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electoral vote to McKinley. The plurality in the popular votes was enormous and unprecedented in history. The press, domestic and foreign, has dwelt at length upon the ominous number, 886,000, and calls the defeat a Waterloo, or a landslide. When editorial writers turn from magnitude to meaning, they find their vision and their judgment unable to examine the result in other than superlative terms. They see "65 per cent of the electoral vote," or "a popular plurality of 886,000," and render the verdict, "this magnificent victory sounds the death knell of Bryanism, Demagogism, Populism and Repudiation."'1
We have lived through this "campaign of education" and have attempted to follow carefully every move. Yet so bewildering is the panorama presented, that it already seems to us like a tale from the "Arabian Nights," or an evening spent with the magician Kellar. With our eyes constantly riveted on the object and the performer, we failed to detect the time when the bird cage was substituted for the bonnet, or the hand which drew many-colored ribbons, eggs and candies from the empty bottle. We agreed before election day that there was a paramount issue. With our eyes and hearts fixed on Prosperity and with our ballots marked Prosperity, we voted for the Prosperity candidate. When our ballot is withdrawn we discover that on it is written, not alone Prosperity, but "the unqualified endorsement of Republicanism as expressed in the policies and achievements of the administration." Underneath Prosperity we are said to have written Ship Subsidy Bill, Permanent Increase in the Army, the Porto Rican Tariff, the Philippine Policy,
1 It has not been thought desirable to give references for the numerous quotations which follow. They have been taken from some 600 editorials which appeared immediately after election, and represent every section of the country. This study was outlined and prepared with the assistance of the Senior Arts Class in Practical Politics in the University of Pennsylvania. From October 1 to November 8 two partisan dailies were studied by each member. The results are to be found in the University Library in the form of a card classification of clippings, together with a classified album of some 1,500 cartoons, collected by the classes in Practical Politics.
the Dingley Tariff, the Gold Standard, and Government by Injunction.
In the following study of the election seven different aspects of the struggle and its result are considered:
1. The electoral and popular votes returned are presented and analyzed.'
2. The interpretation given to the Republican victory by the Republican press is reviewed.
3. Certain misconceptions in regard to the origin and present force of Bryanism and Populism are brought to light. 4. Post-election explanations are contrasted with preelection claims.
5. Proof is submitted that prosperity, and not expansion, was the issue on which the election turned.
6. The party organizations which carried on the campaign are contrasted, and,
7. Conclusions in regard to the workings of popular government are deduced.
McKinley's election is called a Republican landslide, just as Cleveland's election in 1892 was called a Democratic landslide. Since Cleveland received a minority of the total popular votes, the term landslide must be based upon a considerable margin in the electoral college. By a natural process of the mind, the electoral vote, being determined by the majority of popular votes in doubtful states, comes to be taken as the expression of the popular will. The electoral margin is given as the popular margin. Nine hundred and ninety out of every thousand people probably believe to-day that McKinley received the endorsement of an overwhelming majority of the voters of the country. As a matter of fact only 52 per cent of the voters declared for him, while only 54 per cent of the voters in the two dominant parties gave him their support. That this 2 per cent majority or 4 per cent plurality is deemed a "popular landslide" throws much light on the psychology of an election.
1 Based upon statement of Philadelphia Press, November 30.
Again, by a similar confusion of thought, the "landslide" notion is applied to all sections of the country. It is forgotten that in the four Middle Atlantic States the McKinley vote decreased 8,000, while the Bryan vote increased 151,000. It is forgotten, moreover, that in those doubtful states where campaign funds are always most liberally expended, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, the winning party's net loss since 1896 was 207,000. These states, whose economic wishes may dominate national legislation, cast 131 electoral votes. The states which show an increase for McKinley cast altogether 174 votes, while the states won over this year, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington, cast only 31. Significant is it that of the total gain of 246,000 votes, over 119,000 were found in the above states which cast only 31 electoral votes, while 115,000 more were found in the four silver states which voted for Bryan. The two Pacific states, Oregon and California, with their 13 electoral votes added 29,000. Thus 263,000 votes were given by states whose aggregate electoral vote is only 44, against a loss of 207,000 in the eight ever-doubtful states, whose electoral vote is 131. These facts may well make the thoughtful student pause before subscribing to the view that there was in any real sense a Republican landslide.''
As to the meaning of the result there is an astonishing unanimity of opinion on the part of the Republican press, from the Augusta Journal to the Tacoma News. It is here that the magic of party politics manifests itself most clearly, as before the eyes of the bewildered public the party magician of the quill reads the story of the ballots. For the most part the editorials discuss the negations represented by the large popular majority.
Some of these opinions were as follows: Bryan is "dead and buried beyond hope of resurrection." He was a "Janusfaced trickster," a "quack nostrum doctor," a "magician," a "fake prophet," a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,"
a "lightning-rod man," a "safe-breaker," a "court jester,' an "anarchist," an "artful dodger," a "Divvicrat" and a "brazen footman to the rapacious Tammany Tiger." He was a "blatant demagogue," a "constitutional pessimist," a "traitor," an "apostle of sedition and class hatred," an unscrupulous expounder of emotional popocratic politics," "un homme capable de tout." The nation has "buried him under an avalanche of votes."
Bryanism, too, is "stamped out;" "its end has come;" "it stands condemned before the world with none so low as to do it reverence." "All that the Democratic party, under the leadership of Mr. Bryan, has contended for, has been repudiated." The election marks the "deliverance from the combination of all the political lunacies of the past.” Not only is "free silver confined to the limbo reserved for the children of a diseased imagination," but we have left behind "the whole congeries of fads and follies and hatreds that greedy and unscrupulous men have gathered together in a modern Cave of Adullam for menace to ordered popular government." Bryanism was assisted by agencies "conceived in folly and born of desperation," and by "alliances with all the political ragtag and bobtail that could be enticed into camp by a surrender of Democratic principles." It rested on "the mire of Populism and Socialism" and "sat in the darkness of pessimism."' It drew votes from a
"conglomeration of wild theorists, of discontented ignorance, of dishonest debtors, of selfish silver owners, of pelfseeking politicians, of objectors to law, order and the sanctity of the supreme judiciary, following the Jack o'Lantern light of a man void of understanding."
It matters little to the future of America whether or not the above characterizations of Mr. Bryan express the judgment of the majority of the present generation. It would be of no great consequence if future historians should hold to
1 Le Siecle, November 8.
Scimitar, Memphis, Tenn., November 7.
contrary opinions and go so far as to characterize him, in the language of his followers, as a "patriot," a "second Lincoln," "an able, earnest, conscientious champion of the people," and even as "the greatest American commoner of his generation." He is but one man living in remote Nebraska. A mistake in diagnosing his case will endanger no class, no industry and no principle. The proper and scientific diagnosis of Bryanism is, however, of the utmost importance. That disease is not limited to one state nor section. Its ravages were so extensive as to affect 6,415,387 voters, two millions of whom are still at large in the eight doubtful states above mentioned. Even in the five states which gave Mr. McKinley landslides, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, Bryanism polled 1,300,000 votes, while in Ohio itself 475,000 confessed contagion. Did the final result rob this contagion of its baneful power? The post-election physicians answer with an emphatic affirmative.
Their diagnosis does not, however, convince nor reassure the student of American politics. It seems to be based upon an exaggerated estimate of electoral margins. There are several evidences that it was pronounced without an understanding of the true nature of Bryanism, its historic antecedents and causes, or its present potential force. There is the same proof that Bryanism is buried forever, as of the extinction of Populism. If Populism is a disease of the imagination, it was never so virulent as to-day, when there is less reason for its separate existence. The dreams of to-day become the realities of to-morrow. Populism has inoculated both the Democratic and Republican parties. The latter advocates government ownership and control of an Isthmian Canal; national reservoirs to reclaim 70,000,000 arid acres for free homes; the restriction of immigration; raising the age limit for child-labor, and an effective system of labor insurance.' Republicans in state and local politics are con
1 Platform, 1900.