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Favorable or Unfavorable #100: William Jennings Bryan


Favorable or Unfavorable #100: William Jennings Bryan  

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  2. 2. Favorable or Unfavorable #100: William Jennings Bryan

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WJ Bryan (NE-D) is easily the most influential Democrat between Cleveland and Wilson. Bryan began his career as a reformist supporter of Cleveland. He foreshadows Wilson and FDR in his domestic policies, but he deviated from them in foreign policy. Both Bryan and Wilson, though Progressives, were undoubtably racist, while being socially liberal elsewhere--women's rights, wage workers rights, poor farmers rights, etc. Much of what Bryan advocated became law under FDR and much of what he advocated was also adopted by TR, especially in 1912. His endorsements on two issues (prohibition and women's suffrage) led to two amendments within 10 years.

Bryan's major weakness as a candidate was his advocacy for free silver, a cause wildly popular West of the Mississippi, but the population and power of the nation was concentrated in the East, which strongly supported the Gold Standard. Since the parties were coalitions and not ideological parties, he also had to compete with GOP progressives. He was basically an ideological nominee in a time of coalition, which was a losing ingredient. FDR would be the first to foresee two ideological parties, as he wanted to purge Conservatives and create a Progressive Party, believing that progressivism would generally win over conservatism.

His actions:

Bryan, William Jennings 1891 new spokesman for farmers
Bryan, William Jennings 1892 Supports Populist Pres nom Weaver over Dem nom Cleveland
Bryan, William Jennings 1893 major speech against Silver Purchase Act repeal
Bryan, William Jennings 1893 Attempts to pass an income tax
Bryan, William Jennings 1894 A leader in the new Democratic Party under populist majority
Bryan, William Jennings 1896 Cross of Gold Speech
Bryan, William Jennings 1896 Dem nominee for pres at age 36, the youngest nominee of a major party ever
Bryan, William Jennings 1896 Basically invents the national stumping tour (modern presidential campaigning)
Bryan, William Jennings 1898 A leading opponent of US imperialism amid war, although favoring war for Cuban independence from Spain
Bryan, William Jennings 1898 Despite criticism of war, raises a regiment for the war, but it stays stationed in FL
Bryan, William Jennings 1898 Reluctantly supports Treaty of Paris, if only to end the war, but presses for immediate Philippines independence
Bryan, William Jennings 1900 Dem Pres Nominee again
Bryan, William Jennings 1901 Criticizes Roosevelt for inviting a black man (Booker T Washington) to the White House
Bryan, William Jennings 1904 Declines to run for pres, as his wing of the party had lost power
Bryan, William Jennings 1906 His wing regains control of Democrats after Parker's landslide defeat in 1904
Bryan, William Jennings 1908 Dem Pres Nominee for the 3rd time
Bryan, William Jennings 1908 Wins the first ever endorsement made by the American Federation of Labor
Bryan, William Jennings 1909 Comes out publicly in favor of Prohibition, pushing the US towards an Amendment
Bryan, William Jennings 1910 Comes out publicly in favor of women's suffrage, pushing the US towards an Amendment
Bryan, William Jennings 1910 Gives major speech in Congress arguing for tariff reduction
Bryan, William Jennings 1910 Calls for federal initiative and referendum during speaking tour; denies he's making run for pres in 1912
Bryan, William Jennings 1912 Gives crucial endorsement to Wilson at 1912 Convention over Champ Clark
Bryan, William Jennings 1913 Plays key role in building Wilson's cabinet
Bryan, William Jennings 1913 Confirmed Sec of State for Wilson
Bryan, William Jennings 1914 Negotiates Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, making Nicaragua a protectorate, protecting canal
Bryan, William Jennings 1915 Resigns as Sec of State in protest of Wilson's pro-war shift
Bryan, William Jennings 1916 Rejects Prohibition Party nomination; backs Wilson at Dem Conv despite For Policy rift
Bryan, William Jennings 1917 Wilson rejects his offer to fight in the war
Bryan, William Jennings 1919 Comes out in favor of Wilson's Post-War plans (League of Nations, etc)
Bryan, William Jennings 1920? Calls for a living wage and gender discrimination
Bryan, William Jennings 1920 Rejects Prohibition Party nomination but also doesn't campaign for Dem nom Cox
Bryan, William Jennings 1924 Helps defeat resolution condeming the KKK at Dem Conv; sees his brother nominated VP
Bryan, William Jennings 1925 Notably opposes evolution during Scopes Trial; dies soon after
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This is a very, very reluctant favorable. He's racist and an imbecile on evolution. He's too theocratic. However, aside from his stance on silver, he was generally ahead of his time on major issues. Without Bryan, I don't think you get a liberal Democratic Party from FDR on. Fortunately, that liberalism spread to liberalism on civil rights as well. 

I'd say I'm 55% supportive of him and 45% opposed. 

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