1898 Election Politics

By 1898, the year of a mid-term election, Democrats had learned numerous lessons from the successful Fusion campaigns previously waged by the Republicans and Populists. First, they learned that Democrats could not win against the formidable alliance of Republicans and Populists. Second, the Democrats learned of the very strong and cohesive power of class politics. Third, Democrats realized that only an organized campaign reliant upon brow-beating, intimidation and shrill accusations based upon racial and gender stereotypes would upset the Fusion alliance. Note the tenor of the Democratic Party Handbook written in that year. At every turn, the handbook raises the spectre of “Republican rule” and “negro rule” in references to Reconstruction politics, local politics, and its condemnation of the election laws of 1895 and 1897. These allegations were part of the Democrats’ long-term plan to excoriate Populists and Republicans. In this handbook, political cartoons, and in speeches across the state Democrats consistently turned away from any discussion of the issues and alleged that any action by Fusionists was evidence of “negro rule.” See the political cartoons. How did they convey the Democrats’message to illiterate men? How do these cartoons perpetuate stereotypes of race, gender and class? Note the Populist Party response in the People’s Party Handbook. How does this document address the Democratic Party motivations? Would you say their response is effective? How do the cartoons in the Progressive Farmer compare and contrast with those in the News and Observer?