Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

Its actually sounding like Stedman might win by default, as the last remaining socially liberal, reformist contender left in the race. The question is, how far will Johnson go to prevent that from happening and how far the rest of the government will allow him to go.

It would be interesting to see how the country would react and Stedman would govern with a broad progressive coalition rather than just Socialist intellectuals, immigrants, and industry workers.
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Did you just write this so we wouldn't get annoyed at you

Or was this actually planned?
Believe it or not, most of the story beats are planned well in advance.
I'd be lying if I said comments didn't influence the story, but Long's trajectory, for example, I worked out a while ago.

Damn, I kind of wanted an absolutely cursed Blease presidency.
The votes haven't begun just yet :)

Next part will be up this coming weekend.
Gahhhhhhh cliffhanger!

I just finished binge reading this whole thing over several days. I absolutely love the history book style of this timeline, the primary and secondary sources, and especially the social commentary. I'm excited to see what happens after the polls close!
Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 189

Socialist Journalist Walter Lippmann, 1920 - Source: Wiki Commons

Cracks in the dam were more visible than ever. In the immediate aftermath of the Eureka attacks, presumably apolitical editors and authors voiced a tone most unfamiliar to their peers. No longer did each preface criticism of political violence with assurances of anti-socialist sentiment. The truth of the matter was that Eureka demonstrated just the latest in a series of assaults on peaceful activists and organizers. The New York Times, which just three years prior wholeheartedly endorsed loyalty tests and accused the SP of fomenting revolution, printed an editorial decrying the Society for Americanism and its shady enablers within the Johnson Administration. It read, "The affairs of September 16th are a symptom of the disquieting troubles laying deep in the fabric of the country. We exist today leaderless, governed by vigilantism and the rampage of the mob. Rising steadily from one day to the next beneath our noses is a movement both dangerous and unchecked."

The Masses
, the most widespread socialist magazine in the U.S., sorrowfully reflected on the violence as well. Its articles did not signify a sense of shock, but rather explained the Eureka tragedy within the context of the Johnson Administration's long-standing strategy of manipulating the public and severing the organizing arm of the working class. "[Johnson's] campaign offers no solution to the hungry and nothing to the jobless. It sides with the foes of social democracy at all turns, and admits no fault in stirring the SA to commit its barbarism. Republicans, Democrats, Columbians... their class interests are integrally intertwined. Unionism is their foe. It is no accident that this administration targets immigrants yearning for workplace democracy. It is no accident that class consciousness is met with bloodshed at home and in Occupied Toronto." By cleverly linking Eureka to the use of an imperial foreign policy, this article highlighted how Johnson and his allies may have inspired anti-socialist terror through their endorsement of tactless violence in Canada. If the U.S. Army was justified in clamping down on left-wing independence advocates in Toronto and elsewhere in the occupied territories, then surely the same justifications applied to the SA at home.

New questions arose in the wake of the incidents. Theorists in the mainstream press and other journalistic endeavors pondered how best to interpret the proper meaning of "patriotism." Was it patriotic to grant unquestioning support to one's government, even when in doubt of said government's policies or direction? When zealous nationalists cheerfully engaged in brutalizing and lynching their fellow citizens, were they not willfully insubordinate to Roosevelt's Americanism? In Seymour Stedman's response to the violence at Eureka, he echoed these very questions. Was the strident, ultra-Americanism of the loyalty leagues truly representative of patriotism in the modern era, or "was their reactionary crusade waged in reaction to democracy itself?" He hypothesized that the workers fighting for a decent wage and the radical suffragettes demanding equal rights were more representative of the "American Promise" than "a horde of unruly butchers." Stedman centered his closing argument along those lines, asserting that it was past time to redefine what makes one a patriot.

As the days dwindled down and the time drew nearer for the century's showdown, the three campaigners rounded out their escapades. Blease made his last stand on the outskirts of Baltimore before making the return trip to Newberry, South Carolina. Ignoring sweeping negative press after his Eureka comments, the Democrat focused all fire on Johnson with a smattering of temperance talk to excite prohibition activists and carry them to the polls. Johnson arrived back in Washington on schedule, giving one final speech before a massive crowd at the White House. He named the election a, "choice of life or destruction," and claimed the fabled Pax Americana would be forever doomed if either the Democrats or Socialists were to be given power. The incumbent moreover reiterated the need to beware of fraudulent practices at polling places, reminding the public of the headache-inducing Manhattan Scandal. He called on duly trained deputies to conduct themselves as readied observers, ensuring that all precincts follow the proper local procedures. Partnering with Republican-owned firms and law offices, Johnson's men worked to have enlistees at every corner. Some criticized this move as an intimidation tactic, while others welcomed the security operation with open arms. It is unlikely, in retrospect, that the observers had any meaningful impact on turnout.

Stedman stayed on the campaign trail through Election Day. He ran one last blitz through the Western states, paying special attention to the Southwest and parts of California. He personally attended a memorial service in Eureka, and in doing so was the only major candidate for higher office in attendance. Stedman, who privately wrote pessimistically about his chances in the election, focused intently on sharing the spotlight with fellow Socialists running for state and federal office. Should Johnson be victorious, the Socialist's greatest asset would be their presence in the legislative branch. Reactionary legislation would invariably encounter worthy hurdles if the Columbians were robbed of their standing in Congress. More so, seeing as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution shuffled-up the contingent system by granting House members the ability to vote as individuals as opposed to state blocs, control of the lower legislature was of the utmost importance. It was pivotal for the SP to win in as many districts as possible, in addition to locking down those seats barely won in 1918. Yet Stedman seemed to have all the bases covered. Miller generally oversaw events taking place in the Southwest, La Follette and Seidel ran the show in the industrial Midwest, Reed and La Guardia campaigned vigorously in the Northeast, and Senator Holt worked to turn out coal miners along the Mason-Dixon line. A failure to rise above the odds would not occur from a lack of effort, nor a lack of party unity.

Political commentator Walter Lippmann of The New Republic, once a registered member of the Socialist Party, illustrated his disgust with the Republican and Democratic contenders on the eve of the election. "Neither [Blease nor Johnson] embody the ideas for which nominally he stands. It is unreal because both candidates are the products of intra-party struggle for control, and the meaning of their candidacies lies in that control. Their speeches and their platforms are concessions to minorities, and pure bewilderment to the majority. Under cover of that bewilderment the work of Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan passes into history. Their spirit controls neither party to-day. [...] They operate in a political vacuum, unable to feign the slightest bit of empathy with the working class." Lippmann was unapologetic in his socialist leanings and famed for his “cut to the chase” editorial style. He garnered a wide audience by 1920, and to his contemporary readership was seen as an authority on popular opinion. Lippmann emphasized that only Stedman appeared amenable to the concerns of the public, asserting the degree to which the other candidates capitulated to special interests and pet causes.

Certain skeptics in the printed media sharply disagreed with Lippmann's analysis. The New-York Tribune published a response piece to that of the Times, The Masses, and The New Republic. Written predominantly by the paper's executive editor, arch-conservative Garet Garrett, the article faithfully defended "the president for all Americans" from "mistrust spewing from the autocrats of Moscow." It presented a glowing review of Johnson's presidency and noted that he alone separated the United States from falling into "a pit of treachery, radicalism, and foreign-rule." Albeit plainly obsequious to the whims of the financial elite, Garrett's work did manage to resonate among those yearning for a return to the days of relative peace, order, and carefully-guided conservatism (even though Johnson's reign represented nothing of the sort). Indeed, Hiram's Johnson's strongest asset was his standing as the incumbent as this position had its natural benefits. Even if all was not well throughout the country, some analysts predicted that the nation would reject any extreme diversions from the status quo and, therefore, be naturally more inclined to keep things as-is. This assumption was calculated into all political forecasts of the day, and most arrived at the same conclusion as the Literary Digest: A potential three-way split with Johnson edging out the competition.
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Nice. I’m increasingly of the belief that either Stedman outright wins, or wins a plurality. I feel like Stedman is able to unite the Socialists, Rooseveltian Progressives, and Bryan Democrats into a single force. If this was real life I would expect the Socialist Party over the next few years to morph into a more general Left-wing Populist party, but I’m eager to see where you take it.
I feel like Stedman is able to unite the Socialists, Rooseveltian Progressives, and Bryan Democrats into a single force. If this was real life I would expect the Socialist Party over the next few years to morph into a more general Left-wing Populist party, but I’m eager to see where you take it.
I'm not so sure. Stedman is the presidential candidate, but the party's National Executive Committee is dominated by OTL Communists who see revolution as the only viable way of establishing socialism.
I'm not so sure. Stedman is the presidential candidate, but the party's National Executive Committee is dominated by OTL Communists who see revolution as the only viable way of establishing socialism.
The NEC has a range of perspectives on that idea with most speaking admirable about the Russian and French revolutions, but I'm not so sure I would go that far.
The Debs "Center" won a majority on the committee and the radicals were not expelled like OTL, but the SP isn't a Communist Party - or at least not yet.

Apologies if I missed it, but what all did the 18th Amendment entail? I've only seen it mentioned in passing and until now didn't know what was in it.
I didn't reveal too much of the finer details, but I've suggested that it's a variation of OTL's 20th Amendment.

Congressman Hayward introduced the resolution at the start of the May session, and it was quickly granted the necessary votes for complete approval by the House and Senate. The proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution was sent to the states, giving state governments a chance to voice their feelings. It was soon approved by three-fourths of the states, forever reducing the extent of the lame duck period and clarifying contingent election rules.
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Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 190 - 1920 Election Day I

Illinois Congressman Seymour Stedman, 1920 - Source: Wiki Commons

On November 2nd, 1920, Election Day dawned at last. With this electoral kraken having dipped its tentacles into virtually all manners of American life, to describe the environment as stressed is a severe minimization. Not everyone held a firm stance about politics, but knowledge of the upcoming vote was simply inescapable. All were familiar with the candidates and their varying positions. The entire saga from Eugene Debs' assassination to the attacks on the Eureka IWW was fresh in mind. Hiram Johnson, Coleman Blease, and Seymour Stedman were extraordinarily well-recognized names if the abundance of press coverage was of any indication. A distinct minority lamented the choices available to them on the ballot, perhaps exclusively desirous of an amorphous normalcy, but most of the electorate felt stirred by at least one of the options. By all accounts this election did not lack public enthusiasm, further proven by its unusual, above-average turnout.

Voters flocked to the polls and did so regardless of nationality or ideological orientation. In those states where universal suffrage was authorized on a complete or limited basis (Texas, for example, permitted women to vote for municipal offices but not federal), women showed up in droves to be heard at the ballot box. By 1920, a handful of states still prohibited ballot access to women or forbade them from casting their votes for president. Even then, women's organizations like the expansive Workingwomen's Craft and Industrial Union League and the American Council of Women Voters rallied feminists and suffragettes to lobby receptive politicians. ACWV founder Alice Paul, a prominent icon of the women's movement and an active participant in intra-war peace protests, declared it necessary for fellow champions of gender and sex equality to support the candidacy of Seymour Stedman. She implored all women to unite under the common purpose of electing the leftmost candidate to expedite their goal of securing the equality of rights under the law, otherwise, under Blease or Johnson, their cause would be lost for a generation. She received ample resistance from the conservative end of the suffragette pool for her surprise endorsement but stayed unwavering.

Numbers began piling in from all over as the minutes stretched to hours. Record breaking turnout seemed the name of the game across the country, and at first the reporting went as smooth as one could hope. However, before a relieved sigh could bare to escape America's lungs, trouble reared. The SA, perhaps sensing the delicate nature of a potential close race, engaged voters directly at a slew of polling places and tossed the entire process into disarray. They specifically and deliberately chose balloting areas with known Eastern European-immigrant populations and were transparent in their intent to rob them of their voting rights. Some intimidated with rifle-pointing, others blocked entryways. In most cases state authorities shooed the vigilantes away before any violence could break out, or, if present, Johnson's election observers likewise scared away intimidators. Though elsewhere, a devolution into panic and violence indeed culminated. At fifteen sites targeted by the SA, predominately in and around the Chicago metropolitan area, voting was forcibly closed due to either gunfire, the threat of a bombing, or sheer confusion and misdirection. Thousands found themselves unable to vote in the 1920 elections for this very reason, leading to certain precincts having lower turnout reports despite contradictory reports on the national level.

Regional Northeastern and Great Lakes iterations of the SA directed most of their ire at immigrant communities and religious minorities for "providing the lifeblood of the Communist Uprising," but in the South, the organization added an additional scapegoat to their repertoire. Recovering from the horrors of the Red Summer and its abundance of race riots, black organizations like the NBWA and the NAACP had incorporated new resolutions pertaining to voter registration. Achieving equal protection under the law necessitated federal legislation. It was not easy to picture salvation from a decade rife with white supremacist terror, but many activists believed a key first step involved combating the disenfranchisement of black Americans. Their registration drive was a year-long operation, and alongside consistent anti-Jim Crow litigation by the NAACP it succeeded in raising the number of new registrants within the African American community. Yet voting itself was all but impossible. If being blocked, pushed, and/or shoved failed to persuade, some black voters found themselves staring down the barrel of a shotgun. White mobs in Ocoee, Florida, riled up by the local SA, captured and lynched multiple civil rights activists in retribution, and furthermore razed Ocoee's black neighborhood to the ground. Hundreds died merely trying to cast their votes. Such detestable news crushed the illusion of Election Day as a time of peaceful democratic cooperation. Espousing this theory was nonsensical in a year, and an administration, tainted with blood and tyranny.

In the words of Benjamin McIntyre, "Discontent because of social upheaval is assured in virtually all human histories. When chronicling the whirlwind of grassroots movements and dissent, oftentimes the point of greatest reaction is equal to the moment of convergence." The time was right for a change, or so it seemed. Advocates for justice faced paramount odds and yet endured in the fight. Brutal crackdowns by the state and private interests had not broken the determinism of the rebels, and in November of 1920 these social movements all appeared to assemble with one common purpose. "Its energies bolstered by the unified labor and socialist movements, the Socialist Party, the sole vehicle for sweeping transformation, braced for what they suspected could be an election to remember."

As the votes funneled in at last, the profound divisiveness of the nation turned from a popular theory to a proven, mathematical fact. Early figures did not show any one campaign with momentum above the rest. Most of the "swing" districts of the last few cycles, specifically those which moved wildly from 1912 to 1916, were too close to call on Election Night. This included areas of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, where Theodore Roosevelt encountered a tremendous wave of support after losing Boston to the Republican Party four years prior. Whereas the Columbians stumbled, the Democratic Party fared splendidly in the Bay State's most recent congressional elections. Election forecasters predicted a Democratic sweep on all levels of government in 1920 as a justifiably negative reaction to the Johnson Administration. With the Irish American population discouraged by the Vienna Conference and deflated by President Johnson's policies, it was assumed this group would flood back to the Democratic fold. Yet less than half did so. Despite Senator Fitzgerald's assurances that the need for a Democratic win overruled concerns over their nominee's tainted history, the cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea remained too close to call throughout the night. Elsewhere, in industrial towns like Lowell and Lawrence, the Socialists conquered the field.

Even with a somewhat warped view of the returns with only partial results available, precincts with high numbers of unionized voters undoubtedly leaned strongly in the direction of the Socialist Party. This held true regardless of state or locality. The presence of IWW offices in dense, urban areas benefited their side immensely as members flooded the polls, but even on city outskirts the SP appeared to outdo the competition. Whether affiliated with the Wobblies or the pro-Columbian AFL, union families appeared to grant their full confidence to Seymour Stedman. Non-unionized voters, on the other hand, may have been more receptive to Johnson and the Columbians. According to historian George Alexander, "The Hiram Johnson Campaign, the single most expensive operation in political history, fared excellently among all groups with which it did not demonize or vilify. Scores of Americans left the Columbian rolls in 1918, but the first results out of the Northeast indicated fewer had abandoned the president than initially assumed." Indeed, the Johnson presidency, unrepentant in their use of mass corporate funding and use of bigoted propaganda, managed to retain some semblance of an audience beyond women, industrial workers, and immigrants. The Republican-backed candidate was unable to hold Massachusetts, but he prevailed in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and, apparently, Maine.
Part 7: Chapter XXVII - Page 191 - 1920 Election Day II

President Johnson with Senator William E. Borah, Autumn 1920 - Source: Wiki Commons

Observing the Popular Vote evolve as the night went on was a curious affair. In the beginning, Johnson and his Republican allies cheered each announced update emanating from a live radio broadcast (a first for the U.S.). Newly counted precincts with high overall totals for the incumbent painted a grave picture for the Socialists and the Democrats. At the moment it seemed the Literary Digest dramatically undercounted Johnson supporters and overestimated the ability of the other parties to remove from power the natural successor of Theodore Roosevelt. President Johnson himself was said to have looked visibly alleviated by results released in the earlier part of the night, noting the abject failure of the Blease Campaign to sew up Indiana immediately upon the closing of its polls. Traditionally Republican states, alternatively, fell to Johnson without much commotion. When an sooner-than-expected Connecticut call augmented his sum by 7 Electoral Votes, the president reportedly reassured incoming Governor Everett Lake (R-CT), "It will be ours by midnight. You can turn off your radio."

Hours later, the standings illustrated a stark reversal. Returns from New Jersey and Pennsylvania did not sufficiently satisfy election officials to judge the end-results one way or the other. States like Ohio and Colorado encountered significant delays, as did certain Illinois precincts under siege. SA terrorism as previously described ground the electoral process to a halt in some of the nation's densest population centers, provoking deadline extensions and mandatory overtime for election workers. As for the confirmed and verified results, Johnson's unquestioned domination of the Popular Vote was now deserving of ample questioning. Factory towns across the country handed Stedman an unprecedented advantage, specifically in Western and Midwestern states more comfortable with the idea of Socialist representation. City residents throughout these areas embodied the core of the Socialist base, and by the night's end it was all but a certainty that Stedman would skyrocket past the commendable, record totals won by Seidel four years ago. Exemplifying this development, the Popular Vote in Portland, Maine, showed a virtual tie between Stedman and Johnson. The incumbent's grip on the Pine Tree State's total vote count lessened as his lead waned by the minute. Early reports of a Johnson victory in Maine were rescinded, and the state's vote soon entered recount territory.

Coleman Blease, while capably holding his own in terms of his overall share of the vote, struggled to make inroads to the same degree as Bryan had in 1916. Former President Bryan made his name in the Democratic Party through his appeal to agrarian field hands, rural populists, and moralist agitators. He tapped into this crowd without a modicum of effort and doing so thrice won him the party nomination. Although he ultimately failed to win the presidency in 1916, Bryan's presence on the ticket was enough to drive these demographics back to the polls. Blease had none of that appeal. The current nominee based his campaign on a similar moralistic outrage and populist fervor, but his notoriety as a rabid segregationist and staunch nativist played rather poorly with the old Bryanites. Blease's social nativism and economic populism won surefire favor with an undercounted sect of voters, but as was the case with Johnson, his controversial positions also alienated some critical components of the party's historical base. Capturing a plurality in Indiana was a steep chore when it never should have been, and in the end, it slipped through his fingers. Vera Rivers explained, "The Democratic and Progressive parties fell into mirrored traps, that is, taking one's votership for granted. Eureka was just symbolic of their inexcusable tone deafness. Broken and abandoned pieces from the fractured Bryan and Roosevelt coalitions had to go somewhere, and so they did."

The turning point was New York. The Empire State's 45 Electoral Votes and its population of three million were heartily coveted by all vital players in this race. Each campaign made extensive use of surrogate speechmaking and political advertising in New York, optimistic that the swing state would embolden their probability of all-out victory. Johnson employed his vice-presidential nominee, Governor Charles Evans Hughes, to fastidiously shore up support ahead of the election. Hughes enjoyed high favorability throughout the state, but the 58-year-old incumbent was no rising star. That privilege belonged to an enormously popular and influential state senator named Franklin D. Roosevelt. Senator Roosevelt, unmoving in his belief that the government must serve the interest of the public, was an active reformer in the state legislature and encompassed the leftmost section of the New York Progressives. He championed progressive action for well over a decade, and therefore labored with the notion of endorsing Johnson, an unmitigated opponent of governmental reform, for a full term. He calculatingly stayed quiet for the duration of the campaign season and refused to answer calls from the president. Not until reporters cornered him and practically demanded an answer did Roosevelt admit, "My vote is for the man who will fight for the common good. Endorsements serve little purpose. We have seen things on too large a scale to listen at this date to trifles, or to believe in the adequacy of trifling men."

Perhaps because Franklin Roosevelt wished to avoid tying himself down to a political adversary in all but party identity, he deliberately chose to resist endorsing President Johnson. He instead skirted around the issue and, as some journalists extrapolated, suggested an interest in Stedman. Needless to say, whether this extrapolation is accurate or not, Roosevelt most certainly did not name the presumed heir to his cousin's legacy. Historians tend to avoid crediting, or blaming, the state senator for the lackluster performance of Hiram Johnson in New York, as it is far more accurate to point to the gradual success of the Socialist Party and the IWW for the result. The five boroughs of New York City denied appeals from both the Democratic and Progressive-Republican presidential candidates. As had occurred in the 1918 midterm elections, city residents loudly voiced their displeasure with the two parties and served them somewhat measly numbers in turn. Downstate unleashed a tidal wave of support for Seymour Stedman, tempered only by the wealthiest neighborhoods. Upstate was more of a mixed bag, but even in Rochester and Buffalo the SP won wide acclaim. Mayor Seidel took 17% of the state's vote in 1916. In 1920, Stedman managed to secure an astounding 40%, thereby shattering the delusion that Johnson would handily walk away the winner of this race.

"(The Socialists) championed not the theoretical, but the material," wrote Thomas O'Connor. "Restoring the national economy and taking on the all-controlling oligarchy was sound policy. To remedy the nation's unequal distribution of wealth was just and noble action. Voters trusted in Stedman and found his backstory endearing. They concurred now was time for a progressive facelift, a political evolution. Not a revolution of the toiling classes, an all-American evolution to bring about a responsive government and communally owned public utilities. On this basis, far from the dreams of Jack Reed, they succeeded."

The shape of this election cleared up as additional results arrived from the closest states, denoting how Stedman seemed to be narrowly surpassing Blease and Johnson in terms of the Popular Vote. Blease pounded down the competition in the Solid South, and Johnson eked out wins in some portions of the West and Midwest, but the story of the night was Stedman's overperformance from coast to coast. The Socialist Party secured razor-thin margins in the Southwest, captured adoration in the Pacific Northwest, and managed to surpass the rest in coal-heavy West Virginia as well as Ashley Miller's Nevada. By the skin of his teeth, Stedman defeated Johnson in California, administering a humiliating blow to the Californian native. Within their upper Midwest stronghold, the Socialists triumphed as never before, edging out the field in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Johnson stayed on top by a very slim margin in New Jersey and Ohio, but due to heavy involvement from unionized rail and steel workers in Pennsylvania, Stedman was declared the winner of the Keystone State by less than 1%. Finally, when Michigan was called for President Johnson on November 4th and the spotted Electoral Map focused into view, the nation was awestruck by how incomprehensibly accurate the three-way-tie theory had been. As it was, upon the verification of a contentious Maine recount, Stedman held 179 Electoral Votes, Johnson claimed 177, and Blease had 175.