (R-CT) preaching the usual sexist tropes not uncommon for the era. Framing the subject as if the status quo spared the livelihoods of women, he explained "the maintenance of our systems means the exemption of the female sex. Her fragile form, lesser by the nature of love and devotion, risks her very life if burdened by the blight of politics." Brandegee and men likewise aghast at the thought of women entering the realms of social activism and political agitation were unable to reason with a women's movement sprinting to the trenches of revolutionary idealism. They plead to the "wisdom of mothers" to guard their daughters from sin and warn them of the evils of Bolshevik militancy. For the younger generation, however, feminist icons like Mother Jones, Alice Paul, Emma Goldman, and Rose Schneiderman had already disproved Brandegee's ridiculous assertions and uncovered the hypocrisy of blind Americanism.

Combating this trend was of the utmost significance to President Johnson, and of this Senator Harding was of one mind with the incumbent. Running for re-election in Ohio and counting on the votes of all registered Republicans and Progressives, the senator roared his approval for a key component of the president's campaign and based much of his own on the same premise. As part of an overarching, institutional Red Scare program, Johnson granted his full endorsement to sweeping anti-socialist legislation. The proposal, if passed, would expel all registered members of the Socialist Party and the IWW from Congress, and furthermore require all officeholders sign a "Statement of Loyalty." Socialists and Wobblies would forever be barred from serving in the federal government. This mirrored a previously authorized executive order which had mandated all newly hired federal employees voice unwavering support to the U.S. government. Although it practically begged to be challenged in the courts, the anti-socialist concept was different enough from anti-sedition legislation to royally interfere with the electoral ambitions of the left-wing party. As for Harding, polling taken in the summer of 1920 still placed him as a narrow favorite in the senatorial race with 40% of the vote, a far cry from his 56% triumph in 1914 but a satisfactory figure nonetheless.

With the country as divided as ever and fearful hysteria raising suspicions on all fronts, the dam was bound to break. It did not take long for that concrete to rupture. On September 16th, a group of men besieged a local IWW headquarters in Eureka, California. This busy IWW branch was in the process of organizing longshoremen in an ongoing pay dispute. It gained a foothold in the community upon leading some 300 timber workers to victory against the Pacific Lumber Company in 1918, and in 1920 was determined to assist non-unionized dockworkers achieve similar ends. All thus far had been peaceful, but, behind the scenes, a wave of reaction prepared to shut the recruitment drive down. The Humboldt Society for Americanism paraded through the streets of downtown Eureka, rifles in tow, set on intimidating prospective IWW entrants and forcibly putting an end to the union's activities. The mob fired onto the IWW building in military fashion, broke down the front doors, and upon the breach removed two IWW personnel against their will. Both were well-known labor leaders: Oscar and Alfred Thompson. It is widely presumed that the Thompson brothers were targeted for their recognizable leadership positions in the union. Additionally, Alfred, the elder of the two, was a sitting city councilman and a much-hated entity by the mostly unregulated Eureka fishing industry. The SA bound and gagged the brothers, then dragged them behind a Ford truck for several miles. Shortly afterward, the mob lynched Alfred and Oscar.

A makeshift bomb exploded in the IWW building within minutes of the brothers' abduction. Half of the historic structure collapsed inward, culminating in twelve deaths and twenty severe injuries. Six of those killed were not organizers, but rather three timber workers and their wives. As the Humboldt SA vanished from the blazing sight, firemen and paramedics arrived on the scene to assess the damage and rescue all they could. The press was quick to condemn the violence and offer their condolences to those slain, with some criticizing the city government for not taking the proper precautions in dealing with the notorious SA. Local publications commented on the fact that the IWW did not discriminate based on ethnicity or race, noting their partnership with the NBWA and the wide acceptance of non-English speakers into their ranks. Cross-racial solidarity was a significant component of the IWW, after all. Perhaps it was for this cause, they theorized, that the all-white SA aimed its sights where it did.

Johnson had nothing constructive to say about the incident apart from the briefest of memorials. Palmer stopped short of celebrating the catastrophe, heartlessly determining the lynching an expected outcome of blatant national disloyalty and a side-effect of labor activism. Blease too admitted his feelings on the matter, though for the sake of his burgeoning populist coalition should have stayed out of it. He remarked that the Eureka bombing undoubtedly occurred because of an, "unholy alliance of the races," and more so predicted an upswing in "earned" violent extremism. He mourned the victims and briskly denounced the SA, but in the same breath suggested the labor movement's commitment to inclusion was equally to blame for the travesty. Evidently, ethnic differences overruled economic and class solidarity for the South Carolinian. This moment was a wake-up call for those who fell for Blease's charade. His committed delegates worked endlessly to disguise the senator in a veil of Bryan Democracy and old-fashioned populism, insisting that his true sympathies lied with the red-blooded American laborer, but his remarks on the Eureka bombing revealed the candidate's un-erasable, racially driven underbelly. Calling this statement detrimental to his ambitions would be a bit of an understatement. "If the bombing of a union hall elicited less rage than said union's recruitment of black dockworkers," wrote Republic contributor Vera Rivers, "fair mediation would prove impossible."

Responses from Johnson and Blease regarding the terrorist attacks on the labor movement revealed precisely where each stood, not that there was truly much doubt. But for the Democratic advocates who felt obligated to actively campaign for the nominee, doing so whilst plugging their ears, the statement was purely indefensible. Former President Bryan refused to come to the Democratic nominee's defense in the latest issue of The Commoner. Democratic Party chairs in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois announced their intent to explore redirecting resources from the national campaign (a call some demanded of them at the conclusion of the DNC). "[Huey] Long was out, not that he was ever "in"." explained Rivers.
"He pounced on the opportunity presented before him in August, offering to lend his voice to the downfall of Hiram Johnson, a man he termed a despicable, irredeemable murderer. Despite a deep-seated loathing for Blease, Johnson was a monstrous threat. Not one positive word for Blease escaped Long's mouth. His plan changed after Eureka. Congress could wait. He'd rise to the top without their help. Long took the open stage in Lafayette, a venue paid for with funds from the Blease Campaign and the Louisiana Democratic Party, and verbosely denounced Coleman Blease until the Democratic event runners realized with a panic what was happening. It is a memory he has looked back on with fondness."
 
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So I'd say Blease might have shot himself in the foot, and then the other foot and then the gut for good measure... but who knows, at any rate? Huey Long might have just shafted himself in Louisiana, or he might have ensured himself a great political future. Either one worries me considerably. Thus far, the Socialists are keeping steady, hopefully there are no nasty October surprises in store for them.
 

dcharleos

Donor

Responses from Johnson and Blease regarding the terrorist attacks on the labor movement revealed precisely where each stood, not that there was truly much doubt. But for the Democratic advocates who felt obligated to actively campaign for the nominee, doing so whilst plugging their ears, the statement was purely indefensible. Former President Bryan refused to come to the Democratic nominee's defense in the latest issue of The Commoner. Democratic Party chairs in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois announced their intent to explore redirecting resources from the national campaign (a call some demanded of them at the conclusion of the DNC). "[Huey] Long was out, not that he was ever "in"." explained Rivers. "He pounced on the opportunity presented before him in August, offering to lend his voice to the downfall of Hiram Johnson, a man he termed a despicable, irredeemable murderer. Despite a deep-seated loathing for Blease, Johnson was a monstrous threat. Not one positive word for Blease escaped Long's mouth. His plan changed after Eureka. Congress could wait. He'd rise to the top without their help. Long took the open stage in Lafayette, a venue paid for with funds from the Blease Campaign and the Louisiana Democratic Party, and verbosely denounced Coleman Blease until the Democratic event runners realized with a panic what was happening. It is a memory he has looked back on with fondness."

Fucking awesome.

Don't you just love it when everything goes to absolute shit?
 
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