Uphill All the Way: The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929
By Kevin C. Murphy, Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter Eight:
The Duty to Revolt

Progressives and the Election of 1924

X. Red, Pinks,
Blues, and Yellows

I. Indian Summer.
II. Now is the Time.
III. Hiram and Goliath.
IV. Coronation in Cleveland.
V. Schism in the Democracy.
VI. Escape from New York.
VII. Fighting Bob.
VIII. Coolidge or Chaos.
IX. The Contested Inheritance.
X. Reds, Pinks, Blues, and Yellows.
XI. The Second Landslide.

With the might of both established parties and such formidable campaign weaponry arrayed against them, few political observers harbored illusions about the unlikely odds of La Follette and Wheeler winning the White House. "None of us for a moment thought we had a chance to win," remembered Phil La Follette later, with the possible exception of his father. Nonetheless, the La Follette-Wheeler campaign inspired progressives and many others - the "Reds, the Pinks, the Blues, and the Yellows," according to the Saturday Evening Post's "Let X=La Follette" savaging of the campaign -- to hope against hope during the fall of 1924, even as decisions and events during the campaign contrived to make an uphill battle even harder.1

"More than any other factor," historian Kenneth MacKay concluded in his 1947 study of the campaign, "the lack of funds curtailed the activities of the Progressives in 1924." And, indeed, the lack of steady financing affected every aspect of the campaign effort. David Niles, the head of La Follette-Wheeler's Campaign Speakers Bureau, soon found that his outfit had a budget of only $5,000 to work with instead of the $50,000 promised. According to an official Senate inquiry into 1924 campaign spending -- chaired by William Borah -- Republicans raised $4,360,378, Democrats $821,037, and the Progressives only $221, 977. Put another way, La Follette and Wheeler were outspent almost four to one by the Democrats and almost twenty to one by the incumbents - and that's only the money that was counted. Labor lawyer Frank Walsh, La Follette's official representative before the Borah committee, estimated the Republican had really spent $15,700,000 -- 92% of which he argued was raised from industrialists and bankers, and 71% of which was raised in sums larger than $1000. Whatever was actually spent by the Coolidge-Dawes campaign, the official numbers put out by the Borah committee are likely on the low end.2

Unfortunately for the Progressives, their primary constituencies -- laborers and farmers -- usually had no money to give. And compounding the persistent cash flow problems was the fact that the campaign had no organization at all in many parts of the country. Outside of Wisconsin and Montana, where La Follette and Wheeler had built their respective state machines, and states like North Dakota and Minnesota, where the Non-Partisan League still had extant operations, the campaign was dependent almost entirely on the Socialists, who were already on the ballot in forty-four states and who had become proficient at running a disciplined campaign effort on a scant budget. (This posed its own problems, since many voters fond of La Follette still looked askance at voting for the party of Debs.) Touring the West -- ostensibly La Follette's stronghold -- with Wheeler, Oswald Villard often found "only the merest skeletons of what a fighting political force should be."3

Nor, because of the decision to forego a third party, were their often state or local tickets to add ballast to the La Follette-Wheeler efforts. Occasionally the third party would endorse a majority party candidate, as they did William Borah in Idaho. But often times there were no satisfactory options in the race, and even potential candidates were loath to take the third party leap of faith. As one candidate for office complained to the campaign, "If I declare for La Follette, I cut myself off from my own party, and I cannot join the La Follette party because you have not got any." As such, he had "everything to lose and nothing to gain" by running down-ballot. This, noted Socialist writer Alfred Baker Lewis, was "the weak spot of the La Follette campaign." And even in some cases where there were down-ballot candidates, such as Montana and Nebraska, speakers like Wheeler ended up campaigning against their own ticket, in favor of progressive incumbents like Thomas Walsh and George Norris. "The defeat of Walsh," Wheeler declared despite there being a slate of La Follette electors on the Farmer-Labor ticket, "would be looked upon by the country as a repudiation of his magnificent fight against corruption in Washington."4

As a result of this lack of organization and dearth of candidates in most sections of the country, La Follette's efforts were often dependent almost entirely on volunteers, many of whom, being single-minded idealists of one kind or another, were of questionable worth to the campaign. Arthur Hays recalled several bewildered farmers, at the end of a long pro-La Follette oration by an egghead progressive or doctrinaire socialist, asking what all of this had to do with the price of hogs. Similarly, campaign staffer Lionel Popkin took a survey of the various La Follette events happening in New York City one evening. In Union Station, he found a drunk La Follette orator taking credit for the Teapot Dome revelations. ("What the hell did Bob La Follette have to do with that? I'm the man who showed up the scoundrels. Me!") Elsewhere, an old Wobbly urged voters to yell "Hooray for Bob La Follette!" at their polling places, and then take an axe to the ballot box. ("That's the sort of direct action that will count, fellow workers!") In Columbus Circle, another fellow -- "an unfrocked priest from the Pacific Coast" -- was amusing his Irish audience by deploring the English, while at 96th and Broadway, a volunteer was telling workers that, under the new regime, the posh homes lining West End Ave. and Riverside Drive would be theirs for the taking. Recounting Popkin's ill-fated Gotham voyage in his memoirs, Hays noted a joke going around the campaign then: The La Follette emblem was the Liberty Bell, and "the crack is getting larger every day!"5

Early in the campaign season, it was hoped that both the financial and organizational constraints faced by the Progressives would be leavened by the unprecedented endorsement of the American Federation of Labor in August, 1924 -- the first time in history the labor group ever officially endorsed a presidential ticket. This endorsement was an indicator of both the more explicitly class-based nature of La Follette's insurgency in 1924, and the sheer desperation which opponents of normalcy felt that year. Twelve times since 1885, the AFL had voted down resolutions in favor of a third party, and Samuel Gompers had spent his entire career attacking the Socialists and reaffirming the non-partisan nature of his organization. But, once the Democrats turned away pro-labor planks to their own platform and chose a scion of Wall Street as their candidate, the ailing Gompers confessed that "it looks as if we are forced to turn to La Follette…there is no other way."6

And so, while noting that "cooperation hereby urged is not a pledge of identification with an independent party movement or third party" and that "we do not accept government as the solution of the problems of life," the AFL announced their support of La Follette and Wheeler as two men -- an "independent Republican" and an "independent Democrat" -- who "throughout their whole political careers stood steadfast in defense of the rights and interests of wage earners and farmers." (As to the Socialists, Gompers reiterated in an editorial that "These candidates have the support of minority groups, in themselves of no great importance, but with which we are and have been in the sharpest kind of disagreement. We shall continue to oppose those doctrines at all times.")7

With the endorsement of the AFL -- a clear sign "that the Old Guard in the Federation is weakening," noted The Nation -- La Follette and Wheeler ostensibly gained the support of a three-million member organization that could further rally urban workers to the progressive standard. As such, The New Republic thought "Senator La Follette's chances of polling a large vote in the eastern cities…much improved." H.L. Mencken begged to differ. The endorsement "will be worth vastly less" than three million votes, Mencken argued, "for, labor, in America, seems quite unable to function politically…In November, I dare say, hundreds of thousands of union men will cast their votes for the Hon. Charles G. Dawes, perhaps the most bold and bloodthirsty enemy of unionism ever heard of in American politics.":
[L]abor leaders, in the Republic, are mainly mountebanks who are for themselves long before and after they are for labor…But perhaps the political impotence of labor is due more largely to the fact that the American workingman, like every other American, has ambitions, and is thus disinclined to think of himself as a workingman. In other words, he refuses to be class conscious. What he usually hopes is that on some near tomorrow, he will be able to escape from work and go into business for himself, and so begin oppressing his late colleagues.8
"LaFollette's real strength," Mencken argued, is unorganized labor. "It is there that discontent is greatest, for the Federation and the brotherhoods are wholly selfish, and not only refuse to help the poor fellows without their ranks, but even give capital a hand in oppressing them…The White House anterooms are already filled with labor leaders, eager to kiss hands and pledge their fealty."9

Whatever the merits of Mencken's overall description of labor, he was ultimately correct about the value of the AFL endorsement. While Gompers urged trade unionists to support "these two friends of freedom, progress, and true democracy" right up until Election Day, overall the AFL was a casual ally at best, only mustering up $25,000 nationwide to dedicate to the cause. "I personally and the Socialist Party ticket in New York State got very little support from the A.F. of L," remembered Norman Thomas, a candidate for Governor of New York that year. "As a matter of fact, the La Follette ticket nationally got less support as the campaign wore on from the A.F. of L. than was expected." In fact, just before the election, the New York City executive committee of the Trades and Labor Council switched their support from La Follette to Davis, since "La Follette has no chance to be elected." Despite the early hopes of progressives that the endorsement would be a game changer, the AFL's support proved to be something of a non-factor. Other major unions -- most notably John L. Lewis's United Mine Workers - threw in with Coolidge from the start.10

Short of money, organization, and allies, the campaign also had to deal with the problem of La Follette's infirm health, which prevented him from taking to the campaign trail as vigorously as hoped. To combat this, one of the first official acts of the campaign, coordinated by Bob La Follette, Jr., was what the NewYork Evening Journal deemed "a unique experiment in American politics": a Labor Day speech specifically written for and delivered by a nationwide radio broadcast -- arguably the first such campaign address in American history. While the address was estimated to have reached several million voters, the technical hassles and prohibitive cost ($3500) of arranging such a nationwide broadcast cost the campaign more than it was worth. And, after decades of theatrical speaking and gesticulating on the stump, the senator was not at all accustomed to the new technology, and much of the La Follette magic did not translate over the airwaves. As Arthur Hays recalled, "for an orator of the old school like La Follette, the whole business seemed so much gimcrackery. He was used to striding up and down the platform when he spoke. It fretted him to have to stand close to the microphone." (By contrast, the reticent, undemonstrative Coolidge had a voice for the radio and not much else. The campaign's final days saw the president deliver a radio address to the largest network then ever assembled -- twenty stations.)11

La Follette's radio address was followed by a campaign innovation borrowed from the Socialists, the fund-raising political rally. At an extravaganza on September 18th, 1924, 14,000 supporters crammed into Madison Square Garden, and approximately 7000 listened over loudspeakers outside, to hear the candidate, as well as supporters like Arthur Garfield Hays and Norman Thomas, discourse. (According to Thomas, the Democrats were "'the party of the Espionage Law, the cruel and illegal anti-Red raids, the spy system, the war frauds, child labor in the South, A. Mitchell Palmer, and his anti-labor injunctions," and the Republicans were "the party of Forbes, Fall, and Daugherty, the party of Judge Gary and company-owned towns, the party of big business and big injunctions against labor.") While half the seats inside the Garden were free, the other half cost anywhere between 55 cents and $2.50, thus raising almost $13,000 for the continually cash-strapped campaign. Future La Follette stops would follow similar pricing systems.12

In the end, Senator La Follette ended up conducting a twenty city speaking tour beginning on October 6th in Rochester, New York -- well after Davis and Dawes had gone out on the stump. After events in Scranton and Newark, La Follette swung through a multi-city tour of the Midwest -- Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago (where he was introduced by Jane Addams), Kansas City, St. Louis, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, Omaha. Rock Island, and Peoria. Then, due both to lack of funds and the sense that the West was La Follette-Wheeler country regardless -- a critical mistake, thought Burton Wheeler -- the candidate returned East for the concluding week of the campaign, stopping in Syracuse, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Schenectady, Boston, and, finally, Cleveland, the site of the original convention. At each stop, the Senator railed against the evils of monopoly, the dangers of "big business," and the corruption of Teapot Dome - with special attention given to farm issues during the Midwest swing and anti-imperialism in the German-American stronghold of Cincinnati. "The tour, taking it all in all," wrote John W. Owens for The Baltimore Sun, "is a marvelous performance. This old man, charging entrenched enemies with the furious abandon of a romantic young cavalier, and the throngs of men and women massing in city after city to hear him, and to gladly to give mites of money to aid him, what has there been in politics in years that is comparable?"13

The more vigorous Burton Wheeler, meanwhile, went on his own speaking tour in September and October, covering 17,000 miles across twenty-six states. Beginning in Boston -- Coolidge's home base -- Wheeler ventured up to Portland before wending his way through Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. He then head west through Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Montana to the Northwest. After working his way down California - the largest event being before 12,000 at the Los Angeles Bowl, which one enthusiastic paper called "the greatest demonstration received by a candidate in the history of California" -- Wheeler cut back through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma before making several final campaign stops in Chicago, New York, and Baltimore.14

Despite La Follette's many rhetorical talents, Wheeler turned out to be the better campaigner of the two candidates -- for while the old Wisconsin progressive would often get caught up in abstract diatribes about the evils of monopoly, Wheeler focused like a laser beam on the issue of corruption in the White House. "Let's see who is destroying this government of ours," he would exclaim. "Is it the farmers, the laborers, or the merchants of the country? Or is it the Daughertys, the Falls, and the Dohenys?" Continually referring to Coolidge and Davis as the "Gold Dust Twins," Wheeler defied his audience to "name a single national administration in American history that was as venal, as corrupt, and as careless of the rights of American citizens" as the one currently in power. "Stop government by special privilege," Wheeler concluded, "and you stop government by corruption."15

"He is doing extremely good work, quiet, modest and unassuming yet dramatic to a remarkable degree by his simple straightforward narrative of Teapot Dome and the Daugherty scandals," Oswald Villard - working as Assistant National Treasurer for the campaign - reported to La Follette of his running mate. "I have never seen audiences more fascinated, or that listened more closely and attentively." Wheeler got particularly good mileage out of debating an empty chair or cross-examining a straw dummy about Teapot Dome and various other campaign issues. "You knew all about the oil scandals and the Ohio gang, didn't you?" Wheeler would ask. Then, after the ensuing silence, he would add, "Well, knowing all these things, you kept quiet, didn't you? And now you have the reputation of being a strong, silent man, haven't you?" Here, Wheeler told voters, was America's "Silent Cal."16

The lack of resources on hand necessitated another political campaign first, as Belle La Follette became the first candidate's spouse in American history to go on her own speaking tour. Traveling through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, Mrs. La Follette forewent "technical politics" to speak to her audiences "neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. I want especially to speak to you women…to talk things over with you, get your views, answer your questions, and see if we can't mutually understand and agree." As "the distaff side of the La Follette party," Belle La Follette emphasized her husband's more conservative take on reform. "He never advocates a reform that experience has not shown is needed," he noted, arguing that while she was more radical the Senator was "almost old fashioned in his worship of our institutions."17

All of these official campaign efforts were buttressed by the work of the various La Follette-Wheeler campaign headquarters, run by Wisconsin Congressman John Nelson in Chicago, Gilbert Roe in New York, and Basil Manley and Bob La Follette, Jr. in Washington. Director of Publicity Ernest Gruening churned out press releases, while the varied members of the original CPPA coalition -- railroad brotherhoods, socialists, farmers, and forty-eighters -- amplified the message in their respective journalistic organs, as did The Nation and The New Republic. Similarly, aiding La Follette's pitch to America's women voters was the former Women's Committee for Political Action, now reconstituted as the Women's Division of the La Follette-Wheeler campaign. (It maintained a separate identity "because when a woman's organization joins a man's," said member Isabelle Kendig, "the men always are elected to the outstanding posts and given the real jobs.") The Women's Committee helped to secure speakers like Harriet Stanton Blatch and Jane Addams for the campaign.18

Along with introducing La Follette in Chicago, Addams published a piece in the September 10, 1924 issue of The New Republic detailing "Why I Shall Vote for La Follette." Addams recalled how, during her time at Hull House, when she was "represented by corrupt aldermen in a city council…the political air of Wisconsin filled my lungs like a breath from the mountain tops of the finest American tradition." She now "rejoice[d] in an opportunity to work for 'progressive political action' under a leader who has, since 1898, successfully led a progressive movement inevitably expanding through a quarter of a century." La Follette, Addams concluded, was "welding together…the forward-looking voters, whether they have called themselves Socialists or liberals, proletarians or agriculturists…They hope under the leadership of this wise man -- who combines so remarkably the abilities of the expert with those of the statesmen -- to integrate their cooperating experiences into a progressively efficient political activity."19

"Why I Shall Vote for La Follette" subsequently became a regular feature in The New Republic up until the election. Also participating were Wisconsin economist John Commons, Zona Gale, Edward T. Devine, Norman Hapgood, and Felix Frankfurter. "I wrote a piece about La Follette and said of his program that I probably disagreed with nineteen out of twenty planks," Frankfurter recalled at the end of his life. "The specific program of La Follette meant nothing to me, but the general direction in which he was going meant everything to me." In the final installment of the series, TNR editor Herbert Croly recapitulated the class-consciousness argument his magazine made upon the nomination of La Follette. ("So far, then, from deploring or fearing the organization of a farmer-labor party, I believe it to be the fitting instrument of the orderly but sufficiently thorough-going readjustment of American political and economic life.") The week of the election, the magazine's anonymous editorial voice, declared that a "vote for Mr. Coolidge…affirms the ideal of an arrested America. A vote for Mr. Davis, no matter what the intentions of the voter, affirms an irresponsible and drifting America. A vote for Mr. La Follette affirms a progressive America, which is fully aware of its inherited national purpose and is not afraid to demand those changes in conduct, institutions, and ideas which are necessary to redeem it."20

TNR also argued over the course of the campaign season that a successful La Follette bid would likely mean one of the two major parties -- probably the Democrats -- would break up and disappear. "The La Follette vote will be large," the journal reported in October. "In many of the polls he is almost keeping abreast of Coolidge… If it does destroy one of the two older parties, the Democracy will surely be selected for sacrifice." True, Democrats could always rely on a Solid South for votes, but -- should La Follette win -- "[i]s there any reason why the Solid South and the conservative Republicans should not form a new coalition in order to fight the common enemy and to regain control of the government? If the Solid South should form a coalition with conservative groups in the rest of the country, it would preserve its own solidarity intact, while at the same time it would unite with the other elements in American political and social life which are most congenial to it."21

White southerners may not abandon the Democratic Party just yet, but W.E.B. Du Bois and The Crisis were urging African-Americans to rethink voting Republican. Ever since the failure of the Dyer anti-lynching bill in the Harding Congress, The Crisis had begun to advocate for ending the long-standing relationship between African-American voters and the party of Lincoln. "The trend toward a Third Party is irresistible," argued The Crisis in January 1923. "Our duty is clear…Can any Negro voter in the future support the Democratic or Republican party in national elections without writing himself down as an ass?" Writing in the magazine in June of that year, former Assistant Attorney General William Lewis urged that "colored citizens in this country should take a leaf, or a chapter, out of the history of Irish in American politics. Be 'agin' the party in power…There is nothing sacred about party designation. Our debt of gratitude to the Republican Party has long since been paid with compound interest."22

The prospects for a break grew stronger with the death of Warren Harding, who, if nothing else, had at least tried to broach the issue of race relations in Birmingham. "He was not a great man," editorialized The Crisis upon his death with genuine affection, "but he was something just as rare -- a gentleman; a man gently bred, good and kind and yearning for peace. If there ran in his veins any bit of the blood of Africa…it would explain much of the spirit of sympathy and forgiveness in the heart of this over-worked servant of the people." Coolidge, on the other hand, rubbed African Americans who met with him -- as he rubbed many other visitors who met with him - as distant and standoffish23

By August 1924, Du Bois argued it was "manifestly impossible" for African-Americans to "vote a straight ticket for either" of the two major parties. "Our vote must be primarily a matter of individual candidates for office." Similarly, James Weldon Johnson declared in October that "the only way for the Negro to begin to gain political importance and power is by smashing [the] 'Gentlemen's Agreement" between Republicans and Democrats. "He must absolutely destroy the idea that because a man's face is dark he has the word 'Republican' indelibly written across his forehead. He must keep politicians uncertain as to how he will vote."24

While Du Bois thought it "inexcusable" that the La Follette platform had nothing to say about African-American rights and thus apparently "no convictions as to the rights of Black Folk," he also thought "[f]or the uplift of the world this is one of the best programs ever laid down by a political party in America. It can be carried out and still leave black folk and brown and yellow disinherited from many of its benefits. It can triumph and by its very triumph bring new tyrannies upon hated minorities. And yet despite this it will be far better than the present America." A more unqualified endorsement came from Col. Roscoe Conkling Simmons, one of the more prominent African-American orators of his day and usually a stalwart of the Colored Division of the Republican National Committee's Speakers Bureau. "Senator La Follette," proclaimed Simmons, "is the hope of the Negro race," prompting so many African-Americans to volunteer for the cause that the La Follette campaign had no idea how to put everyone to work.25

La Follette and Wheeler also enjoyed the support of numerous other progressives of note, among them Florence Kelley, John Dewey, Paul Kellogg, Donald Richberg, and Helen Keller, who praised La Follette's "courage and vision and unyielding determination to find a sensible, just way out of the evils which threaten this country." As noted earlier, Harold Ickes, despite believing it "foolish and futile" not to build "a new party movement" and feeling "a very real hesitation in taking a step politically that is likely to change radically my whole political life," also joined the La Follette cause. And, of course, the La Follette-Wheeler campaign inspired millions of laborers and farmers across the country, who formed ad hoc groups such as the "La Follette Clerical Workers Progressive League," the "Illinois Negro Progressive Club," and the "Farmers' Progressive Conference of Illinois" to back their candidate. Among those rallying to the cause were the down-on-his-luck California oil worker Frank Nixon and his eleven-year-old-son Dick. Holding the White House himself a half-century later, Nixon would still call La Follette's Autobiography one of his three favorite books.26

Judging from the journals, the progressives began to feel a sense of momentum behind La Follette's candidacy over the course of the campaign, even despite the long odds. "All the La Follette news is good news," gushed The Nation roughly a month before the election:
Iowa is so certain for La Follette that, according to reliable reports, a group of the leading Wall Street financiers was has hastily called together at a luncheon in mid-September, at which they pledged a large sum of money to buy Iowa back for Coolidge. But the most amazing news comes from California. At the outset of the campaign no one dared hope that this reactionary State would turn toward La Follette…the Hearst and Literary Digest polls show an amazing turning to La Follette, even in Los Angeles. More than that, Gus Karger, the anti-La Follette correspondent of the Taft Cincinnati paper, wires from California that the State is now La Follette's. In New-York the tide is turning from Coolidge…Chairman Shaver's admission that if the election were held today it would go into the House is further convincing proof of the growth of the La Follette movement. Even in a border State like Maryland the amount of support for La Follette is causing the Davis managers the greatest concern.27
In short, The Nation effused, "the tidal wave is growing." Three weeks later, Oswald Villard reported to his readers that "it is curious how many men one meets who are convinced that La Follette will be the next President." Adding that he was "convinced by personal observation that Mr. Dawes helps the La Follette cause," Villard insisted that "Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa - the deeper I penetrated into the Mid-West the brighter seems the outlook for Robert La Follette. I am now certain that if the election were held tomorrow he would carry every one of those States, in addition to North Dakota, Montana, and Washington. Wherever I have been, save only Kansas, the outlook seems brighter than the political analyses of the various newspapers portray it." By the eve of the election, Villard seemed convinced the time of reckoning was at hand. "Republican big business has considerably lost its grip in this contest," he argued, comparing the election to the eve of the Civil War. "As the John Brown raid was the curtain-raiser in 1859, so is this the peaceful curtain-raiser in 1924. The long struggle from Bull Run to Appomattox is just ahead."28

The editors of TNR kept a slightly more level head, but they too began to prophesy a considerable showing for the Wisconsin Senator. "Nearly all the political experts now predict that the election will be thrown into the House," the journal declared in mid-October. "It seems certain that fewer popular votes will be cast for Davis than for either of his rivals," they reported a fortnight later. Commenting on a later Literary Digest poll that put Coolidge far ahead of both contenders (with La Follette running second) and suggested La Follette would win no state but his own, TNR argued "it is certainly incorrect and misleading. It seems clear that the lists of voters from which an expression of opinion was solicited were heavily weighted in Coolidge's favor."29

Perhaps the best indicator of the emotional pull many felt toward La Follette's campaign in 1924 was that it even managed to warm the heart of the Grinch from Baltimore. Going over the options at the close of the campaign, Mencken returned last to "the Wisconsin Red, with his pockets stuffed with Soviet gold. I shall vote for him unhesitatingly, and for a plain reason: he is the best man in the running, as a man":
There is no ring in his nose. Nobody owns him. Nobody bosses him. Nobody even advises him. Right or wrong, he has stood on his own bottom, firmly and resolutely, since the day he was first heard of in politics, battling for his ideas in good weather and bad, facing great odds gladly, going against his own followers as well as with his followers, taking his own line always and sticking to it with superb courage and resolution.

Suppose all Americans were like LaFollette? What a country it would be! No more depressing goose-stepping. No more gorillas in hysterical herds. No more trimming and trembling. Does it matter what his ideas are? Personally, I am against four-fifths of them…You may fancy them or you may dislike them, but you can't get away from the fact that they are whooped by a man who, as politicians go among us, is almost miraculously frank, courageous, honest, and first-rate."30
As a testament to La Follette's character, Mencken reminded his readers of the Senator's situation during the World War. "His colleagues, eager to escape contamination, avoided him; he was reviled from end to end of the country; all the popularity and influence that he had built up by years of struggle vanished almost completely. Try to imagine any other American politician in that situation. How long would it have taken him to grab a flag and begin howling with the pack?....But LaFollette stuck...he held fast to his convictions, simply, tenaciously, and like a man." Even to a man as curmudgeonly as the Sage of Baltimore, La Follette's candidacy held out the promise of an American nation that would live up to its best ideals.31

But, however momentarily inspiring the radiance of that sunlit dream, to Mencken it was a dream nonetheless. "LaFollette will be defeated tomorrow, as he deserves to be defeated in a land of goose-steppers and rubber stamps," he concluded. "The robes of Washington and Lincoln will be draped about a man who plays the game according to the American rules."32

Continue to Chapter 8, Pt. 11: The Second Landslide.

Return to the Table of Contents.

1. Unger, 296. Mackay, 166.
2. MacKay, 184-186, 189-190. Wheeler, 263. The Progressives hurt their cause on the campaign finance front by accusing Republicans of having the Federal Reserve underwrite the expense of the Coolidge campaign - a charge backed by several telegrams attesting to that fact. While La Follette held "grave doubts of their authenticity," the campaign made the argument regardless, and was forced to eat crow when it became clear these telegrams were a hoax. MacKay, 192.
3. MacKay, 176-179, 194, 196.
4. Ibid. McKenna, 212. Wheeler, 259-260.
5. Ibid. Hays, City Lawyer, 201, 269-270.
6. MacKay, 150-154. Levine, 316.
7. Ibid.
8. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, August 13, 1924 (Vol. 119, No. 3084), 153. "The Week," The New Republic, August 13, 1924 (Vol. 39, No. 506), 309. MacKay, 199-200. Mencken, 87-90.
9. Mencken, 87-90.
10. "Gomper's Last Call for La Follette," New York Times, November 2, 1924. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, August 13, 1924 (Vol. 119, No. 3084), 153. "The Week," The New Republic, August 13, 1924 (Vol. 39, No. 506), 309. MacKay, 199-200. Wheeler, Yankee from the West, 263. Leuchtenburg, Perils of Prosperity, 131.
11. MacKay, 156. Hays, City Lawyer, 273. La Follette, 1125-1126. "I will say," jested La Follette of the experience, "that I never had a more respectful hearing or fewer interruptions." Listening to La Follette over the radio, his daughter Fola "had the sense of space being absolutely annihilated, and much of the time I could not realize that you were not actually inside the machine from which the voice came." La Follette, 1127-1128.
12. La Follette, 1128. Zinn, La Guardia in Congress, 82.
13. MacKay, 156-159. La Follette, 1130-1140.
14. Wheeler, Yankee of the West, 252-263.
15. Wheeler, Yankee of the West, 255. La Follette, 1138-1139. MacKay, 176. Murray, The Politics of Normalcy, 138.
16. Ibid. Schlesinger, Crisis of the Old Order, 101. Hays, City Lawyer, 271.
17. La Follette, 1129.
18. Ibid. MacKay, 149. Cott, 253.
19. Jane Addams, "Why I Shall Vote For La Follette," September 10, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 510), 36-37.
20. John Commons, "La Follette and Wisconsin" September 17, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 511), 63-65. Zona Gale, "Why I Shall Vote for La Follette - III," The New Republic, October 1, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 513), 115-116. Edward T. Devine, "Why I Shall Vote for La Follette - IV," The New Republic, October 8, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 514), 137-138. Norman Hapgood, "Why I Shall Vote for La Follette - V," The New Republic, October 15, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 515), 168-169. Felix Frankfurter, "Why I Shall Vote for La Follette - VI," The New Republic, October 22, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 516), 199-200. Frankfurter, 197, 199. Herbert Croly, "Why I shall Vote for La Follette," The New Republic, October 29, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 517), 218-219. "The Week," The New Republic, November 5th, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 518), 234.
21. "The Democratic vs. A Progressive Party," The New Republic, October 8, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 514), 131-132.
22. "Third Parties" The Crisis, January 1923 (Vol. 25, No. 3), 105. William H. Lewis, "Letter to the Editor," The Crisis, June 1923, 34.
23. "The President," The Crisis, September 1923 (Vol. 26, No. 5), 199.
24. "Public Statement of the 15th Annual Conference," The Crisis, August 1924 (Vol. 28, No. 4), 151-153. James Weldon Johnson, "The Gentlemen's Agreement and the Negro Vote," The Crisis, October 1924 (Vol. 28, No. 6), 262-264.
25. "La Follette," The Crisis, August 1924 (Vol. 28, No. 4), 154. Unger, 291.
26. Unger, 291-292. Ickes to John M. Nelson, September 29, 1924. HLI, Box 36: N Miscellany Ickes to Hiram Johnson, September 9, 1924. HLI Box 33: Hiram Johnson. La Follette Clerical Workers Progressive League, "Why Clerical Workers Should Support La Follette and Wheeler." Illinois Negro Progressive Club, "Why We Are for La Follette," undated. Hiram Vrooman, "Why Farmers Should Vote for LaFollette," undated. RLF Box 203: 1924 Campaign.
27. "Editorial Paragraphs," The Nation, October 1st, 1924 (Vol. 119, No. 3091), 320.
28. Ibid. Oswald Villard, "The Winning of the West," The Nation, October 22, 1924 (Vol. 119, No. 3094), 435-436. Oswald Villard, "Summing up the Campaign," The Nation, October 29th, 1924 (Vol. 119, No. 3095), 461.
29. "The Week," The New Republic, October 15, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 515), 153. "The Week," The New Republic, October 29th, 1924 (Vol. 40, No. 517), 209.
30. Mencken, 117.
31. Ibid, 117-118.
32. Ibid.

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