I find this very interesting. The things that were buried. The rational reality based parties that were buried under the two-party system - which we generally accept as what is normal and not to be challenged. This history sheds a different light on it, a true light I'd venture to say. That the surges of desire for more than two parties are not growing out of irrationality, our of ignorant rebellion or bleeding heart 'blindness', out of thin air, but they are growing up from beneath us, from the earth. They have roots at our depths and they are pushing out after a long, very long, winter to take bloom, like the lily, the tulip, the hyacinth and the onion. They are enduring...

"More important than theoretical connections were the Populist expressions of support for workers in actual struggles. The Alliance-Independent of Nebraska, during the great strike at the Carnegie steel plant, wrote: "All who look beneath the surface will see that the bloody battle fought at Homestead was a mere incident in the great conflict between capital and labor." Coxey's march of the unemployed drew sympathy in the farm areas; in Osceola, Nebraska, perhaps five thousand people attended a picnic in Coxey's honor. During the Pullman strike, a farmer wrote to the governor of Kansas: "Unquestionably, nearly, if not quite all Alliance people are in fullest sympathy with these striking men.""

"On top of the serious failures to unite blacks and whites, city workers and country farmers, there was the lure of electoral politics-all of that combining to destroy the Populist movement. Once allied with the Democratic party in supporting William Jennings Bryan for President in 1896, Populism would drown in a sea of Democratic politics. The pressure for electoral victory led Populism to make deals with the major parties in city after city. If the Democrats won, it would be absorbed. If the Democrats lost, it would disintegrate. Electoral polities brought into the top leadership the political brokers instead of the agrarian radicals. "

"There were those radical Populists who saw this. They said fusion with the Democrats to try to "win" would lose what they needed, an independent political movement. They said the much- ballyhooed free silver would not change anything fundamental in the capitalist system. One Texas radical said silver coinage would "leave undisturbed all the conditions which give rise to the undue concentration of wealth." "

"Henry Demarest Lloyd noted that the Bryan nomination was subsidized in part by Marcus Daly (of Anaconda Copper) and William Randolph Hearst (of the silver interests in the West). He saw through the rhetoric of Bryan that stirred the crowd of twenty thousand at the Democratic Convention ("we have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we entreat no more, we petition no more. We defy them!"). Lloyd wrote bitterly:

"The poor people are throwing up their hats in the air for those who promise to lead them out of the wilderness by way of the currency route. . .. The people are to be kept wandering forty years in the currency labyrinth, as they have for the last forty years been led up and down the tariff bill. In the election of 1896, with the Populist movement enticed into the Democratic party, Bryan, the Democratic candidate, was defeated by William McKinley, for whom the corporations and the press mobilized, in the first massive use of money in an election campaign. Even the hint of Populism in the Democratic party, it seemed, could not be tolerated, and the big guns of the Establishment pulled out all their ammunition, to make sure. ""

"It was a time, as election times have often been in the United States, to consolidate the system after years of protest and rebellion. The black was being kept under control in the South. The Indian was being driven off the western plains for good; on a cold winter day in 1890, U.S. army soldiers attacked Indians camped at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, and killed three hundred men, women, and children. It was the climax to four hundred years of violence that began with Columbus, establishing that this continent belonged to white men. But only to certain white men, because it was clear by 1896 that the state stood ready to crush labor strikes, by the law if possible, by force if necessary. And where a threatening mass movement developed, the two-party system stood ready to send out one of its columns to surround that movement and drain it of vitality. "

"And always, as a way of drowning class resentment in a flood of slogans for national unity, there was patriotism. McKinley had said, in a rare rhetorical connection between money and flag:

"... this year is going to be a year of patriotism and devotion to country. I am glad to know that the people in every part of the country mean to be devoted to one flag, the glorious Stars and Stripes; that the people of this country mean to maintain the financial honor of the country as sacredly as they maintain the honor of the flag.""

"The supreme act of patriotism was war. Two years after McKinley became President, the United States declared war on Spain."

Leave a Reply.