Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

Part 4: Chapter XIII - Page 79
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    The First Family, August 24th, 1907 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Chapter XIII: A Grand Bargain: The Unlucky Fortune of Jurgis Rudkus

    Subsequent to the legislative elections, President Roosevelt, despite his eagerness to plow ahead with progressive reform, took some time to define the image of his presidency in advance of the upcoming presidential race. The 60th Congress would not meet for its first session until December of 1907. In that interim, the president fostered a more harmonious representation of himself than the prototypical blustering cowboy that so often flooded the popular imagination. Unlike any of his recent predecessors, Roosevelt allowed reporters into the now-renovated White House and cultivated incessant coverage for his administrations. It had been many years since the United States president built a decent relationship with newspaper correspondents,and the incumbent thought it wise to change that.

    Newsmen followed the daily activities of the personable leader, capturing frequent informal photographs and witty one-liners. He granted them, essentially, the first modern press briefings. This resulted in considerably favorable coverage that spanned every mainstream publication regardless of its political orientation (aside from extreme partisans). Positive reporting from daily columnists allowed Roosevelt to connect with middle-class supporters who gobbled up the latest presidential news as if it was candy. Especially in the post-Panic period, but even at the onset of his 1898 gubernatorial election, Roosevelt was a celebrity leader - and he knew it, loved it, and used it to his advantage whenever possible.

    Around the autumn of 1906, President Roosevelt completing his reading of The Jungle, a novel authored by muckraker and anti-corruption advocate Upton Sinclair. The Jungle was a contemporaneous story of a Lithuanian immigrant as he strives to establish a promising life for himself and his family in the United States. The protagonist, Jurgis Rudkis, works in the meat industry, and it through his viewpoint that the reader is taught the unsanitary and gruesome conditions of the Chicago meatpacking plants. Rudkis endures rancid wage slavery, workplace accidents, and frequent mistreatment by the factory employers until he is driven to homelessness and addiction.

    Author Upton Sinclair, who based the tale on his own experience working undercover in the meat industry, meant to expose the very real conditions of the meatpacking plants and that of poor, second-wave immigrants through the fictionalized perspective of Rudkis. Sinclair hoped that capturing the essence of unregulated capitalism and extreme systematic inequality would not only spur interest in worker's rights, but indicate the base faults with capitalism itself. The novel ends with Rudkis finding purpose and financial support in a socialist community, thereby demonstrating socialism's innate humanism and focus on cooperative labor in place of competition. Rudkis learns to embrace community-oriented socialism and his story ends on a hopeful note. With such an ending, Sinclair believed that the readership, numbering in the millions by the end of 1906, would arrive to a similar anti-capitalist conclusion.

    President Roosevelt, who initially balked at Sinclair and his audience for instilling socialism in the public psyche, stated his "utter contempt" for the author, and affirmed that "three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods." Once he took the time to read the story, however, the president became appalled by the bleakly described factory conditions. He was disgusted less so by the foundational condition of immigrant workers than the nauseatingly unsanitary meat packing plants, allegedly tossing aside a plate of sausage mid-meal and promptly ordering an investigation of the industrialized workplaces. That research, headed by Commissioner Charles P. Neill, verified the legitimacy of Sinclair's assertions.

    When the Congress did convene, Roosevelt required an attentive avenue of reform. The administration toyed with several monumental initiatives, and, due to the favorable congressional elections, coalition-building was far more viable than it had been previously. The Square Deal, as previously inferred, carried with it an ample amount of proposals, and it was up to the president to designate which legislative endeavors were more worthy of immediate implementation. Acting on his own accord, but too pressured by public demands, he would move meatpacking regulation to the top of that list.

    Agricultural regulatory measures notwithstanding, Roosevelt funneled his frustrations with the economic status quo into a single objective. The greatest legacy Roosevelt wished to his administration to leave behind was lessening excessive economic inequality. After the numerous scraps over his first two years in office, he witnessed first-hand the dangerous notion of extreme wealth in the hands of a select few puffed-up individuals. Therefore, Roosevelt's number one priority narrowed down to implementing the Bryan-era Constitutional amendment pertaining to the income tax. "The really big fortune," he declared, "the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means, Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective—a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIII - Page 80
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    Senator Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    From the moment of Chairman McKinley's retirement and his handing of the reigns to Whitelaw Reid, the Republican Party's future was set in stone. Much like his predecessor, Reid took it upon himself to reaffirm the party's mantra of arch-conservatism and stringent defiance of Theodore Roosevelt. The national committee first looked to resist the new president at an even stronger level than Bryan, returning to the consensus of the late Garret Hobart's mandate in 1897. Chairman Reid, with the 'Big Four' leading U.S. Senators, managed the party with an iron fist through the brunt of Roosevelt's presidency. However, that scene began to shift as the events of the last several years played out. In the aftermath of David Phillips' publishing of "The Treason of the Senate," Once-dominant Senators Spooner and Platt privately indicated their shared intention to step down after completing their terms in March of 1909. Aldrich, thoroughly defamed and dragged through the mud, began to fear that his political strength had been stripped as a result of allegations of blatant corruption.

    Senator Fairbanks, not yet reprimanded by the "Treason" series, had been the sole member of the upper echelon of Republican senatorial power untarnished during the course of the 59th Congress. Even the aged hardliner Senator Frye was publicly disgraced by his near-loss in a bastion of Eastern Republicanism, leaving Fairbanks as one of the few remaining influential Old Guard Republicans as the new Congress came to order. The Hoosier shepherded resistance to the noisy president and his Senate agenda up to this point, and he planned an identical tactic for the incoming session. Losses in the congressional elections substantially weakened his position, however, and eschewed Fairbanks' intent to keep up unmoving resistance. His league of oppositionist hardliners stayed in command despite these losses, but Fairbanks, who hoped to retain Republican superiority in the upper chamber, was not blind to the fact that his party was in jeopardy.

    The results in the Senate contests reduced the total number of Republican senators to 43 from 47. Although the GOP figure outnumbered the Democrats' 40, the inclusion of Columbian Party into the new Congress muddled the true senatorial composition. Independent Progressives had gained seven seats of their own. In the case of a Democratic-Progressive alliance, albeit not incredibly likely in the Senate but a possibility nonetheless, the Republicans would have lost their position of authority altogether and be relegated to a minority contingent. Fairbanks, frightened by the mere thought, took steps to avoid such a culmination. Therefore, just before the 60th Senate met for its first session on December 2nd, Fairbanks requested a face-to-face meeting with President Roosevelt.

    Recognizing deep distrust betwixt the factions, stemming from years of infighting and further symbolized by the 1904 split, Fairbanks approached Roosevelt in a cordial manner. Roosevelt accepted the request upon considerable contemplation, likely believing the humbled Republican leader prepared to, at long last, lower the barriers. More or less, the president was correct in his assumption. Fairbanks gently implored the president to work alongside the Republican Party instead of allying himself with Senate Democrats. He granted the president that a workable coalition was already garnered in the House, and short-term alliances were built in the previous congressional session, but Fairbanks insisted that it would better suit the president in the long-term to work with the GOP instead of either the Southern-based States' Rights Democrats or their anarchic Bryanite counterparts. Roosevelt, shocking his visitor, largely concurred.

    There were assuredly areas of reasonable accommodation, especially considering the concerns of fierce anti-reformists like Spooner could be passably disregarded moving forward. For example, each deeply distrusted exposé-oriented scandal-mongering muckrakers. TR had certainly fostered a healthy relationship with the press as a whole, and had moved marginally leftward to the extent that he sympathized with printed media in their aim to reveal corruption where it existed, but he did not not agree with unethical journalists publishing (supposed) wild charges and unsubstantiated claims against fellow politicians. "The liar," he said, "is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves." Roosevelt was no friend to muckrakers like David Phillips and William R. Hearst, regardless of the breadth to which he benefited from their works.

    Legislatively, the two men found avenues of agreement as well. Recognizing the near-calamity of the Panic of 1906, Fairbanks did not shoot down Roosevelt's assertions pertaining to the old natural laws of the marketplace no longer proving sustainable. He disliked the precedent it set, but admitted that the economic wrongs highlighted in the banking panic required being righted through legislation. Both Fairbanks and Roosevelt eventually concurred in the need for some semblance of reform on this front, yet the final decision rested with a massive compromise from each side, or, in other terms, a 'Grand Bargain'.

    President Roosevelt somewhat subscribed to the notion of labor reform as described in the Chicago Progressive platform, specifically a shortened work week and the bolstering of the American Safeguards Act, but he too understood that legislative effort expended precious political capital. Curtailing the "malefactors of great wealth" and regulating the stock market were the president's chief priorities late in his term, and his foundational belief that "predatory wealth" irreparably harmed Americans of all classes transcended direct labor reforms. Roosevelt thenceforth offered Fairbanks his proposal; he would lower his sights on businesses and soothe rowdy Progressives who demanded wage standardization, and in exchange the Republicans would back a Constitutional amendment enshrining the income and inheritance taxes.

    It was met with mixed reception. Radical Columbians referred to the agreement as "The Betrayal," and cited it as evidence that the party ought to back an aggressive stand-in for Roosevelt. Others reflected on the deal as "A Grand Bargain" that facilitated legislative movement and cooled tension between the warring factions. Liberal Democrats belonged to the former camp, frankly outraged that the president seemingly spurned the Bryan-endorsed Chicago platform. It planted a seed of distrust in their minds that Roosevelt would fight tooth-and-nail to dig back up. [...] Some detractors returned to the fold as results began emanating from Congress. For others, their disappointment had been immeasurable - and their optimism ruined.
    H. William Ackerman, Columbians in Washington: Great Expectations and the Hope of a Nation, 2013

    By the summer of 1908, Congress passed an assortment of progressively leaning legislation. This included an aggressive Meat Inspection Act and Clean Liquid Products Act that mandated government supervision and inspection of factorial food and alcohol production, and a Pure Food and Drug Act which banned interstate traffic in mislabeled food products. The 60th Congress also approved, in a unanimous fashion, admitting New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma as three new states (the first territory transformation since Utah in 1896). Finally, making good on the promise to do so, an overwhelming majority of Republicans signed off on the joint-resolution to amend the Constitution in May of 1908, joining the majority of Democratic and all Progressive officeholders. In what would soon become the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, this resolution stated, "The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect a taxes on estates and incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIII - Page 81
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    W.E.B. Du Bois (Middle Row, Second from Right) and the Niagara Movement, 1905 - Source: Wiki Commons

    For all of the reassuring rhetoric so liberally flaunted by Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressives, race relations in the United States had not improved whatsoever during his tenure. White supremacy in the South, at its height since the Civil War, guaranteed that the widespread and systematic discrimination of black Americans would continue unperturbed. Neither Bryan's populism nor Roosevelt's progressivism challenged the racial hierarchy imposed on much of the country by virulent racist governing. Voiceless and no longer satisfied with the direction of the nation under pompous non-savior presidents and politicians, a growing segment of the black population sought more direct means of attaining civil rights.

    Bowing to pressure from his tenuous Democratic allies in Congress, President Roosevelt not only deliberately hushed fellow insurgents from delving into racial matters, but he too declined an opportunity to invite author Booker T. Washington to the White House and, to his reputation's detriment, ordered the discharge of the all-Black 25th Infantry Regiment. On the former issue, Washington, an out-and-out conservative advocate of Black entrepreneurship and a proponent of racial uplift, discovered that the president retracted an invite to the black leader for dinner at the White House. As was later revealed, Roosevelt considered bringing the spokesman to the Executive Mansion out of a personal wish to do so, but settled against it out of fear of retribution by temporary legislative partners in the House and Senate. Washington, rightly disturbed and betrayed, never again spoke to the president.

    Regarding the 25th Infantry, that subject had been another monumental moral failure on the part of Roosevelt. In August of 1906, white residents in Brownsville, Texas falsely accused the regiment of stirring a riot and of attacking white women. An alleged shooting that had taken place in the city was also attributed to the black soldiers. Investigators ordered to the scene accepted unchallenged testimony and bogus forensic evidence as proof that men belonging to the regiment were the perpetrators, and they recommended an immediate dismissal. At the insistence of his Cabinet and the Army Inspector General, President Roosevelt formally decreed a dishonorable discharge of the 25th. Booker Washington and the National Negro Business League, as well as many contemporary newspapers and organizations concerned with the case, denounced the president wholeheartedly and maintained the soldiers' innocence.

    One of the most significant leaders of the early twentieth century struggle for black liberation, activist and author W.E.B. Du Bois, came to prominence at this historical moment. A professor at Atlanta University, Du Bois became known as an influential intellectual in the movement for civil rights and emerged as a leader in that movement following the publication of The Souls of Black Folk in 1903. In staunch opposition to the Southern-centric practicality and gradual uplift offered by Washington, Du Bois stressed distrust of white leaders and politicians who espoused damning disenfranchisement and segregation. Criticizing his ideological opponent, he wrote, "But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,—we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them" Rejecting a harmonious relationship with those who unapologetically avowed civil inferiority, Du Bois embodied the urgent need for revolutionary change for the black community.

    Two brutal race riots also characterized the Roosevelt presidency as armed white mobs instigated horrific cruelty against local black residents. A 1908 Springfield race riot, or more accurately 'lynch mob', saw the rise of a tumultuous anti-black militia as they brutalized black homes and businesses for two nights. Mayhem also erupted in the Atlanta Massacre of 1906, when armed mobs of white supremacists tormented and assaulted the city's black population until forcibly halted by the Georgia National Guard. Several dozen black Americans were killed in these calamitous riots and, for those crimes, no one was held accountable. Georgia Governor M. Hoke Smith (D-GA), then a gubernatorial candidate, praised the violence against black residents as the only means available to protect "fair young girlhood of the South" from assault. He won his election with over 99% of the vote.

    Of anything, the race riots demonstrated the undeniable need for a civil rights organization in the United States. Politicians in the major parties showed outward antipathy for the rights of black Americans, save the occasional broad denouncement of lynchings, so the duty fell to the citizens themselves to fight for self-preservation. In February of 1909, a group of intellectuals, activists and authors - ranging from social and economic reformers like Florence Kelley and William English Walling to civil rights advocates Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell and Henry Moskowitz - founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Flatly and without question, this organization exclaimed its primary mission "To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States." It stood against Jim Crow disenfranchisement and fought to abolish poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and all other methods utilized to de-legitimize the black vote and dehumanize black lives.

    Some of these same figures also supported unionized labor and cooperative economics, and employed political activism to oppose white supremacy. Those in the same vein as West-Indian American postal worker and theorist Hubert Harrison denounced capitalism altogether. To Harrison, racism in and of itself stemmed from "fallacy of economic fear" inherent in the capitalist competition.


    If the overturning of the present system should elevate a new class into power; a class to which the Negro belongs; a class which has nothing to gain by the degradation of any portion of itself; that class will remove the economic reason for the degradation of the Negro. That is the promise of Socialism, the all-inclusive working-class movement. In the final triumph of that movement lies the only hope of salvation from this second slavery; of black men and of white.
    Hubert H. Harrison, "Summary and Conclusion," NYC, December 16th, 1911

    Like NAACP founders Du Bois and Walling, Harrison would seek progress from the Socialist Party. The emphasis of the SP on class struggle appealed to those who were disconcerted with capitalist exploitation in conjunction with the major parties. In contrast to the Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives, the Socialists sought a radical societal and economic change that could certainly benefit black Americans who, as Harrison once stated, were "more essentially proletarian than any other American group." Insofar as the party was specifically concerned with the civil rights, its lack of a strong opposition to lynching and refusal to change racist membership practices in its Southern branches left much to be desired. The influx of civil rights activists into the party proper, however, looked to change that.
     
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    Part 4: Chapter XIII - Page 82
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    "The White Flag?" Cartoon Depicting Roosevelt's Surrender to the Trusts, April 10th, 1908 - Source: LoC

    In the face of an ever-changing Progressive Party and the arguable capitulation of Theodore Roosevelt to the demands of the Republicans for political purpose, the Democrats re-awakened with a sense of purpose. Former President Bryan and DNC Chair Johnson scorched the administration for folding into the conservative appeal to ameliorate its stance on regulating corporations and instituting labor reform. Johnson issued a statement condemning the president for his contemptible Grand Bargain, and Bryan, utilizing his famous voice, continued to orate in favor of unforgiving trust prosecution and assistance programs for working Americans. In stark contrast to Roosevelt's concentration on tax reform and mild regulatory measures, the Nebraskan implored the need for more direct fixes to the national woes. The platform adopted by the Nebraska Democratic Party in March of 1908 synthesized Bryan's messaging.

    The various investigations have traced graft and political corruption to the representatives of predatory wealth and laid bare the unscrupulous methods by which they have debauched elections and preyed upon a defenseless public through the subservient officials whom they have raised to place and power. The conscience of the nation is now aroused and will, if honestly appealed to, free the government from the grip of those who have made it a business asset of the favor-seeking corporations; it must become again a "government of the people, by the people and for the people;" and be administered in all its departments according to the Jeffersonian maxim, "equal rights to all and special privileges to none."
    The Nebraskan Democratic Platform, March 5th, 1908

    The varied planks of the 1908 Omaha platform broadly referred to Roosevelt as a sham, citing his newfound alliance with the "trust magnates" of the Republican Party as prime example of the incumbent's insincerity. The Nebraskan delegates demanded an administration in which there would be no reluctance to annihilate trusts, no hesitation to assert the right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, and no swearing-off of tariff reduction. It proposed most of what the 1904 Progressives did: an eight-hour working day, an employer's liability law, and an enlargement of the railway commissions, determinately deeming the Rooseveltian deal with Republican elites forces a sample case of what could be expected in an elongated Roosevelt presidency.

    As the Democrats looked forward, they recognized the need to overcome Roosevelt's grip on the popular imagination and his celebrity stature. Public adoration of the incumbent president lessened only marginally as a result of his surrender to Fairbanks and the 60th Congress, meaning the Democratic contender still faced a rigorous obstacle in the incumbent's substantial grassroots support. In order to win and circumvent the odds, the Democrats required the enlistment of a candidate capable of coalescing Bryan's agrarian allies as well as embittered Progressives. In the words of former Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr. (D-IL), a prosperous campaigned needed, "a standard bearer representative of all men. [...] He must appeal to the common people of every state and city, and do so ad nauseam. The voters should see themselves in (the nominee.)" If one could sufficiently enlighten the masses to the brilliance of Bryan Democracy, the party membership believed, they could turn the tables on the seemingly impervious president and his standpatter friends.

    Three competent candidates had already joined the presidential race for the Democratic nomination by the spring of 1908: Reformist Governor John A. Johnson (D-MA), antitrust advocate and former Tennessee Governor Benton McMillin (D-TN), and octogenarian former Senator Henry G. Davis (D-WV). Most of the political heavyweights, those in the vein of Minority Leader Champ Clark, patiently awaited former President Bryan's plans. Bryan, as it was, gave no indication of his future plans in any of his national speeches, deliberately ignoring desperate audience pleas to run once more. Judging by his personal letters, we today have little doubt that Bryan possessed a burning desire to take back his presidential crown. If he had entered, Bryan likely would have won the nomination. The central problem with this scenario, however, was that the second foreseeable frontrunner to the Democratic nomination would certainly have splintered off into an independent candidacy. If it meant to convey unified opposition to President Roosevelt, the Democratic Party could not afford forsaking the high-profile, de facto leader of the Northern Democrats: William Randolph Hearst.

    Aside from a potential Bryan candidacy, it was Hearst who was eyed by the public as the Democratic standard bearer. Having been elected governor of New York in 1906, the tenor-voiced, 6'1" businessman and publisher departed his congressional residence to fully relocate his base of operations to the Empire State. Just as he had done during his entire political career, the Californian focused vehemently on rooting out governmental corruption and enacting pro-labor legislation. Within his first three months in office, Governor Hearst partnered with muckraking journalists Samuel S. McClure and Lincoln Steffans to expose four state senators in the pocket of corporate influence. Hearst also oversaw an investigation into New York State Democratic Committee Chairman John A. Dix for allegations of tax fraud related to an Albany lumber business owned by Dix' father-in-law, Lemon Thomson. Dix was not formally prosecuted, though he did ashamedly resign from the committee in May 1907.

    Governor Hearst, intent on making good on his campaign promises, passed some notable and much-needed labor reforms ranging from child labor prohibition to the institution of an eight-hour working day for state workers. A shy yet effective public speaker, the governor also managed to convince the reluctant State Assembly to approve legislation which called for limitations on corporate donations to political campaigns and an Office of Campaign Expenditures (working under the New York Comptroller) to conduct general oversight. Albeit barred from initiating much else due to limitations placed on the budget in the aftermath of the 1906 Panic and Bankruptcy Crisis, Hearst succeeded in manifesting a degree of public adoration unmatched by any other officeholder in the State of New York. It was said by contemporaneous magazines that only Roosevelt equaled the favor instilled by the public in Governor Hearst.

    It was not an extraordinary shock when the ambitious Hearst declared his interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for 1908. Running as an officeholder of the most populous state in the Union, and as a successful businessman independent not beholden to any party organization or financial backers, Hearst embodied perhaps the gravest threat to the Roosevelt Administration. The gubernatorial incumbent also ran a media empire spanning coast to coast, from the New York Journal to the San Francisco Examiner. Just prior to taking office in Albany, Hearst also acquired the Los Angeles Examiner and the Boston American, adding these two publications to his newspaper repertoire. The same sensationalist features, manipulative editorials and cartoonish supplements were run across the various papers regardless of location, and every Hearst possession vigorously championed the same line: "HEARST FOR PRESIDENT!" Spending tens of thousands per week in his spring campaign to the nomination (allegedly bribing delegate votes in that process), the Hearst Campaign prepared to make a stand at the national convention.
     
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    Part 4: Chapter XIII - Page 83
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    Cartoon Depicting Roosevent and Taft En-Route to the RNC, February 9th, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    It is a fool's errand for one to underestimate the significance of the Roosevelt-Fairbanks Bargain on the political landscape in 1908. That deal had been a bipartisan milestone, or so it was perceived. It not only served as an olive branch from the Republican National Committee to Roosevelt, thus validating his call for federal regulation, but it had been the first open admission by the Republican Party that they were wrong on policy. It unintentionally admitted the fallacy of laissez-faire economics: something the modern GOP had never before dared to insinuate. No longer was there a question who called the shots - it was President Roosevelt, not Whitelaw Reid. [...] Fairbanks left that meeting with an impression of an unambiguous victory, thinking the deal fenced-in boundless progressivism to a more business-friendly zone, but others were patently discouraged that the upstart senator had given away the farm.
    Jay R. Morgan, The American Elephant: A Study of the Republican Party, 1980

    Indeed, Roosevelt's bargain appeared to symbolize the rebuilding of certain bridges once burned to a cinder. It managed to bring together two wholly disparate forces in an apparent show of shared belief in collegial government. For those who viewed the agreement in a positive light, mostly moderate and reluctant Progressives akin to Vice President Taft, it had opened the doors to further negotiation and a closer bond with American commercial interests. Now that President Roosevelt was talked down from the ledge of incessant trust-busting and business demonization, perhaps the stock market could rebound to its pre-Panic figures. More so than anything, the Grand Bargain appeared to spell the beginning of the end for the Progressive Party in a rather unprecedented development.

    The Progressives, fundamentally a splintered faction of the old Republicans (albeit joined by a small segment of disassociated Democrats within its first four years of existence), built itself squarely upon the shoulders of Theodore Roosevelt. Numerous divisive tendencies joined together at the Chicago Convention Hall in 1904 with an undivided purpose to nominate the only figure they found perceptive to the ideals of Progressivism and economic fairness. Without Roosevelt, the building of the Columbian Party would have proven impossible at worst and forgettable at best. His victory, and the further victories of his party in the midterm congressional races, proved that his forces could withstand scrutiny and garner massive public support, but it had all been centered around a single politician and the ideas he professed. Was this truly a sustainable model, or could recent circumstances and accusations of betrayal shatter the durability of the new party?

    If, leading Progressives supposed, the Grand Bargain exemplified more than a simple disarmament, what then could the looming presidential election have in store? The notion began to stir in early 1908 that President Roosevelt would seek the nomination of both the Progressives as well as the Republicans. Some, like contributor Joseph M. Ryan of The Washington Post, theorized that that had been the president's genuine objective in his meeting with Senator Fairbanks. "Appealing to the business community," Ryan hypothesized, "is not Roosevelt's forte, yet that may be his electoral strategy following four years of coarse vilification and disparagement. It is thus far unclear whether the man behind the famous breakup of Standard Oil and United States Steel could reshape himself to be palatable." As was also the subject of mass speculation, would a cross-endorsement relegate the Progressive Party to the same fate as the Populists? Fusion tactics eliminated the People's Party as a worthwhile force in American politics, there is little doubt an identical outcome would befall the similarly anti-establishment Columbians.

    Achieving dual nomination would virtually ensure the incumbent an additional term, while the prospect of a second three-way race jeopardized the party's now-noteworthy standing. The Progressive leader would not have the benefit of a Democratic nominee avidly out-of-touch with the base of that party, no matter how much he wished it. Furthermore, the plausibility that Bryan would once more endorse President Roosevelt was very unlikely. He instead appealed to the opposing party's moderate wing, holding several discussions with Senator Cullom to craft congressional policy and, as a result, solidified the votes necessary to pass the Constitutional resolution on May 15th.

    Regardless of the recent moves transparently designed to gain favor, the powerful GOP Old Guard saw it as political maneuvering. They were vastly distrustful of what they viewed as Roosevelt's conspiracy to steal their party nomination. It was unsurprising in retrospect, considering the president's constant belligerence to the Republican committee, ruthless criticism of President Depew, and accusations that the party machine fought against basic American principles. More so than all else, an ingrained opposition to anti-trust action and the Hepburn Rebate Act made the two forces completely incompatible. Chairman Reid officially coined their stance in early April, proclaiming, "This June, those who favor the sound basis of industry and the cardinal principles of political faith will nominate a true Republican to the presidency."

    Reid's proclamation gifted those Republicans eager to challenge Roosevelt the green light to go forward to declare their respective candidates. Seven candidates did just that, including arch conservative Former Senator James Sherman, Galesburg attorney and Representative George W. Prince (R-IL), and consistent anti-Progressive Illinois Lieutenant Governor Lawrence Yates Sherman (R-IL). Former President Depew refused to consider a renewed run at the presidency despite encouragement by the party elite. Likewise, Fairbanks, Reid, and McKinley turned down offers to take the mantle. Former Speaker Cannon had been expected to announce his intention to run in April, but he restated disinterest in re-entering the political fray.

    The moniker of frontrunner fell to Pennsylvanian Philander Chase Knox, the incumbent Class 1 senator from that state. Knox had served as Attorney General for Beveridge and Depew, annihilated the 1904 Democratic adversary with over 60% of the vote, and continually championed pro-business resistance to Roosevelt all throughout the 59th and 60th Congresses (famously disregarding the tension-dissipating provisions of the Grand Bargain). Although not quite a member of the party's elite, Knox speedily won over much of the national committee and began sweeping state nominating conventions. He had the nomination all but sewn up by June, eliminating the chance of a contested convention. Of course, in Knox' victory lied a significant drawback for Roosevelt. Any remaining hope that the president would bring back together the disparate factions of the GOP was dashed. In this fateful move that, plausibly, permanently skewed American politics to a multi-party system, the Progressives would go their own way, and the parties in 1908 would fail to unite in spite of incessant speculation.
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 84 - 1908 RNC
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    Internal View of the Republican National Convention, June 17th, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Chapter XIV: The Election of 1908: Democracy for the Highest Bidder

    Over nine hundred delegates and thousands of guests and onlookers arrived to Chicago on June 16th. They did so in order to take part in the opening of the Republican National Convention: To craft the renewed platform and formally nominate their ideal suitor to clash with President Roosevelt in November. Knowing that the opposing parties were not winnable to their cause, convention security staff upheld a strict identification policy for all visitors as a means to ensure that the festivities were inaccessible to "socialists, anarchists, and nefarious Progressive and Democrat informers." Participants were visually scanned upon entry, and any individuals deemed unsuitable (including anyone under the age of 25 and all unaccompanied women) were denied access to the venue.

    Even though the festivities were, by their very nature, exuberant and celebratory, an aura of unpleasantness pervaded the Chicago Coliseum. Despite assurances by the party leadership that the GOP was in a position to deliver a decisive blow to the president, much of the party remained unconvinced. President Chauncey Depew's miserable third-place performance in the 1904 election was commonly attributed to public distaste for avid conservatism as well as Depew's own rather despicable reaction to consolidation and labor agitation. Still, even with these drawbacks, Depew had had the advantage of incumbency. Now that the party was readying itself to designate a presidential challenger that essentially mirrored the much-loathed 1904 platform, some delegates doubted that any such candidate could sufficiently conquer burgeoning progressivism and zoom past Roosevelt in the Electoral Vote count.

    Led by Senators Fairbanks and Cullom, a minority contingent proposed altering the convention platform to better recognize the validity of the Grand Bargain instead of acting as if it had never been struck. Appealing to the moderate Progressive faction could prove advantageous, men like Fairbanks presumed, so offering them enticing rhetoric had the potential to sink a huge section of the Roosevelt vote while sacrificing virtually nothing in terms of genuine policy. "We trust in the spirit of conservative progress," explained Representative Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA) during the platform dispute, "and that is why it is in the party's best interest to readmit those elements of the [1900] platform that had carried Albert Beveridge to the White House. Unrelenting orthodoxy will serve us no benefit if our position allows King Theodore I to grow ever fatter in his Oval Office throne."

    Temporary Convention Chairman Morgan Bulkeley, Aetna Life Insurance Company president and incumbent Connecticut senator, allowed the plank proposals to come to a vote. Senator Frye spoke to the defense of the status quo, fiercely decrying the mediated platform amendment as a, "rotten component of the Progressive conspiracy to overturn the basis [of the Republican Party]." Representative John W. Weeks (R-MA), the former Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts and present congressman of the 12th District of the Bay State, firmly planted his flag on the side of the status quo. Weeks seconded Frye's defense of reiterating the previous platform as-is. "Surrendering our ideals to the league of radicals paraded by the charlatan president is not an option. If we resort to alteration, we may as well cast our lot with Bill Bryan! Weeks' exhilarating statement won over an adequate number of fence-sitter delegates to vanquish the mediation proposal, effectively ending that debate once and for all.

    On June 18th, time arrived for the nomination. An overwhelming majority of delegates had all but settled their bets on Senator Knox after his rampage through the state conventions awarded the Pennsylvanian with confident support. His nomination was virtually safeguarded from any attempts to upend it, but the candidate looked to sew up any loose ends regardless. Not everyone was thrilled with Knox as the nominee, and the former Attorney General understood this. Some of the delegates quietly desired the renomination of Depew to the presidency, while others believed a more prominent figure like Senator Henry C. Lodge stood the best shot against the incumbent. Fortunately for the aspiring nominee, he had been gifted a worthwhile advocate who agreed to speak to Knox's nomination and rally support.

    Roosevelt assures us of his readjustment. He swears to it, that no man in that Columbian catastrophe could sway his awakened convictions. If this is true, I ask, Mr. President, how then can we assume you hold to your word to any bargain? If you are a free agent, unrestrained by fraternization, all that you have sworn before Congress, and the country, is bunk. [...] It is folly to close our eyes to outstanding facts. The agents of discord and destruction have lit their torches in the homes of radical Columbians and wayward Democrats. Ours, the Party of Lincoln and Beveridge, is the temple of liberty under the law. Ours is the appealing voice to sober the nation. There can be no resolution but that truth. Now, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, my countrymen all. I obey the command of my state and the mandate of all Republicans, when I offer the name of the next President of the United States, Philander Chase Knox.
    Warren Gamaliel Harding, Republican Convention Speech, 1908

    That did the trick. This nominating address by the incumbent lieutenant governor of Ohio, Warren G. Harding, was received warmly by the crowd. In effect, it considerably bolstered the plausibility that Knox would retain a two-thirds vote on the first ballot. Serving beside Ohio Governor Myron Herrick, Harding gained statewide notoriety for skillfully managing the Ohio State Senate and thwarting a lackluster Progressive uprising in that legislative body. Now in the midst of his second term in office, the stone-faced Ohioan arrived to Chicago as a delegate for his state's Republican Party representing the majority pro-Knox faction. His speech presenting the frontrunner not only assisted Knox's prospects, but perhaps his own as well. "I daresay," former Chairman McKinley was reportedly heard in conversation with Senator Harris,
    "that man has a future in the party. We would do well to keep an eye on that one."

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    Exhaling a breath of relief, the Knox camp cleared the road ahead and passed the necessary delegate threshold on the first call. Not one vote went to either former President Depew or Senator Lodge, relegating that fear to the political graveyard. Knox's team, studious of the failures of the 1904 Republican ticket, settled on a vice president they believed would appeal to the oft-ignored Western Republican segment of the party. To this end, Knox recommended James Norris Gillett (R-CA), the railroad-friendly incumbent governor of California. Gillett promptly accepted, and the ticket was thence settled.

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    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 85 - 1908 DNC
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    Madison Square Garden in New York City, July 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    From all corners of the country, Democratic politicians of prominence and state-designated representatives traveled to the party's nominating convention in New York City. Chairman Johnson headed the tie-breaking vote to settle on the venue, opposing the Western branch of Democracy which had preferred Denver. From Johnson's perspective, Senator Richard Olney's success in the Empire State four years prior exemplified that New York still proved a definitive swing state. If the party played its cards correctly, those 39 Electoral Votes could very well decide the outcome of the presidential race. Therefore, on July 6th, the doors of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan opened to the enormous, varied assemblage of the Democratic National Convention.

    From the get-go, one of the earliest surprises of the DNC was the appearance of Governor Hearst alongside the New York delegation. Typically, the candidates did not personally attend (Bryan in 1896 and Beveridge in 1900 were the exceptions, as neither anticipated the nomination landing in their lap). This caused quite an uproar in the press, whose journalists profusely cataloged the provocative governor's movements and reactions to the daily proceedings. It launched him onto the front pages far above the other potential nominees, and all but assured that Hearst's political career and public favorability stayed on the up and up regardless of the results of the convention. It was opportunistic to a T, and the Democratic leadership despised him for it.

    As the delegates poured in amid stirring animation, the atmosphere seemed light and lively. No one candidate had the nomination sewn up on the first day of the event, yet the various sects were prepared to unite around whomever won out the day. Unity was the name of the game, as it was extremely important for the party to convey a spirit of solidarity as contrasted with the divisive Progressive-Republican spat. Most Democrats hoped to steer clear altogether of any contentious risks, and, in fact, they would congregate to form a strong, standardized platform clear of any controversy or alienating portions. It closely resembled the Omaha platform constructed by the Nebraska Democrats, combining pledges to suitably regulate industry with denouncements of President Roosevelt for failing to live up to progressives' expectations. Hearst and some of his Northern Democratic allies wished to add additional planks for nationalizing the railroads, a proposal previously brought up by former President Bryan, but they left the matter alone. The platform, Hearst believed, did not matter a pittance in comparison to the nominee.

    Going into the convention, Governor Hearst had more delegates in his pocket than any other competitor, but not yet enough to claim a sure-fire majority. He was naturally suspicious of the party functionaries and immensely distrusted the pseudo-democratic nominating process. Democratic officials did not conduct their business openly, and, although they jeered at the Republicans for the same crime, all presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial nominations were made behind closed doors and in smoke-filled rooms. Only when the candidate was an incumbent, already deemed a presumptive nominee, or somehow captivated the delegation in a frenzy were the wills of party leadership no serious concern. The 1904 convention and the sudden injection of Olney by the Reorganizers demonstrated the alternative. Hearst was not interested in playing their game, and fully intended to lock-in the nomination before it could be nabbed.

    Those present at the convention anticipated a drawn-out affair engorged with successive ballots and rambunctious in-fighting on the floor. "They were always circuses," wrote Charles W. Bryan, brother to the former president and editor of The Commoner. "Patriotism stirs agitation, and it matters not the party affiliation or candidate preference. In New York, it felt no different. There was no drift of enthusiasm to any one man in particular on that first day. The newsmen speculated the fates of the twenty, or so, contenders in the evening papers. Theodore Bell, the temporary chairman, spoke at tiring length to the galleries, and alluded to the achievements of historical Democratic presidents. When he reached the 'earthshaking Bryan Administration,' the crowd leapt to its feet and wildly, frantically, burst into demonstration. That was as good a hint as any who they truly wanted." Ravenous applause for former President Bryan, who had been present and stood briefly to accept the clamor, concluded after nearly a full hour. Hearst, who watched the standing ovation with his teeth tightly clenched, was reportedly more nervous at that juncture than any preceding moment. The convention, if left to its own devices, would certainly renominate Bryan if given the opportunity.

    The precise timetable is debated by political historians, but sometime between the evening of July 6th and the afternoon of July 7th, Governor Hearst and his operatives scrambled together impromptu appointments with several dozen delegates of varying states as well as with the beloved former president. The objective was simple: win the votes on the first call. Any other result practically guaranteed a Bryan nod. "He was your textbook crook," historian Russell Kirk wrote of Hearst in American Politics Reconsidered. "Unseen for decades, Bill Hearst unearthed the hideous customs of fraudulent electoral manipulation and political blackmail. It has been said by liberal historians that these allegations were unproven, but that is their muddling modus operandi. Hearst called to order those backroom deals and he certainly threatened Bryan to his weathering face." As has been hypothesized as the dawn of a greater scandal, Governor Hearst may, or may not, have approached Bryan and forewarned him of his plan to run as an independent candidate if denied the nomination.

    It is crucial to recall that Hearst's publications played a significant role in Bryan's election campaigns, and assisted in spreading the Nebraskan's message to the American citizenry via the Hearst media empire. The New York Journal had been a pivotal ally of Bryan and an undeniable vehicle for Democratic reform for many years. Hearst also personally donated tens of thousands in campaign funds to the Nebraskan in 1896, and urged his readership to do the same. If he did indeed threaten a third party run, Hearst absolutely utilized the above points to guilt Bryan to act accordingly. For what ever the reason, the former president did his part to deliver his publishing ally the nomination. Bryan authored a brief memorandum to every last delegate expressing support for Governor Hearst and doubly affirming his unwillingness to accept the nomination of the party for president. Some blindly followed Bryan's statement. Others saw through the wool placed over their eyes.

    What followed, on the third day on the convention, could only be described as a small-scale rebellion. A "Stop Hearst" sentiment rose amongst the delegates opposed to his nomination or otherwise incensed by Bryan's odd and uncharacteristic remarks. Through the nominating speeches of the non-Hearst candidates, a small segment of the party voiced their extreme displeasure of a Hearst presidency. Congressman Richmond Hobson (D-AL), for instance, asserted that, "Dirty money cannot buy the presidency. Not from any banker, nor oil magnate, nor publisher." He emphasized that final word in an obvious reference to Hearst, expectorating it like a foul curse.

    Unfortunately for the Alabaman, it was far too late to close the floodgates. Hearst is said to have exhibited a sly grin on his face whilst observing Hobson's vicious speech, likely understanding that nothing could stop the locomotive he put into motion. Delegates from California, 100% behind the Hearst candidacy, brushed off the suspicions of their choice as sensationalist nonsense and held firm. "Hearst," a pro-Hearst Michigan delegate relayed, "draws upon a legitimate sense of resentment against the fleecing of Americans by the moneyed elite and political bosses. He's an outsider who cares for the common man." Another was recorded stating, "[Hearst] cannot be bought, and that is how we know he speaks the absolute truth."

    At five minutes past 12 o'clock, Chairman Bell announced that the roll call would commence.
    The tally was struck, and the fix was in.


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    On the final day of the convention, July 11th, the delegates unanimously selected Minority Leader Champ Clark to join Hearst on the ticket. Clark had been a favorite of the delegates for his competent leadership in the House as well as his favor by the Southern and Midwestern Democrats. Few doubted the honesty of the Missourian representative, and it was said of the delegates that they simmered down once Clark won the vice presidential slot. They hoped that if the nominee was truly a man as dangerous as his opponents insisted, the running-mate could surely reign in the worst of it.

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    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 86 - 1908 PNC
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    Internal View of the Progressive National Convention, August 2nd, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Undeterred by the activities of the two major political parties, scores of Progressive delegates met to officially renominate President Theodore Roosevelt for a second term. Taking place shortly after the Democratic convention in mid-July, these men and women united under a common banner at the Chicago Coliseum intent on shredding the opposing contenders and defending the Roosevelt domestic agenda. In their view, the president had been brutally and unfairly judged by the other nominees. Progressives now prepared to relish in cathartic rebuttal.

    It was largely an uneventful affair, especially when compared with the preceding convention, and relatively few members arrived with any plans to adjust the party platform or otherwise earnestly contest the national committee. Delegates universally held the Square Deal in high regard and championed the Roosevelt initiatives with critical acclaim. They too extolled McKenna's Justice Department in its high-profile prosecutions of Northern Securities, U.S. Steel, and Standard Oil. House Minority Leader Wesley Jones remarked during the PNC platform discussions that, "President Roosevelt confirmed only what we all already knew. He, as president, and the Progressive Party constituted the successors to Beveridge and his vision of Republicanism. Others may do quite a lot of talk, but from this leader we've seen action. Do not be misguided! Overturning the most successful leader of our generation would be a great historical error."

    A compounded, multi-hour debate did ensue on the first day of the festivities regarding the party program in relation to the Grand Bargain. As was inevitable following the deal termed by some more radical Progressive affiliates as a "betrayal," a discernible segment of the party looked to instill a modification in the existing platform that addressed the perceived corrupt bargain with Fairbanks and the Republican Old Guard. This faction, albeit a minority in the overall scheme of the convention makeup, called for an amendment that more stridently chastised Republican Standpatters and aggressively reprimanded corporate influence in American politics (partially inspired by Hearst's similar virulence against corporations).

    The final vote to amend the platform in this fashion failed, 4-1, although an alternative proposal to dedicate a plank to the New York City Bankruptcy Crisis did pass. The latter resolution called attention to the federal government's efforts in saving the city from total financial collapse at a time when the wealthy elite brushed off their public duty. To the chagrin of the further-left Progressives, this addition did not directly censure accumulated wealth in and of itself, nor did it name J.P. Morgan as a guilty party. The charge did little to mend the wounds of the so-called betrayal, and it is likely that resistance to the leftward pull additionally entrenched sentiment that Roosevelt's politics had mutated in the wake of the Grand Bargain.

    Once the mainstays in the Columbian Party began, one after another, speaking to the credentials of President Roosevelt, ill-will from the platform debate fluttered away for a time. State representatives of the Progressive Party, in addition to assemblymen, local officials and mayors, spoke out in affection to the Square Deal and its architect. At the same time, the speakers intensely criticized the Republican establishment's renewed efforts to cut into Roosevelt's support, by, as described by Senator Borah, "Utilizing deceptive messaging and revising history to overlook the tragic consequences of Standpat Republican leadership." Governor Hearst, however, received the bulk of the attack. Congressman Albert Douglas (P-OH) called the publisher a "downright lout unfit for office," and State Senator John D. Achison (P-DE) referred to the Democrat as a "yahoo sensationalist." Senator Franklin Murphy tore the governor apart, dedicating fifteen minutes solely to attack the Californian for his sketchy business ties and suspected vote-buying.

    It is fair to assert that the Progressive delegation in its entirety abhorred Knox and Hearst equally. Likewise, once the convention took its first (and only) state-by-state call, it was too evident that the party held steadfast behind President Roosevelt.


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    As predicted, Roosevelt stormed in on the initial tally without a whisper of opposition. No other figure in the premier band of Columbians could have hoped to contend with the mighty incumbent even if were to wish it so. Those like Senator La Follette privately toyed with the concept of challenging Roosevelt for the nomination, if only to push him further left and force disassociation with the Republican Party. A fair amount of delegates, specifically those representing populist bastions in the Prairie and Mountain states, discreetly looked to reign in the president and deter him from a second Grand Bargain. To them, garnering minor policy achievements in exchange for succumbing to the corporate-influenced GOP sacrificed their sense of moral superiority and belief in the Progressive program.

    After Roosevelt presented a welcome acceptance speech, one that subtly pricked the hardline left-wing with the line, "I believe in men who take the next step, not those who theorize about the 200th step," the aforementioned skeptics pushed one final objective. In no short order, they schemed to remove Vice President Taft from the ticket. Taft, as a center-right Progressive, embodied everything the La Follette's of the party had issue with. The vice president had been overly accommodating to congressional Republicans and cast only a single tie-breaking vote for the entirety of his four-year service. By all accounts, Taft failed in convincing Republicans to lean toward President Roosevelt and the Square Deal. For what purpose did it serve the party for Taft to then remain on the ticket?


    The Vice Presidential situation offered the greatest encouragement to that class of delegates which is looking always for excitement at a political convention. Delegates opposed to incumbent William Howard Taft hoped to invigorate a well-fought contest in the race for second place. They appealed to the aggressive nature of progressive philosophy, calling for a second-in-command more closely resembling La Follette or Borah. After a period of time and consultation with state officials, Roosevelt shut down the debate. He demanded of his friends the selection of Taft. [...] Pro-Taft delegate Herman West officially nominated the incumbent, noting that his achievements in office merited re-nomination. Clarifying the appeal of the Columbian Party to business owners, West said that the conservatives "fight socialism blindly" while Taft and Roosevelt "fight it intelligently in the pursuit of eliminating the conditions that allows radicalism to flourish." Taft was confirmed on the first ballot with few dissidents.
    Jacob B. Allison, "Brief War for Vice President," Chicago Tribune, August 5th, 1908

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    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 87 - 1908 SNC
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    Bill Haywood Portrait, Circa 1907 - Source: Wiki Commons

    The cause of American Socialism was in a puzzling place. Socialists experienced tremendous success on the electoral front thus far, capturing a handful of mayoral and municipal offices in addition to its two congressmen. Eugene Debs' performance in the 1904 election was incontrovertibly staggering. Metropolitan centers like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pasadena, and Flint demonstrated huge favor for the Socialist Party and their reputations as radical havens began to reflect that new reality. The activist lifeblood of the left-wing also took a leading role in developing early twentieth century popular culture with publications like Appeal to Reason, Forward, and the International Socialist Review reaping mass circulation and significant readerships. Still, the growth of leftist tendencies brought about a new facet to the movement that these organizations hadn't yet dealt with. Namely, co-option.

    Upton Sinclair had written The Jungle in 1906 not to provoke an interest in commodity oversight, but to stir empathy for the condition of the laborer and present socialism as the sensible solution. The author had helped found the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in 1905 to act as an intellectual organization for student activists and organizers. It was constructed, chapter-by-chapter, to elucidate the principles of socialism to the next generation and build a class of revolutionaries from below. When Roosevelt declared an interest in The Jungle, Sinclair may have been hopeful that his work had been popularized to such an extent. Yet, when all that it generated was inoffensive food product regulation, the author famously quipped, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Similarly, novelist Jack London indicted capitalism at length in The Iron Hell, postulating a nightmarish right-wing society void of true personhood. "Let us control them," London wrote. "Let us profit by [machine] efficiency and cheapness. Let us run them for ourselves. That, gentlemen, is socialism."

    Dynamic Socialist literature that filtered through the American citizenry did not seem to connect as well as intended. Muckrakers agitating the public likewise meant to incense anti-establishment fervor, but, on a consistent basis, little to nothing was gained from it. Fundamental conditions hadn't changed for the working class under a Progressive presidency - the party most often identified as co-opting socialistic rhetoric. Some felt as though the Columbians had undercut the Socialists' work, naming capitalist excesses problematic whilst proposing ineffective solutions. Moreover, Hearst's populism was viewed skeptically by scores of SP members who detected a deceptive aura around the publisher. Progressives and Democrats both muddied the waters for the American Left with their own reformist solutions, falling far short of what class-conscious workers desired from their government. A moderate expansion of federal oversight was simply futile if one hoped to quell the ABCs of capitalist contradiction.

    In the midst of this rise of middle-class, liberal reformism, the Socialist Party congregated in Chicago to name their presidential nominee. Hopefully, the delegates prayed, their candidate could break through the mold and present theirs as the dominant vision for a brighter future. Despite having run twice and failed to overcome the opposition, Eugene Debs stayed the obvious choice. Just as he was in 1900, Debs remained the most well-known standard bearer of socialism in the modern American era and the greatest asset to the organization he once called, "A monument above internal dissension and factional strife." He had written to the effect of disfavor with a third consecutive run, however granted that he would head the campaign if nominated. Those like Illinois UMWA organizer Adolph Germer egged the mainstay candidate on. Germer stressed in April of 1908 that, "No man is better suited to appeal to the cause of a worker-ran society than [Debs.]"

    As an aftereffect of the newfound camaraderie shared by Eugene Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World, Bill Haywood became more receptive to the Socialist Party than he had once been. Haywood's notoriety by industrial workers was towering by this point in the public consciousness, so it had made sense for the former to enter as a candidate if Debs declined the offer. The Western organizer lettered the SP that he would be willing to accept the nomination if offered. A majority of convention delegates were not convinced, however, with moderates and conservatives ardently opposing Haywood's interpretation of socialism. Other candidates like State Senator James Carey of Massachusetts (Morris Hillquit's associate), former ISR editor Algie Simmons (preferred by civil liberties lawyer Seymour Stedman), and Wisconsin State Representative Carl D. Thompson (propped up by Victor Berger) sharply obstructed the Haywood candidacy.

    Executive Secretary John Mahlon Barnes, acting as chairman of the convention, worked to retain order as debate escalated on the second day. The fate of the nominee, it seemed, would also decide the fate of the Socialist Party's union policy. Haywood, as a member and founder of the IWW, would obviously support intimacy with that organization. A more conservative selection, like Thompson, called to continue efforts to reform the AFL. This fight that had heated the convention hall in entrenched deliberation lasted until a telegram arrived from Eugene Debs. Debs, recalled by one delegate as "the embodiment of the American proletarian movement," offered Haywood a personal endorsement. Though that did not suddenly end all debate, nor did it dissipate the sense that the nomination was an open free-for-all, his invisible hand did, eventually, guide the delegates.


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    To Hillquit and Berger's immense dissatisfaction, the incendiary Bill Haywood won the nomination in a majority vote. He did not personally attend the SNC, instead taking time to rest at his Idaho abode following a strenuous engagement the state court system, but the nominee did telegraph an acceptance speech to the Chicago convention. During the proper campaign, Haywood reiterated the core tenants of that speech.

    Tonight I am going to speak on the class struggle, and I am going to make it so plain that even a lawyer can understand it. [...] They can't stop us. No matter what they do we will go on until we, the roughnecks of the world, will take control of all production and work when we please and how much we please. The man who makes the wagon will ride in it himself. The capitalist has no heart, but harpoon him in the pocketbook and you will draw blood. [...] So, on this great force of the working class I believe we can agree that we should unite into one great organization—big enough to take in the children that are now working; big enough to take in the black man; the white man; big enough to take in all nationalities, an organization that will be strong enough to obliterate state boundaries, to obliterate national boundaries, and one that will become the great industrial force of the working class of the world.
    Bill Haywood, "Speech to Cleveland Steelworkers", September 9th, 1908

    Traveling state-by-state in a customized train, referred to in the press as the "Red Special," the Haywood Campaign brought its arguments to the people. Alongside Barnes and vice presidential nominee John Slayton of Pennsylvania, the campaign darted across the country for a period of four months straight. It distributed radical literature to the huge audiences it encountered, and occasionally brought on other well-known figures like Debs for short duration of the tour. Haywood recognized the compounded problems facing industrial workers at the turn of the century and looked to attach the lines betwixt individualized cases of exploitation and employer negligence with the grander mission of attaining socialism.
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 88
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    President Roosevelt Speaking in Madison, Wisconsin, October 2nd, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Four prominent presidential candidates took center stage as the election season rolled into the autumnal equinox. Democrat William Hearst, Republican Philander Knox, Socialist Bill Haywood, and Progressive Theodore Roosevelt were the prime contestants for the administrative pageant. Plentiful policy points ranging from trust-busting to the income tax swarmed throughout the race, but let there be no doubt that President Roosevelt was the primary focal point of the election. Nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties, reversing their flippant evasion of the boisterous New Yorker four years earlier, concentrated all fire on the Progressive. Differing policy proposals were doubtlessly relevant, as in any electoral bout, but a worthwhile challenger to President Roosevelt would not find success unless they fixated on the incumbent's perceived shortcomings.

    Senator Knox modeled his campaigning style after Albert Beveridge, appealing to the electorate in a whistle-stop format (a move that somewhat displeased RNC traditionalists). He spoke to the merits of "conservative progress," and, "the return to prosperity and sensibility to aid the business of the nation." Knox was not an inflexible reactionary like some of his colleagues. He had no intention of proclaiming support for a progressive agenda, but neither did he wish to fall into disconcerting obscurity as Depew had in his re-election attempt. The Pennsylvanian ran a campaign centered on the fortunes of the past set side-by-side with Roosevelt's turbulent reign. He stated, nearly verbatim from a Beveridge address, "Always and in all places, the Republican Party in control means prosperity of the people, debt reduction, and a common sense handling of revenues. Prosperous times are always Republican times. In four years of Progressive rule, our government has declared all-out war on American enterprise. It peered down into the gaping hole of economic calamity and just nearly fell in - a hole dug by Mr. Roosevelt."

    The Roosevelt Campaign struck back, attesting that neither a return to Gilded Age Republicanism nor a dangerous leap into "Hearst Demagoguery" would magically cure the cantankerous issues facing the country. Progressive businessmen towed the party line on capitalist critique and offered that a reformed economy was safer for systematic longevity than an archaic, private economy. If the federal government were to neglect its responsibility in initiating the necessary changes to liberalize and stabilize capitalism, protest from below would seek its total overthrow. This had been the essence of Roosevelt's governing policy, and, especially after observing the steady growth of socialist organizations and political parties, the president feared that a return to the Depew Economy would virtually ensure the supplanting of American democracy with radicalism and mob-rule.

    Hiram Johnson, a district attorney and anti-corruption reform advocate, administered the Roosevelt Campaign's Western branch based out of San Francisco. He directed leaflet printing for the region and communicated daily events and experiences to the president via telegraph. By all measures of gauging public opinion, Johnson discovered that city residents were not squarely committed to any one candidate. In San Francisco, as was the case along much of the West Coast, voters who favored the Progressives in wide margins four years ago were presently split between Roosevelt and Hearst. The Columbian leader no longer had a monopoly on anti-establishment fervor, and the spirit of Bryanism that captivated Californians in 1896 began to bubble up for Hearst.

    Progressives also noticed a corresponding trend taking shape in New York. Ceremonies for the Democratic nominee far surpassed the competition in pure audience figures, indicating public opinion favoring Hearst. Representative William Sulzer, a staunch supporter of the governor, stated in a public forum, "I know Governor Hearst well, and have known him for a long time. I regard him as one of the greatest men of our time. It is no child's play to build up seven great newspapers in three of the largest cities in the country. A man to do this must possess executive ability of a high order. From the very nature of things he must be a broad-gauge man. Such a man I know Mr. Hearst to be." Sulzer became an essential piece to Hearst's Napoleonic campaign operation, invigorating local voter interest while the governor traveled westward.

    Governor Hearst ran his campaign much like his business, focusing squarely on sensationalism to vacuum public excitement to his corner. He utilized the talents of journalist muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell to drive home his central thesis that politics as-is was filled with corrupt bureaucrats hell-bent on serving the interests of corporations above the common man. Hearst even appeared at one campaign event aside David Phillips, and personally attested to corruption in the New York political game. "These men," he thundered, "have no consciousness of their own. They ask businessmen, like myself on multiple occasions, for campaign funding. This is commonly granted under the presumption that the donor will receive a return on investment. That is why I've called on Congress to pass no-nonsense restrictions on political contributions and bar corporate donations entirely. If they refuse, my administration will prosecute and convict obstructing party bosses."

    Sweeping reforms like the type offered above were frequently touted by the publishing magnate as necessary steps to eliminate corruption and malfeasance in Washington. He proposed, among other things, a national mandate that all political parties participate in state-wide primary elections, granting constituencies the option to recall their representatives at will, and enshrining some form of direct democracy to gauge public opinion of major issues. Hearst argued in favor of a 10% tax on corporations as well (eight points higher than the 2% proposed by Roosevelt), and furthermore one-upped the Progressives by calling for a national eight-hour workday law for all public and private sector workers.

    President Roosevelt, to put it lightly, was disgusted by Hearst and all that he stood for. Theodore Roosevelt believed in federal regulation and reform, that much is certainly true, but he distrusted those he viewed as uneducated, irresponsible, and lacking a proper vision to carefully win the country (and Congress) to his theses. Roosevelt considered Hearst no different than the class of investigative journalists he so despised. None of them were honest actors in his mind. They all had an angle that had no regard for the public good. Still, even the most blatant demagogue was a powerful force in politics, and for that reason the incumbent president saw Hearst as the greatest possible foil to his re-election prospects - far more so than a known entity like Bryan. Roosevelt fretted often over Hearst's influence among the working class, a group the president privately figured gullible and susceptible to impossible promises. He conjoined the governor's ideology to that of the Socialist Party, finding both identically reprehensible.

    Associates of President Roosevelt harmonized on the topic of Hearst. They too found him a far more intimidating presence than Philander Knox. The upper echelon of the Roosevelt Campaign realized that, regardless of early indications in swing states that Roosevelt accumulated voter preference, Hearst alone represented the chief obstacle to the president's re-election prospects. John Hay, working diligently at the completion of his term as State Secretary, abhorred Hearst. He wrote that the Democratic nominee, "simply reiterates the unquestioned truths that every man with a clean shirt is a thief and ought to be hanged: that there is no goodness and wisdom except among the illiterate & criminal classes." Others like Vice President Taft shared this feeling. Therefore, Roosevelt shifted gears to more explicitly denounce the yellow press and muckrakers overall. Two birds, one stone.
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 89
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    Caricature of Governor Hearst in Harper's Weekly, October 23rd, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    From mid-September to the end of his active campaigning in early November, President Roosevelt incorporated anti-muckraker sentiment in just about every speech in every city. He asserted to vast audiences, to the point that it grew rather tiresome for accompanying newsmen, that the sensationalist press constituted a mortal enemy to righteous democracy. He condemned investigative journalists for twisting the truth and conducting indiscriminate assaults "upon men in business or men in public life." He tied the expansion of untrustworthy reporting to the perceived commander of moral colorblindness: Bill Hearst.

    Hysterical sensationalism is the poorest weapon wherewith to fight for lasting righteousness. The men who with stern sobriety and truth assail the many evils of our time, whether in the public press, or in magazines, or in books, are the leaders and allies of all engaged in the work for social and political betterment. But if they give good reason for distrust of what they say, if they chill the ardor of those who demand truth as a primary virtue, they thereby betray the good cause and play into the hands of the very men against whom they are nominally at war. The men who attack in sensational, lurid, and untruthful fashion by playing on their ignorance do so for self-interest.
    We are witnessing in the state of New York an especially dangerous specimen of the kind of demagogue that I have described. Not only is the cause of popular government in danger of suffering injury and discredit from the vote for Mr. Hearst, but genuine reform, the real practical redress of the evils complains of by the people, is in danger of being weakened and brought to naught by this attempt of Mr. Hearst to get himself elected President of the United States. [...] Hearst is but a golden calf on the road to the Promised Land. It will do America well to avoid false idols.
    Theodore Roosevelt, "Muckraker Speech," September 19th, 1908

    Roosevelt led all credible presidential polls since the spring of 1908. His achievements, minor though they may be, seemed to significantly bolster the incumbent's chances at re-election. Much of America sympathized with the cause of federal aggrandizement in order to eliminate corporate control of the political system, and some moderate Republicans felt inclined to applaud Roosevelt for his role in the bankruptcy crisis. However, several noteworthy facets prevented the popular press from outright deeming the president a clear-cut favorite for re-election.

    The inflexibility of the party to adjust its platform and messaging to suit the growing need for earnest pro-worker legislation, and more harshly criticize the trusts in the wake of the Grand Bargain, tarnished the incumbent. Just as Senator La Follette correctly recognized at the Progressive National Convention, moderating and whitewashing the once-stirring progressive mantra validated Socialist arguments concerning Roosevelt's perceived capitulation to the Republican Party. La Follette himself refused to speak personally on Roosevelt's behalf as the campaign rolled on through Wisconsin, delivering a serious blow to espoused Progressive unity and demonstrating internal disfavor by the party's left wing. The whole ordeal did wonders for Hearst's prospects, and he drove the above critiques home over and over again.

    Contrasted with the Columbian machine tearing itself apart, the Democrats were more united than ever before. The party, in a single breath, conveyed the need to correct the errors of the Roosevelt Administration with one that better responded to the needs of everyday Americans. In all 48 states, local Democratic leaders and public officeholders campaigned on behalf of Governor Hearst. Populist Southerners like Jeff Davis and Tom Watson ensured Democratic dominance in the South, downplaying the nominee's antipathy to matters of race and highlighted his commitment to reform working conditions for agrarian laborers and tenant farmers. Former President Bryan underscored analogous pleas in the Great Plains, recommending that voters choose the Democratic ticket (He focused more broadly on labor issues than propping up Governor Hearst - yet re-affirmed his staunch opposition to President Roosevelt).

    Champ Clark turned out to be a solid accompaniment to Hearst on the campaign trail. Clark strategically headed much of the organizational operation while Hearst professed to engorged audiences his concern for the underdog. At a scheduled stop in Pittsburgh on the morning of October 4th, the governor uplifted the vice presidential nominee and pivoted to reflect Roosevelt's attacks.


    The laborers and immigrants of this country have become involved - really involved. I believe more than ever that our movement will succeed. The present promising conditions in the Democratic Party have been brought about by the fact that the Democratic Party under the leadership of Champ Clark has had the courage to be progressive and the intelligence to be sound in its Democracy. Congressman Clark is an honest and loyal force for the common man, and I will be thrilled to serve alongside him in Washington. He and I will fight on your behalf. On that, you have my word. [...] The president may not agree to the integrity of my campaign and of my person, but, to that I say, if being a competent journalist and a patriotic American can make a man persona non grata in his own domain, I think I can endure the situation without a loss of sleep.
    William R. Hearst, "Address to Pittsburgh Steelworkers," October 4th, 1908

    Hearst, in allying himself to journalism while Roosevelt did the opposite, polished his own image whilst simultaneously dragging down the president. The governor coined presidential hostility to the press as fundamentally toxic to the republic. He insinuated that Roosevelt felt more at home among the ranks of Senators Spooner and Aldrich than he did with average, working class reporters. The Journal's own reporting on the drawbacks of the Progressives' media narratives helped spread this message nationwide, resulting in definitive blow-back to the incumbent. This phenomenon, in addition Hearst's consistent defense of labor interests, strengthened the idea of Democracy as a beacon of governmental reform and transparency (a far cry from the party's perception four years prior). In this tactic, he began substantially peeling away former Roosevelt voters.

    ldp1908.png

    Late-autumn polling exemplified the ever-tightening race, even though Roosevelt remained on top. Utilizing his media empire to the fullest extent, Hearst released one final exposé on the administration one week before the election. In it, he described the economic conditions of New York, seeking to counter the prevailing narrative that Roosevelt single-handedly resolved the city budget predicament. The piece quoted from factory owners directly, demonstrating that austerity adversely affected the conditions for businesses as well as workers. "Two years in advance of the renowned recovery," the story read, "a quarter of the banks remain closed. Factories that once boomed with activity stood vacant. [..] Efforts by Mayor Shepard and Governor Hearst have generated economic growth as industry pushes on. It is undeniable that the federal government is no longer concerned with the state of New York nor its residents. The Roosevelt Administration continues to assert that the crisis ended in 1906 and will comment no further. Mr. Roy McMillan of McMillan Shipping says the treatment of New Yorkers by the president is despicable. 'The cowboy sailed into New York harbor, dropped some pennies in the coffers, smiled for the cameras, and moved on. No man worth his salt should stand for that.'"
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 90
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    Senator Knox in Philadelphia, November 1st, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    On November 3rd, 1908, Election Day officially kicked off. President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt returned to their home at Sagamore Hill, exhausted from the tireless campaigning and anxious for the returns. He exhibited plucky confidence from afar and to the general public, but his private letters revealed a growing sense of doubt. To Kermit Roosevelt, his second son, the president wrote, "If things go wrong on election night, remember, Kermit, that we are very, very fortunate to have had four years in the White House, and that I have had a chance to accomplish work such as comes to very, very few men in any generation; and that I have no business to feel downcast merely because when so much has been given me, I have not had even more."

    Of the three incumbent Progressive governors, Edward Hoch (P-KS), Jesse McDonald (P-CO), and Coe Crawford (P-SD), none found success in corralling Republicans to sign off on vote tweaking measures a la 1904. Illinois Governor Yates had been replaced by Charles S. Deneen (R-IL): A rather conservative partisan apathetic to the presidential race. Deneen, despite pressure from some in-state officeholders, declined to repeat Yates' slick ballot maneuvering. Knox would be listed as the Republican, and, below that, Roosevelt as a Progressive. The Roosevelt Campaign was discouraged by that news, but felt assured that the their incumbency advantage would overrule ballot placement issues and overcome the headache of straight-ticket Republican voters.

    The Hearst Campaign spent its final days along the campaign trail in Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California, completing its coast-to-coast journey in the latter. Roosevelt's Golden State operation emitted radio silence in the closing weeks of the election, seemingly backpedaling in order to pull all available resources into the Midwest. The president himself did not set foot in any state along the West Coast. This, perhaps, allowed his chief rival an opportunity. As such, Hearst focused vehemently on reinvigorating disaffected progressive voters and former Bryan supporters to his side, enticing them with promises of a low tariff, intensified railroad regulation, and the disassembling of the trusts. Champ Clark helped drive these wedge issued in further, imploring all to vote Democratic down-ballot to rid Congress of its "Republican blight."

    At last, on the evening of that fated day, statewide officials began tallying up the votes. Two curiosities made themselves evident before even 1% of the vote had been counted. First, Knox appeared to improve significantly on Depew's numbers on the Eastern seaboard, with the early count having him ahead in Pennsylvania. The Republican hadn't campaigned whatsoever beyond the Mississippi River, ceding the West to his competitors to contend with. In his determination, Knox could win by focusing entirely on the traditionally GOP-tilted states in the Midwest and Northeast (a strategy reminiscent of Benjamin Harrison in 1888) instead of embarking on a diluted, 48-state romp. Right off the bat, Knox's superior performance as compared to his Republican predecessor again exemplified the natural leverage granted to an office-seeker when engaging in whistle-stop style campaigning. The old front-porch method, from thence on, was dead.

    A second feature of the early returns was the confirmation that Roosevelt held a distinct advantage in raw vote totals. As tallies were reported over the wire, the incumbent led in most districts and in plenty of towns and cities. This validated their hunch that the people still preferred Roosevelt over the field, and verified the opinion polling that mimicked this theory. The Literary Digest poll found the president with an estimated Popular Vote lead of 8 points over Hearst, an insurmountable win by any measure. Once the counting progressed and the complete picture came into focus, however, a handful of worrying signs began to show.

    Senator Knox skillfully captured nearly all of New England (Maine went to Roosevelt). This was a stark change from the previous election, when Roosevelt narrowly defeated Chauncey Depew for Massachusetts. Boston, in a notable fashion, turned on the president and the rock-bound Republican population of the metropolitan area "returned home" to Knox. It seemed without the stench of failure (one familiar to Mr. Depew), the GOP proved to reassert control in its regional base. The Bay State, with all of its Electoral Votes, went to Knox by a margin of about 7%. Aside from the bastion of the Republican Eastern Establishment, only Utah fell to the Pennsylvanian. The well-funded Knox Campaign was ultimately unsuccessful in its mission, but it did indeed surpass 1904 figures in virtually every state. All in all, Knox finished in third place with 44 Electoral Votes to his name.

    Unlike in Boston, the population of Trenton and Jersey City stuck with the president and propelled him to triumph in the Garden State. Hearst, by a slim margin, lost its coveted 12 Electoral Votes to the Progressive ticket. Senator Franklin Murphy (P-NJ) campaigned fiercely for Roosevelt in his home state, and the president's victory in New Jersey in 1908 is historically attributed to him. Pennsylvania also returned to the incumbent's arms. Following a long, hard-fought contest between all three major candidates, Roosevelt edged the opposition out. He finished with 36% to Knox's 34% and Hearst's 30%. The Pennsylvanian countryside had been evenly divided, but an effort by the Roosevelt team in Philadelphia paid off as municipal workers leaned in Roosevelt's direction. Hearst invested a great deal of time and money into that community, so losing there was a major disappointment and sharply dimmed his presidential prospects.
     
    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 91
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    Governor Hearst (Left) Meets with Brooklyn Democratic Boss Patrick H. McCarren, October 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Back in 1904, Democratic candidate Richard Olney defeated Theodore Roosevelt in New York. In the election of 1908, Roosevelt suffered a similar abysmal loss. In no other region had the two leaders paid such close attention nor dedicate gargantuan sums and manpower. Hearst, however, proved that his ties to the Empire State remained a bit more potent. Even though Roosevelt had once served as their governor, New Yorkers, by and large, gave no particular favor to the Rough Rider over any other politician. Furthermore, Hearst's incessant printed criticism of the president's treatment of post-Panic New York City all but guaranteed that its residents turned out to cast their vote against the incumbent.

    Governor Hearst, in his time serving as the gubernatorial executive of New York, also fostered an amiable relationship with the state Democratic machine. Through his anti-establishment rhetoric and investigation into John A. Dix, one may not have assumed that the state party respected the incumbent governor whatsoever, yet the new leadership rather fancied Hearst. Norman E. Mack was selected as Chairman of the New York Democratic Party in 1907. Like Hearst, Mack was an independently wealthy publisher and a populist, and the two effectively ushered in a new period for the state Democrats (dominated, of course, by Hearst). In utilizing ties to the vastly influential state machine, as well as questionable assistance from Tammany Boss Charles Francis Murphy, Hearst defeated Roosevelt by a 20,000-vote margin and, thereby, claimed the Empire State for the Democratic Party.

    Despite his Western origins, Hearst was commonly cited as a Yankee New Yorker (especially upon his ascension to the Albany Executive Mansion). Some Progressives hoped that this would allow them an opportunity to shred a layer off of the Solid South. The Roosevelt Campaign particularly eyed West Virginia and Missouri as plausible targets. The former, of course, went to President Beveridge in 1900, and Missouri's margin of victory for the Democratic Party had shrunk in each successive election. As with New York and Massachusetts, the president came up short. There was simply no changing the tide of staunch Democracy in the Old South. Just as Richard Olney managed to accomplish, Bill Hearst won the entire South, including Maryland and Delaware.

    Hearst struck hard to sway the populations of the Midwestern states, carrying a month-long tour of the region in early October. He spoke out in favor of worker-centric policies in the Ohio Valley and northward to Lake Superior. He, in fact, did quite well in terms of winning large portions of cities like Chicago and Indianapolis to his argument, but the extent to which Progressivism and the Republican roots of these regions dug deep into the populace could not be circumvented. In three-way votes, Roosevelt just narrowly won out. Like wind in his sails, middle-class voters fueled the president's good tidings in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Margins had tightened in Illinois, for instance, but his regional performance overall improved from four years ago. A clean sweep of the Industrial Midwest typically designated the direction of the election, yet the oft-ignored Western United States muddled that picture.

    Four years ago, former President Bryan released an article praising the Progressive platform and its numerous proposals to improve the lives of workers and address the corrupting forces of corporations and unlawful trusts. That won over swathes of mugwump voters who otherwise were die-hard Democrats. In the election presently discussed, Bryan did not such thing. The Nebraskan actively campaigned against Roosevelt in 1908, describing the incumbent as insufficient for the issues of the day. He blasted the administration from all corners and held nothing back. To an unbeknownst soul at a Bryan rally, it was as if the orator himself was running against Roosevelt. It should not have been a surprise, then, that the Bryan voters who once switched affiliation to cast favor for the Progressive now returned to the fold. Knox, as a non-entity in the West, meant that most voters were either pro-Roosevelt or pro-Hearst. In losing Massachusetts, President Roosevelt required all of the remaining states, plus two faithless electors, in order to reach the necessary threshold of 245 votes in the Electoral College. In the words of Thomas O'Conner, "That was a tough bet for any man, even one as nationally adored as Theodore Roosevelt."

    The Progressive nominee succeeded in Washington state, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, and Kansas. He prevailed in the latter three regions by the skin of this teeth, in margins hovering around 1-2%. Elsewhere, Hearst was triumphant. The Democrat won out in Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, and, with 40% of the vote, California. Furthermore, Governor Hearst took the three former territories: Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona (each by hearty margins). Poorer agrarian workers, trusting in the judgement of former President Bryan, ran with the Democratic nominee and bolstered his efforts in the above Great Plains and Mountain states. Cities were a bit more divided, but organized labor supplied Hearst with a substantial voter pool in budding industrial centers like Colorado Springs. These victories, once verified, granted the governor an insurmountable lead in the Electoral Vote count.

    Matching that of 1896, the final results were flabbergasting. The Democratic Party had returned from the oblivion and, with the mantle held aloft by Governor William R. Hearst, apparently succeeded in recapturing the presidency after an eight-year interim. Hearst finished with 248 Electoral Votes while Roosevelt had a lowly 197. The challenger clearly played his hand correctly and set up his organization to the fullest extent. The one major obstacle to contend with, especially as a self-aligned "man of the people," was Hearst's loss in the Popular Vote. Not since 1888 had a president been elected without a clear plurality in the raw vote, and, thus far, fortunes did not favor those presidents.
     
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    Part 4: Chapter XIV - Page 93 - 1908 Election Results II
  • 1908 Congressional Elections

    Senate
    Democratic: 49 (+9)
    Republican: 33 (-10)
    Progressive: 14 (+7)


    House
    Democratic: 182 (+17)
    Republican: 115 (-38)
    Progressive: 92 (+22)
    Socialist: 3 (+1)
    Independent: 1 (0)

    House of Representatives Leadership

    Speaker William Sulzer (D-NY)
    Minority Leader Thomas S. Butler (R-PA)
    Minority Leader Wesley L. Jones (P-CA)
    Minority Leader John C. Chase (S-NY)

    Citizens of the United States cast their preference for Congress in tandem with the presidential race. With the admittance of Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico as official states, residents in these former territories were able to cast their votes for congressional representation for the first time. Six seats were added to the U.S. Senate, and all came to be represented by Democratic officeholders.

    Several prominent incumbents retired at the end of the 60th Congress, including Senators Thomas Platt, John Spooner, Levi Ankeny (R-WA), and Alfred B. Kittredge (R-SD). Their targeting in Phillips' Treason all but assured defeat, so these incumbents thought it best to leap out of Washington before they faced a mandated eviction. For those who dared to stay, Republican politicians representing non-New England states encountered long odds equaling that of 1906. Senator "Boss" Boies Penrose (R-PA) was defeated by the Columbian Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot, and moderate Jonathan P. Dolliver (R-IA) fell to Progressive Governor Albert Cummins. Furthermore, Republican nominees in New York, Wisconsin, Washington, and South Dakota all failed to replicate the respectable successes of their predecessors. All in all, only four non-New Englander Republican senators won re-election in 1908.

    Republican incumbents were, overall, facing disadvantageous odds. Progressives and Democrats proved formidable foes, and in state after state, they knocked out the opposing GOP. This trend, first taking shape in 1906, continued unperturbed. In the House of Representatives, the former Republican majority lost 23 seats, plummeting their total delegation to a dreadful 115 (Their worst showing in eighteen years). Meanwhile, Democrats ballooned to 182. Easily acquiring the necessary 12 Progressive votes to assume majority status, Congressman William Sulzer was selected as the new House Speaker, Henry De Lamar Clayton, Jr. (D-AL) was chosen as Majority Leader, and Edwin Y. Webb (D-NC) became the new Majority Whip.

    In California, sitting Republican Senator George Perkins once more opted to run for re-election. Perkins, a shipping industrialist now-competing for his fourth consecutive term in office, remained a favorite of the state Republican Party. He was re-nominated with no notable challengers. As for the general election, Perkins faced unlikely odds. He did manage to captivate a hearty 56% of the electorate in 1902 (the first direct senatorial election in California), but voters' affiliation with the GOP waned considerably since then. It all came down to a three-way race between Perkins, Democratic Customs Court Judge Marion De Vries and former Governor George Pardee. The latter candidate, a pioneer Progressive and close associate of President Roosevelt, ran on an anti-trust campaign aimed at the railroad industry. With De Vries and Perkins representing business interests, Pardee won many cross-over votes from Democrats who voted Hearst on the top-line. In the final tally, Pardee took 46% of the vote to De Vries' 30% and Perkins' 24%.

    Southern populists, legitimized during the Bryan presidency and bolstered by their part in overthrowing Speaker Cannon in 1905, truly grew into their own at the tail-end of Roosvelt's presidency. They skillfully latched onto Governor Hearst's campaign, proving crucial regional allies to the presidential nominee. Populist Democrats never quite reached mainstream political appeal in the 1890s, unable to circumvent the hegemony of powerful, planter-appeasing conservatives. Hearst had reopened the door Bryan left shut, however, and his connections assisted in the rise of a new class of reformist Southern Democrats that came about in the 61st Congress.

    Fellow publisher Josephus Daniels headed this novel Southern strategy, coordinating various disparate campaigns into a unified effort against "stale politics and careerist politicians." Professing adherence to progressive change for rural, working-class whites and a fight for anti-plutocratic measures (in addition to unadulterated white supremacy stoked up to a fever pitch), Daniels' work and his messaging became a staple among Democratic insurgents. Static incumbents typically unconcerned with re-election efforts found profound difficulty in retaining support from the electorate, and if primary elections had existed in the South, historians generally accede that business-oriented senatorial mainstays like Joseph F. Johnston (D-AL) would have suffered defeats to insurgent candidates. Though that is not to say that the incumbents were completely impervious.

    Senator Alexander S. Clay (D-GA), a dyed-in-the-wool social and economic conservative, had sat in Congress as the Class 3 representative of his state since 1897. His re-nomination in 1902 went unopposed and he went on to defeat a long-shot Republican candidate with about 92% of the vote. Favorable tidings would not come so easily to Clay in this cycle. Former Populist Representative Thomas E. Watson explored his electoral prospects in challenging Senator Clay for his seat. Watson gained national recognition after being awarded the 1896 Populist vice presidential nomination, and since moved sharply toward white supremacy. He championed Bryan's re-election, and in 1908 the election of Governor Hearst. Eventually, prodded by Daniels and DNC Chair Johnson, Watson agreed to run for Senate.

    Fascinatingly enough, even though Watson's economic ideology was to the left of his opponent, he campaigned as a strict social conservative. The Populist denounced Clay as a tool of corporate interests, but also hurled accusations of pro-Catholic and pro-integration sentiment from the incumbent (likely fabricated). Clay attempted to defend himself as an avid ally to his white constituency, but the Georgia Democratic Party chose not to risk re-nominating a potential race equalist. As thus, Watson won the inter-party war and strode to the winner's circle on Election Day. He was unopposed in the general election.

    Similar environments led to two additional conservative Democrats losing election prospects to insurgent populists. Mississippi Senator Hernando D. Money, an amenable conservative and two-term incumbent, announced an intent to retire from political life prior to the state nominating festivities. At once, former Governor James K. Vardaman declared his interest in running for Senate. Vardaman, who referred to President Roosevelt on the campaign trail as a "little, mean, coon-flavored miscegenationist," captivated the Mississippi Democrats and easily took the nomination and the election. Likewise, Representative Coleman Blease, running on a platform of economic populism and racial fear-mongering, took advantage of the refusal of incumbent Senator Frank Gary (D-SC) to run for a full term (He had won a special election to fill the vacancy of Asbury Latimer in February). In his own words, Blease, "knew how to play on race, religious, and class prejudices to obtain votes." He did just that and won that election handily.


    Senators Elected in 1908 (Class 3)
    Joseph F. Johnston (D-AL): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    James P. Clarke (D-AR): Democratic Hold, 93%
    **Henry F. Ashurst (D-AZ): Democratic Gain, 60%
    **Marcus A. Smith (D-AZ): Democratic Gain, 61%
    George C. Pardee (P-CA): Progressive Gain, 46%
    John C. Bell (D-CO): Democratic Hold, 51%
    Frank B. Brandegee (R-CT): Republican Hold, 75%
    Duncan U. Fletcher (D-FL): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    Thomas E. Watson (D-GA): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    Henry Heitfeld (D-ID): Democratic Hold, 45%
    William Lorimer (R-IL): Republican Hold, 48%
    Charles W. Fairbanks (R-IN): Republican Hold, 46%
    Albert B. Cummins (P-IA): Progressive Gain, 53%
    Joseph L. Bristow (P-KS): Progressive Gain, 60%
    James B. McCreary (D-KY): Democratic Hold, 54%
    Samuel D. McEnery (D-LA): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    John W. Smith (D-MD): Democratic Gain, 52%
    *James K. Vardaman (D-MS): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    William J. Stone (D-MO): Democratic Hold, 66%
    Francis G. Newlands (D-NV): Democratic Hold, 54%
    Jacob Gallinger (R-NH): Republican Hold, 56%
    **Felix Martinez (D-NM): Democratic Gain, 53%
    **Andrieus A. Jones (D-NM): Democratic Gain, 59%
    William F. Sheehan (D-NY): Democratic Gain, 40%
    Lee Overman (D-NC): Democratic Hold, 70%
    John Burke (D-ND): Democratic Gain, 39%
    Theodore E. Burton (R-OH): Republican Hold, 37%
    **Robert L. Owen (D-OK): Democratic Gain, 67%
    **Thomas Gore (D-OK): Democratic Gain, 61%
    George E. Chamberlain (D-OR): Democratic Gain, 50%
    Gifford Pinchot (P-PA): Progressive Gain, 39%
    Coleman L. Blease (D-SC): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
    Philo Hall (P-SD): Progressive Gain, 56%
    Reed Smoot (R-UT): Republican Hold, 63%
    William P. Dilingham (R-VT): Republican Hold, 69%
    *Carroll S. Page (R-VT): Republican Hold, 66%
    William W. McCredie (P-WA): Progressive Gain, 48%
    Isaac Stephenson (P-WI): Progressive Gain, 59%

    *Special Election
    ** New State
     
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    Part 5: Chapter XV - Page 94
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    William R. Hearst, 29th President of the United States - Source: Wiki Commons

    Part 5: Meet the Modern Cleon

    Chapter XV: Savior or Satan: Yellow Reform in the Age of Hearst



    Once all presidential election results were finalized, the anti-Hearst forces were incensed. Governor William R. Hearst was confirmed to have surpassed the necessary threshold in the Electoral College whilst losing the Popular Vote to President Theodore Roosevelt. Cynical observers of American political history insist that the separation of the Electoral Vote with the true will of the electorate is a rare phenomenon that only occurs due to flagrant political corruption. All previous beneficiaries of such elections, Presidents John Q. Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison, were stained with the ink of malfeasance (and each only served a single term in office).

    Governor Hearst and his presidential campaign operatives brushed off the uproar. His late-game strategy targeted state populations most receptive to the message of a renewed Democracy and anti-Roosevelt sentiment, and that limited range meant reducing the amount of resources going into states like Pennsylvania and Illinois. New York, for example, had been a natural fountain of bounty for the Democratic challenger, and his defenders professed that the Empire State win was a result of Hearst's successful governorship and gradual disillusionment and division amongst the opposition. Still, Hearst only won that state by about 20,000 votes, and his connections to Tammany Hall raised eyebrows. Accusations of vote-buying and fraudulent reporting from Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn-based polling places rose about shortly following the state's quick decision to grant Hearst all 39 Electoral Votes. It did not sit well with the Progressives, nor the Republicans, but an absence of proof meant they had to accept the election as valid.

    President Roosevelt never stressed electoral fraud, nor did he indicate an interest in seriously contesting the results in New York or Massachusetts. For the departing Columbian leader, Hearst won in a legitimate manner and it would seem childish to contend with that fact. In a letter the president authored to Vice President Taft, he wrote "I am comforted in the knowledge that we have retained plural support these past four years. I believe I shall enjoy retirement." Although he fell a bit short of beating the Democrats to a frazzle, the National Progressives remained on the up-and-up in all segments of the country - winning more raw votes in the total congressional vote count than either the Democratic or Republican parties. Progressives certainly had a viable political future, yet it was hardly easy in 1909 to picture a cohesive pathway to the presidency without Roosevelt at the helm.

    As the incumbent departed for an excursion to Africa and the Republican Party leadership licked their wounds, the Democrats were overjoyed in a manner unseen since Bryan's 1896 victory. Defeating the undefeatable president appeared a task too heavy for any worthwhile opponent, but Hearst had apparently done it. The New York Journal and other Hearst publications granted commiserations to the competition and respectfully expressed gratitude for a hard-fought election. What they did not do moving forward, however, was refrain from political attacks directed at now-exiting President Roosevelt. All throughout the Hearst presidency, whenever economic conditions seemed unsteady or trust reorganizers implanted their consolidations on American industry, the prime target of the Journal would remain Roosevelt and his presidential shortcomings.

    Taking place in the shadow of an overnight winter storm, the March 4th swearing-in ceremony for William R. Hearst was relocated indoors. The blizzard had pummeled Washington with over ten inches of snow and made travel arrangements rather precarious for the Hearst supporters yearning to be present. Despite the weather, the standard festivities held out and huge amounts of attendees barreled into the city to hear from the new president. As Arthur Whiting’s “Our Country” March quieted down, the speeches commenced.

    Perhaps some onlookers expected Bryan-like optimism and a hopeful tone not unlike preceding inaugural addresses, as surely, they believed, the aggression exhibited by Hearst was a facet limited to campaigning. Those who hypothesized the above were mistaken. Now-President Hearst took little time to thank supporters or speak to the historical nature of the inauguration, and instead dove headfirst into feverish, aggressive policy talk and further criticism of his political opponents. As reporters later wrote, "...it made Roosevelt's [Inaugural] seem mundane."


    I have only to repeat what I have said in my speeches. I am enlisted in this fight against the control of the government by the trusts and corrupt corporations and I will fight it to the end. But I will serve, just exactly as the people desire, and as earnestly and loyally to do my best to promote the interests of my fellow citizens.
    Hitherto both parties have been largely controlled by the large corporations that speculate in public officials in order to be able to appropriate public property and to secure special privileges. These corrupt corporations have worked in favor of the Republican Party, but have controlled the machinery of the Democratic Party in order prevent the latter party from becoming a menace to the special interests. This year, the democratic masses repudiated the paid agents of the trusts and attorneys of corrupt corporations and drove them from control of the political process.
    Democracy was started for the positive purpose of giving the people an opportunity to vote for American principles, for the democracy of Jefferson and the republicanism of Lincoln and for a candidate free from corporate control. The mere overthrow of one boss is invariably followed under our present system by the substitution of another boss equally evil. To accomplish the permanent destruction of all bosses it is necessary to attack and eliminate the system yunder which bosses thrive.
    The working man and the slum child know they can expect my best efforts in their interests. The decent, ordinary citizens know I will do everything in my power to protect the underprivileged and the underpaid. I hope the people will believe me wholly and absolutely sincere when I say my only object in being in this campaign is to serve them. As your elected official, I will seek to remove the government from the hands of the corporations who use it for their private profit, and restore it to the hands of the people, to be conducted for the public good.
    William R. Hearst, Inaugural Address Excerpt, March 4th, 1909
     
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    Part 5: Chapter XV - Page 95
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    William Hearst with Arthur Brisbane (Right) - September 19th, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

    If his inaugural address had been any indication, newly admitted President Hearst prepared to conduct all-out war against the corporate Colossus and its soulless endorsees in government. This was his plainly constructed line in the sand. The new president was not elected on a platform of mediation and moderation, but repudiation. From all accounts, working out compromised solutions with Washington fossils did not once enter his mind. The plutocratic conspiracy, in Hearst’s conceptualized reality, had its tentacles in each major party and would block all intentions to truly curb its power.

    Therefore, Hearst searched for loyal colleagues in Congress readied to fight that fight. Fortunately for the incoming leader, the Democrats possessed majority coalitions in both houses of Congress. Furthermore, a fair number of Progressives expressed a willingness to work alongside Hearst's leadership if it meant passing genuine reform (a reverse of the early-Roosevelt coalition). Promptly upon the swearing-in, Hearst and Clark called on state leaders to begin the process of fostering cordial alliances with every sect of the party. Bringing conservatives into the fold would prove troublesome, but the new administration believed that an abundance of peer pressure from fellow Democrats would, inevitably, lead to a lowering of barriers.

    In order to forge these tenuous alliances, the most prominent segments of the Hearst Campaign reorganized themselves into a logistical operation. High-ranking officials within the campaign were not noteworthy politicians, but instead publishers, newspapermen, and press bureau officers. Hearst's chief campaign manager, amicable Journal editor Arthur Brisbane, orchestrated a continuation of their wine-and-dine electoral strategy that appealed to the campaign's political supporters. Close advisors and friends to the media magnate cultivated plausible allies all throughout the election. Now they hoped their proven tactic would assist in garnering congressional support. Speaker Sulzer whipped up Democratic fervor for President Hearst in the House, Secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus Robert Owen (D-OK) engineered a united front in the Senate, and Brisbane's men wooed any loose ends. "They offered lavish gifts," biographer Travis Cary wrote of the technique, "of solid-gold pins, restaurant vouchers, and other valuable trinkets to the guests. Money was in no short supply for the Hearst empire, and if flaunting his wealth led to personal gratification, he endured the heavy investment."

    He similarly hoisted together a varied Cabinet selection made up of the varied Democratic tendencies which propelled Hearst to the White House. Reaching out to the Midwestern sect of Democrats, those heavily influenced by Bryan Democracy, meant granting noteworthy positions to representatives from such states. Reformist Governor Joseph W. Folk (D-MO) was designated the new Interior Secretary and Iowan Farmer's Tribune author Edwin Meredith became the new Secretary of Agriculture. Former Nebraskan Governor Silas A. Holcomb (D-NE), a reform-minded Bryan Democrat and one-time Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, was granted Attorney General.

    Likewise, the Southern Democrats could not be ignored. Hearst needed to cement ties with and redress the old bastion of Democratic politics if he meant to enact oft professed change. Therefore, Southern Populist Milford Howard (D-AL) was provided Postmaster General and that of War Secretary fell to an additional Dixie politician. An operative in Jeff Davis' Southern Strategy component of the Hearst Campaign, John Nance Garner (D-TX), an incumbent representative and noted champion of the income tax amendment, was personally phoned by the incoming president regarding the offer. Hearst's fond relationship with the socially conservative, pro-segregation Garner did not sit well with many of his Northern supporters, but they acceded that the selection was tactically wise.

    The brunt of the Cabinet and the Executive staff was, however, made up of Hearst's allies and Northern Democrats. New Jersey-born shipbuilder and naval architect Lewis Nixon was chosen by the new president to serve as Navy Secretary. Nixon, a frequent DNC delegate and Bryan supporter, served as a skillful regional advisor to William Hearst in the latter part of the campaign. So-called "Father of the Bronx" Louis F. Haffen was Hearst's choice for Treasury Secretary. Haffen had been the sitting Borough President of that district and consulted often with Governor Hearst in adequately managing that part of New York City.

    President Hearst, for the role of Secretary of State, wished to nominate either New York County District Attorney Clarence J. Shearn, Governor Thomas L. Hisgen (D-MA), or Senator William J. Stone. The latter option previously served in that role under President Bryan, but he eventually declined to serve in the Hearst Administration (which he privately distrusted per his personal memoirs). After a lengthy discussion and insistence by the National Democratic Committee to avoid accusations of administrative nepotism, Hearst settled on former House Speaker John J. Lentz to fill that spot.


    The Hearst Cabinet

    President - William Randolph Hearst
    Vice President - James B. 'Champ' Clark
    Sec. of State - John J. Lentz
    Sec. of Treasury - Louis F. Haffen
    Sec. of War - John N. Garner
    Attorney General - Silas A. Holcomb
    Postmaster General - Milford W. Howard
    Sec. of the Navy - Lewis Nixon
    Sec. of Interior - Joseph W. Folk
    Sec. of Agriculture - Edwin T. Meredith​
     
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    Part 5: Chapter XV - Page 96
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    Speaker of the House William 'Plain Bill' Sulzer, 1909 - Source: Wiki Commons

    Hearst's platform and that of the Democratic Party in 1908 called for broad shifts in the economic climate of the United States. DNC delegates universally adopted a platform containing a slew of varying proposals to protect the interests of American citizens. It addressed the need to secure anti-monopoly legislation, opposed centralized government, and espoused favor for an income tax bill. Hearst counted on more radical alterations to existing statute, like instituting public ownership of the railroads, but he was not blind to the fact that Democrats would be hard-pressed to pass such ideas. As such, when the new session of Congress first met that March, he acquiesced to their request to pass judgement on one specific matter that united the whole of the party.

    Speaker William Sulzer, following his ascension to House leader, was, for all intents and purposes, the eyes and ears of the Hearst Administration in the lower legislature. The middle-aged populist did not possess the same sense of political power once held by Czar Reed and Joseph Cannon (the powers of Speaker were considerably reduced during the 1905 House Revolt), but it would be inaccurate to assert that the House Speaker was not an incredibly influential force in Congress. More so than simply leading standard governmental proceedings, Sulzer and Majority Whip Edwin Webb worked incessantly to corral Democrats in line behind the Hearst agenda. Some did express an inclination to do so upon much cajoling, yet, overall, congressional Democrats did not leap at the opportunity to surrender their legislative authority to the upstart president. As Representative Choice B. Randell (D-TX) reportedly stated at the dawn of the 61st Congress, "If [Hearst] expects us to roll over in submission, he is in for a rude awakening. The legislature is independent, and always shall be.”

    Congressional Democrats desired an alternate starting point: one that waved off Hearst's proposals. Under tremendous pressure by a population seeking fairer trade parameters and lower prices in the wake of the 1906 Panic, a majority in Congress looked to tackle tariff legislation first and foremost. During the previous session, Senator La Follette led a contingent of Senate Progressives to draft a bill calling for a bipartisan tariff commission (an idea once applauded by the late President Beveridge). It never managed to reach the floor of the Senate for debate, but the initiative showed that the appetite for tariff reform was present. With tariff rates at an all-time high moving into 1909, Democrats eagerly awaited an opportunity to reverse the trend with the assistance of a select few Progressives.

    By April of 1909, the Democrats had drafted and introduced tariff legislation in the House of Representatives. Congressman Winfield S. Hammond (D-MN) authored the greater part of the bill and extensively spoke to its merits as it became the first piece of legislation put forward in the new Democratic Congress. It sharply reduced tariff rates on all products, including consumer items like wool, to figures unseen in a generation. "The focus in the debate," wrote Thomas O'Conner, "had not been protecting American industry and manufacturers as had been the norm in Republican-led tariff discussions. Democrats changed the narrative to focus in on serving consumers themselves, with allies like La Follette famously questioning the motives of the Republican opposition. How is it that a higher tariff protected Americans, the senator asked, when factory workers cannot afford the very products they produce?"

    A key section in the Hammond bill was the institution of an inheritance tax. With the authorization of the 17th Amendment in early 1909, Congress was now granted the ability to sign off on legislation expanding the tax code to affect incomes and inheritances. Progressives and most Democrats argued that the lowering of the tariff necessitated an equivalent method to accumulate national capital. If duties were not levied on foreign goods entering the United States, it made sense to expand taxation on wealthy estates. House Republicans, as one may imagine, were appalled by this proposal. They refuted the argument with standard defenses of the high tariff, exclaiming that the existence of the current rates were not to blame for the economic contraction in 1906 nor any recent price hikes. Minority Leader Thomas Butler led the opposition. In this, he urged Congress amend the bill to rid the inheritance clause and replace it with a "fair and even-handed" corporate income tax.

    As debate pressed on through April and into May, President Hearst began speaking a bit more off-the-cuff regarding his feelings on congressional (in)action. Having continued the press-friendly policies of President Roosevelt, Hearst routinely invited his publisher associates and reputable reporters, deemed suitable by the president’s personal press managers, into the White House. Hearst, speaking candidly, commonly relayed his thoughts to the press corps. "The delay is reprehensible and irresponsible,” he stated. ”I'd replace half of [Congress] with livestock and we'd have this finished much sooner."

    The Republican filibuster began to break down in mid-May as Progressives stood their ground as part of the Democratic coalition (often accredited to a brief, one-on-one meeting between Speaker Sulzer and the affable Progressive Minority Leader Wesley Jones). Much of the Progressive delegation did not stake out a position on the tariff issue, and those who once favored a high tariff emphasized the importance of preserving an inheritance tax to achieve a small slice of economic equality. With only several adjusting amendments, the bill passed through the House on May 18th (271 to 122) and moved onto the Senate. Considering Democrats held a 49-seat majority in the upper house, the leading party would not encounter the same resistance they once did in the lower house. A handful of reports speculated that conservative Senator Bailey planned to launch a crusade against the inheritance tax, but this never came to pass as the Senate passed the bill, 61 to 35.

    With that, the Hammond Tariff Act became law, and rates were reduced for the first time in fifteen years. The establishment of the inheritance tax was also quite historic, bringing forward a form of taxation that concentrated specifically on the very wealthy. Hearst and Sulzer were overjoyed, and Democratic-friendly publications ran stories speculating on the prosperous future of the new administration. This victory and the promise of cordial relations with Congress seemed to indicate that the Democratic Party had finally managed to escape its reputation as a turbulent, factional, and untrustworthy political organization. To the misfortune of the president, however, the road ahead would only get bumpier.
     
    Part 5: Chapter XV - Page 97
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    Rogers Cartoon Depicting Hearst Struggling with the Democratic Party, June 2nd, 1909 - Source: HarpWeek

    The Hearst Administration considered the passage of the Hammond Tariff a tremendous success and, as previously inferred, it was lauded by the president as a sign of things to come. With the tariff question supposedly settled, the impatient leader instructed his allies in Congress seek progress in the fields he cared most for. Judging by Hearst’s campaign and inaugural speech, matters of labor disputes and anti-trust measures were deemed significant, but he seemed far more intent on reforming the political system itself. As thus, on May 6th, shortly following its passage of the tariff, the House leadership brought forth an ambitious legislative package to the floor collectively dubbed the “Civic Liability” bills.

    Hearst wrote to Congress and described in-depth his view that legislation promoting purer republicanism necessitated urgent action. His take on a Square Deal-style program held several monumental proposals that sought to totally change the trajectory of American democracy, political campaigning, and transparency. "In the fight against corporate corruption," he wrote, "it is pivotal we wrest the conduct of public affairs from the hands of selfish interests, political tricksters, and corrupt bosses. The government must serve the people and the people alone, and our duty is to guarantee this promise. I ask of Congress to pass legislation centered at expelling the black cloud of malfeasance from atop Washington."

    Out of every item listed in Hearst's Civic Liability plan, perhaps the most contentious and consequential was a stipulation mandating federal oversight of all electoral donations. The idea essentially mirrored Hearst’s push as governor to prohibit corporate contributions to campaign expenses. This included a Cabinet-level board within the Department of Justice to monitor donations, guidelines for how all federal candidates must report their campaign earnings, and strict limitations for how much an individual or corporation could donate to a single candidate or organization. Its text detailed a method of enforcement, cited disclosure requirements, and did not exempt state primary elections. In short, it was meant to tackle corporate influence in the democratic process and provide for greater transparency.

    The second component to Civic Liability included noteworthy proposals relating to electoral procedure on the federal and state level. One piece of the puzzle had been a resolution calling for all major parties to conduct public primaries for their political candidates for office: demanding it as a prerequisite for all elected officials to be viewed as legitimate. Hearst's sweeping legislative package also contained an outline to secure the rights of Americans to invoke a recall vote for all officeholders and, furthermore, demand referendum votes on statewide issues. None of these ideas had a modicum of support in Congress, and the latter two fell into a legal grey area concerning their Constitutionality. From the reveal of the recall plan, for instance, legal publications began questioning whether the Supreme Court would be forced to involve itself in settling the rights of voters to impose qualifications on federal officials.

    Speaker Sulzer read aloud Hearst's letter to the legislature. Shouting over a mixed reception, he proceeded to direct the rather uninterested House delegation to support these initiatives they otherwise opposed. The House leader echoed the president's position and urged the speedy adoption of the proposals. Needless to say, Congress was wholly unhappy with the direction President Hearst was plowing ahead with.


    House Republicans were bewildered by it all. They fully anticipated labor issues to come at the forefront, and the GOP had already worked out a defense of the status quo in that regard. Few expected the president to come forward with a plan to alter huge portions of the entire electoral system and allow citizens to recall anyone at will. Prim and proper [Thomas] Butler fastened in for the ride and headed the resistance effort as he had done during the tariff debates. What frankly surprised the minority leader, who, by all accounts, counted himself out as an ineffective commander of legislative debate, was the sudden breakdown of the Sulzer Coalition and the expansion of anti-administration sentiment.
    Jay R. Morgan, The American Elephant: A Study of the Republican Party, 1980

    Reaction was swift and unforgiving, and proved far more volatile than anything seen in Congress in contemporaneous memory. What began as criticism of the program as a "jumbled mess of Unconstitutional hogwash," colorfully described as such by Representative Randell, quickly devolved into broader critiques of the Hearst Administration and the president's misunderstanding of the political system. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Oscar W. Underwood (D-AL) remarked during congressional debate, "The President of the United States does not write the law, nor can he override the Constitution. The federal government is not one of his newspapers to be ordered around." Progressive Charles H. Burke (P-SD), a member of that delegation who broke with the Democratic-Progressive coalition, flatly stated his reasoning for opposition. "He has no mandate."

    Debate escalated into more of an uproar that Sulzer painstakingly put down time and time again. Detractors from the Democratic and Progressive aisles joined a unified GOP resistance and significantly damaged the chances of passing even one segment of the Civic Liability program. During discussions pertaining to the Keliher Bill, the (aforementioned) campaign funding reform measure named for co-author Representative John A. Keliher (D-MA), machine-beloved and corporate-friendly politicians held nothing back in verbally beating the supporters into submission. The idea that the federal government would monitor and discredit certain types of campaign funds especially did not sit well with conservative Southern Democrats. "The South will riot if Washington tries to tell us how to run our campaigns!" one congressman was heard shouting on the floor.

    Hearst fought back, decrying hostile Democrats as "dimwitted" and "mindless servants of the trusts." He, as well as the Hearst press, keenly directed attention to Representative Underwood, deeming the conservative Alabaman, "A Plutocratic Pied Piper, attracting the very worst of Democracy." The Journal printed a series of articles throughout 1909 and 1910 critiquing the motives of those opposed to the Keliher Bill, digging into their histories and unearthing connections to state machines and corporate interests. If none were found, the editor simply fabricated an element to the story to press the point. This occurred so frequently, and singled-out so many adversaries of Hearst's program, that it drove former President Roosevelt to comment on the affair. As he penned in a correspondence with Taft,
    "If Hearst succeeds in this devilish yellow reform, and does so with intimidation and ruthlessness, I fear for the future of our country and our democracy."
     
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    Part 5: Chapter XV - Page 98
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    Internal View of the House of Representatives during the Keliher Bill Vote, August 5th, 1909 - Source: Wiki Commons

    By July of 1909, the House of Representatives had debated and passed nearly two dozen amendments to the Keliher Bill. The legislature gutted key components to the legislation, removing controversial portions relating to the regulation of expenses raised for primary bouts and the opening of loopholes in the type of funding that was required to be reported to federal officials. Speaker Sulzer and the bulk of the Progressive and Democratic delegations fought against altering the bill, yet in successive slim votes, these amendments passed to whittle the measure down to its bare bones. Now expertly edited to lessen the effectiveness of enforcing campaign contribution fairness, it appeared to the president and his base that Congress had torn apart the first meaningful attempt at sweeping campaign reform in a generation.

    Sulzer articulated to the president his absolute certainty that the vote remained promising, citing numerous, encouraging meetings with fellow congressmen leery, albeit open, of the concept of governmental transparency. He assuaged Hearst's fears over the amendment procedure and upheld the notion that it was the natural course of Congress to make the bill more appetizing to political moderates. Resisting an all-or-nothing approach was fundamental to dismantling cries of tyranny from the anti-Hearst Republicans, and compromising was necessary if the administration hoped to defeat growing Democratic opposition in the Senate to Hearst's agenda. In a worrying development, Senator Bailey forcefully rallied against the Keliher Bill since the introduction of the Civic Liability program. In order to have any chance at reforming the system, Sulzer implored, the president needed to concede the rigidity of his program.

    As the day drew nearer when the House prepared to call for a final vote on Keliher, President Hearst learned from his senatorial allies that the steadily rising Bailey opposition now attracted 14 Democrats in total. Speculating ahead to a vote in the upper chamber, Senator Owen concluded that if every Progressive and all remaining Democrats voted approvingly on the bill, the majority would constitute a frighteningly perilous 49 votes (the slimmest possible margin for passage). In other words, if the rumors held, Bailey's reactionary movement would need to stall completely for Hearst to come out on top. That did not sit well with those House Democrats wary of alienating their corporate donors and ties to state machines, and it absolutely jeopardized the entire operation.

    Representative Webb assured Hearst that they had enough support to pass the measure, and proceeding to a final vote was the correct position. According to congressional biographer Jason Sullivan, "Webb put his position and career on the line, guaranteeing an outcome that could soften senatorial opposition and present the president with a serious accomplishment to add to his legacy. The Hammond Tariff, having been only partially birthed by the administration, was more so viewed as a Democratic victory - not a Hearst victory. Lowering the tariff was a subject with which nearly every Democrat concurred. Securing a campaign promise was far more important to the leader who made his political fortune through positive press coverage."

    At zero hour, following Sulzer's final consultation with Webb, the final tally commenced. Democratic spirits were high as members of the 61st House cast their votes. However, the mood abruptly darkened as the entire Alabama delegation voted against the Keliher bill. 9 Democratic Nay votes quickly became 13, then 17. Several Midwestern Democrats submitted abstentions, including Illinois Representatives James T. McDermott (D-IL), Henry T. Rainey (D-IL), and Martin Foster (D-IL). As it turned out, Webb's information was not entirely accurate. This miscalculation by the leadership, perhaps a simple tallying error or an unanticipated change-of-heart by a select few Democrats, cost the administration dearly. The Keliher Bill was defeated, 185-205-7, humiliating Edwin Webb, William Sulzer, and, more so than anyone, President Hearst.

    As the president well knew, the failed vote relegated not only the rather milquetoast reform bill to the scrap heap, but too the ambitious Civic Liability program. Any hope of reconciliation was finished. Regardless of months of debate and endless amendments, the bill failed miserably. Hearst, never one to abandon a grudge, tackled the issue head-on. He released a blistering criticism of Congress upon the end of its first session on August 5th, centering his rage on disloyal Democrats and disruptive Republicans alike. Any anger that had been repressed by Sulzer and Webb exploded to the front-page of the Hearst papers. It was as if he shifted back into a campaign mode, enlightening his base with a thundering sermon.


    According to American principle and practice, the public is the ruler of the State. I fear that may no longer be the case. The political machines have taken complete control over the government of the United States. Progress is impossible under these conditions. [...] Congress has rejected the people's demand to repudiate the trusts and the corrupt corporations. We asked of Congress to rebuke corrupting influence, to adhere to the doctrine of the Republic, and that deliberative body has dishonorably turned away. Therefore, as promised, I will see to it that the Justice Department arranges for the indictment, prosecution, and conviction of the bosses who stand in our way. They will be imprisoned, and our nation will be restored.
    William R. Hearst, "A Response to Congress", New York Journal, August 15th, 1909

    As Hearst raised the stakes in the fight for his vision of a purer democracy and his congressional allies attempted to restart negotiations pertaining to campaign finance reform, some Democrats considered breaking from Sulzer's leadership and demanding a new speaker election be held. Others, including Progressive moderates, hoped to sew up the wounds and build toward a compromise in order to forestall a midterm backlash. In the midst of the post-session turmoil and directly subsequent to the president's printed rebuttal, a captivating report was released by The New York Times that sent the Hearst Administration into a frenzy.
     
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