The Unpopular Populist, Part IIThe 1900 United States presidential election was the 29th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 1900. Populist President William Jennings Bryan defeated his Republican challenger, Levi Morton. Bryan's victory made him the first president to win consecutive re-election since Ulysses S. Grant had accomplished the same feat in 1872, and the first elected Populist president.
Following the hotly contested Election of 1896, Bryan faced significant opposition inside and out of the Democratic Party. The push for bimetallism was successful, and silver-backed American currency began being circulated in the West. However, in 1898, Bryan's staunch anti-imperialist stance clashed with public and party interests after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor riled up the American people and the tirade of yellow journalism turned the public opinion in favor of war with Spain and intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. Republicans and conservative Democrats both pushed in favor of war, each seeking to weaken Bryan's political standing, and they succeeded. In April of 1898, President Bryan split with the Democratic Party, taking his populist movement with him to fuse with the People's Party and Silver Party, forming the new Populist Party. By that point, public opinion was so pro-war that it was impossible to put it off any longer, and reluctantly Bryan sent the United States to intervene in the Caribbean, as a result sending his popularity skyrocketing and fatally injuring the remnant Democrats, whose main draw differentiating them from the Populists--being pro-war--was made obsolete. By the time the United States won the war a few months later, Bryan and his policies had become wildly popular.
Though William Jennings Bryan was unanimously nominated at the 1900 Populist National Convention, the 1900 Republican National Convention was notoriously disputed. Out of a pool of no less than twelve candidates, two men stood out: former Vice President Levi Morton, who represented the status quo in the party, and Theodore Roosevelt, the wildly popular Governor of New York who characterized the growing progressive wing of the GOP. Morton wound up becoming the nominee, and some suggested a unified ticket with Roosevelt as vice president, though he profoundly refused. The dying Democratic Party also nominated its own candidate, Admiral George Dewey, who rose to fame for his outstanding victory at the Battle of Manila Bay.
Many predicted that, with the vote split between Populists and Democrats in the West and South, the Republicans would be able to pick up a victory. This would not be the case. While Democratic turnout was high enough to win close to 3% of the popular vote, they failed to win a single electoral vote, leaving the Solid South preserved in favor of William Jennings Bryan. Bryan picked up three more states than in 1896, and also won the popular vote, a sign from the American people that the realignment he had begun was the direction the country should be heading.