Why did no viable and long-term Socialist, Labor, or any sort of Left-Wing Party ever emerge in the United States? It's a question many people have wondered and tried to answer for many years with various answers ranging from poor socialist leadership, individualism and laissez-faire being core American values, the two-party system and US constitution, political repression of leftism, lack of feudalist history, and so on. This is not to say there were never attempts, with the Debs Era Socialist Party being the most famous example, however even at their peak, they held only two seats in Congress and won at most 15% in certain states. Another famous example would be the People's Party, with their agrarian radicalism and many dozens, or even hundreds, of elected officials, however, their rapid decline as an independent force left them in the dustbin of history. An often forgotten attempt was in the mid-1880s, specifically 1886, when Henry George gained a large amount of attention in running for Mayor of New York City, but he ultimately lost, and nothing came of it.

But what if things had gone differently? What if national and local circumstances aligned perfectly so that a party representing a budding labor movement was able to enter the political arena as a serious player? What if the People's Party had not merged with the Democratic Party and continued to foster radicalism among farmers? How would the People's Party interact with a more political labor movement? How do all of these things affect national politics? Welcome to "Poverty, Progress, & Prosperity''.
Prologue - 1886
In the year 1886, the Gilded Age was in full swing. The United States was industrializing at a rate unheard of in human history, with railroads connecting a previously spread-out country and cities like Chicago becoming manufacturing hubs. The nation’s economy seemed to grow exponentially. Real wages grew by 60%, attracting millions of immigrants, who only further bolstered the growing economy by becoming the foundation of the newly emergent industrial working class. The two major political parties of the day were relatively evenly matched and Congress was usually held narrowly, though the Congress was always overwhelmingly conservative and infamously corrupt. The Gilded Age also brought with it horrific poverty in urban areas and drastic wealth inequality, with newly created wealth falling into the hands of an incredibly small few. To resist the negative effects of this new era, the Knights of Labor emerged as the first mass organization promoting the interests of the working class. While they were not the only labor organization, they were the only nationally successful labor organization, however with mixed success thus far due to wide disorganization and public controversy. [1]

To counteract these failures, the Knights of Labor embarked on a new, and internally controversial venture into electoral politics. In 1886, the Knights of Labor endorsed and campaigned for several political candidates, most especially for the House of Representatives, while gaining support from local chapters of various minor previously active radical parties like the Greenbacks, Readjusters, and Anti-Monopoly Party. These campaigns were internally viewed as unlikely to succeed, but would hopefully raise the profile of the labor movement.

At the same time, the economist Henry George launched a long-shot run for the mayoralty of New York City under a party founded as a broad tent agreed upon by various radical groups and trade unions, the “United Labor Party”, with his campaign beginning in late September. George’s platform, a compromise between the varied interests running his campaign, focused on his Land-Value Tax but also included concessions to unions like public ownership of utilities and more favorable laws for labor organizing. [2] The Democrats so deeply feared George’s victory they attempted to give the nomination to anti-Tammany Hall congressman Abram Hewitt, but he refused [3], and after much negotiations, the Tammany Hall-aligned but famously honest Congressman Samuel S. Cox was decided upon. The Republicans nominated Theodore Roosevelt Jr., a young state assemblyman with no real chance at victory, and who was repeatedly pressured to drop out by Democrats. In a massive upset, Henry George won the election with a margin of 3,600 votes and had two years to implement his ambitious platform of a Land-Value Tax, municipal ownership of utilities, and passing laws to favor the labor movement. Whether or not he could achieve any of his radical policies, his victory presented a powerful voice for radicalism across the whole country, along with concrete proof of the validity of participation in electoral politics.

NYC wikibox.png

In a series of even more shocking victories, Knights of Labor candidates in the barely existent “United Labor Party” had won a shocking 5 seats in the House, along with seven state representatives and a state senator in Illinois, with their House caucus as follows: [4]

- Henry Smith from Wisconsin’s 4th
- Samuel Isaac Hopkins from Virginia’s 6th
- John Nichols from North Carolina’s 4th
- Isom Langley from Arkansas’s 4th
- George Thobe from Kentucky’s 6th

1886 House wikibox.png

This caucus, small as it was, generated immense optimism among the trade unionists of the nation, as well as immense national curiosity. The most astounding victory for Labor was in Kentucky’s 6th district, where a humble wood carver by the name of George Thobe defeated the incumbent Speaker of the House, John G. Carlisle, by a mere couple hundred votes. Just a short few months later from their surprise entrance onto the national stage were local elections, and even during chaos in the labor movement, local labor parties would win several city council seats in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

Even at this triumphant moment for Labor, the Knights of Labor that had just brought the movement such wild success were on a spiral towards collapse. Repeated fights between the Knights of Labor and their affiliated unions and strategic incompetence as well as a refusal to strike, caused swaths of unions to associate instead with a splinter organization spearheaded by Samuel Gompers, head of the Cigar Makers' International Union, the newly formed “American Federation of Labor”, or AFL. Within less than a year, the AFL would eclipse the Knights of Labor in membership. [5]

The proven electoral success in the last year for labor candidates had not warmed Samuel Gompers to the potential prospects of this “United Labor Party”, has been a staunch supporter of the Greenbacks since 1876 and seeing nothing come of it. Not wanting to buck the AFL membership, who were staunchly in favor, Gompers became an energetic and loyal supporter of the United Labor Party, however, sought to ensure that Henry George’s adventurism was equally meaningful for the labor movement as George’s philosophy. Thus, Samuel Gompers and Henry George agreed to organize the first national convention of the United Labor Party in New York City in the Fall of 1887 to work out what the new party’s platform, structure, and strategy would be, and unbeknownst to all in attendance, that American History would enter onto an utterly and radically different path…

1. The year 1886 was disastrous for the Knights of Labor, most famously losing the Southwest railroad strike of 1886 in just two months despite 200,000 striking workers. The first POD in this timeline is a brief delay of their collapse through a more prolonged railroad strike.
2. As OTL. (
3. IOTL, Abram Hewitt got the Democratic nomination, here, George’s campaign being slightly more moderate convinces Hewitt to not accept the nomination.
4. The first three of these candidates (Smith, Hopkins, and Nichols) were elected IOTL as independents, with Thobe losing by only 825 votes and Isom Langley losing by an even narrower 811 votes. (Forgive me for citing a forum but no libraries near me own the book so here’s my source:
5. All as OTL.
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Little surprised to see the ULP's inaugural delegation being majorally southern, most socialist America TL's tend to focus on the steel belt/west coast.

That said an interesting first chapter, I'll keep an eye on this one.
Woooh! We love a US Labor Party. Wonder how they’ll develop. Henry George as Labor NYC Mayor is certainly an interesting aspect given Georgism is typically separated from traditional social democracy
I always enjoy a good socialist America TL. Looking forward to what you have in store here. Good luck!
mmm that's a good socialist america TL
I'll state right off the bat to not misguide anyone this isn't necessarily a Socialist America TL, a la Reds exploring the aftermath of a successful socialist revolution (tho I do love Reds and am gonna borrow some pre-Revolution narrative cues from them!), more just a TL where labor and socialism have a much louder voice in America and how that shapes this period of history, closer to Britain than the USSR.
Little surprised to see the ULP's inaugural delegation being majorally southern, most socialist America TL's tend to focus on the steel belt/west coast.

That said an interesting first chapter, I'll keep an eye on this one.
The 1886 caucus is just based on actual candidates who nearly won that year, these specific candidates were proto-populists, most of them running in areas with heavy rail worker presence. The base of the labor movement from this point on will be closer to what you might expect.
Woooh! We love a US Labor Party. Wonder how they’ll develop. Henry George as Labor NYC Mayor is certainly an interesting aspect given Georgism is typically separated from traditional social democracy
The 1887 Convention will reveal lots...
Watched! I'm a huge fan of George and Georgism!
Awesome :)
Part 1 - 1887-1891
The 1887 Convention of the United Labor Party (ULP) was a battle for who would lead the rapidly growing progressive movement. The two factions sparring for the leadership were led by two equally larger-than-life men: on one side, Henry George, the bookish academic, and his clique of equally middle-class loyalists, skeptical of strikes, and principled progressive reformists who favored free trade. On the other side, the rough Samuel Gompers, a London-born jew who migrated to America fleeing poverty and who has spent much of his life working with his hands manufacturing cigars, and his AFL, are singularly focused on improving the position of the working class in all forms, and emphasize union action over electoral politics. There was a third group that had no chance of winning this particular fight, the Socialists. Most delegates had come from the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), however, this party was deeply split, with Wilhelm Rosenberg, the SLP’s National Secretary, in favor of joining the ULP and social democratic politics [1], and another faction led by Sergei Shevitch, the editor of the Marxist newsletter “New Yorker Volkszeitung”, who opposed joining the ULP and electoralism as a whole. After many prolonged debates and arguments that scared many the party may not form at all, the Georgists and Gomperites worked out a compromise party constitution which put equal focus on the Land-Value Tax and improving working conditions and reduced work hours, and as a concession from George, a plethora of progressive reforms like municipal ownership of utilities, federal ownership of the railroads, and full employment. As well, the party decided on the simpler name of “Labor Party” instead and officially partnered with the more than 115 unions attending the convention [2], requiring and allowing these unions to appoint 1/4 of the National Executive Committee. The NEC would otherwise be directly elected by the membership, with the NEC electing a Chairman, who was responsible for directing party activities, allocating party funds, settling internal disputes, and serving as the legal head of the organization. This constitution would be approved by all attending the convention save for the Shevitchites and the Central Labor Union, and the Greenbacks, Anti-Monopoly Party, and SLP legally dissolved and joined the Labor Party. Gompers secured a massive victory in getting Terrence Powderly to agree to merge the Knights of Labor and their industrial unions into the craft unions of Gomper’s AFL, bringing hundreds of thousands of workers into the AFL. This was in exchange for Terrence Powderly getting appointed as the first Chairman of the Labor Party. The convention ended jubilantly on October 28th with the inauguration of Terrence Powderly as Chairman, and thus the Labor Party was born.

However, in the broad scheme of American politics in 1887 and 1888, the Labor Party was a footnote that drew relatively little attention, as the drama of the two major parties dominated national politics. The current President, Grover Cleveland, faced an unresponsive split Congress unwilling to implement his agenda. His signature achievements had been mild action on civil service reform, the Department of Agriculture, and the Interstate Commerce Act, which created an independent agency to regulate the rates railroads could charge, the first independent agency and first federal regulations of private industry. Being from the Northeast, he took a firm stance in favor of keeping the Gold Standard and in lowering tariffs, much to the chagrin of both his party’s voters who spoke with a drawl and desired the coinage of silver and industrial workers and businessmen who desired high tariffs. As he was unable to implement much policy and vetoed far more bills than he signed, his party took a beating in the midterms, and Cleveland was broadly unpopular heading into the 1888 elections. [3]

1. IOTL Wilhelm Rosenberg chaired the SLP from 1884-1889, focused the SLP on electoralism over unionism, and supported various early progressive movements, including Henry George’s 1886 Mayoral run. He left the party after being removed from leadership by Sergei Shevitch and his Marxist allies in New York City, refusing to step down for months and splitting the party before conceding and subsequently founding the “Social Democratic Federation”, which eventually merged with Deb’s SDP.
2. A similar number of unions attended the 1888 United Labor convention, which was horribly unproductive due to infighting between Georgists and Socialists, and nominated a ticket that only gathered a few thousand votes.
3. All as OTL.

1888 Nomination Conventions:​


As the most notable Republican of the era, James G. Blaine, opted out of the race, a diverse array of Republicans entered the fray at the Republican Convention, namely:

John Sherman (Former Treasury Secretary and Senator; moderate)
Chauncey Depew (Businessman; liberal)
William B. Allison (Senator from Iowa; pragmatic and supports bimetallism)
Benjamin Harrison (Former one-term Senator from Indiana; moderate; grandson of William Henry Harrison)
Walter Q. Gresham (Former Treasury Secretary, Former Postmaster General, and Circuit Court Judge; well-liked by labor movement)
Russell A. Alger (Former Governor of Michigan, notable for “rags-to-riches” bio; moderate)

Of these, John Sherman had the clearest support, gaining about a 1/4 of delegates and a 100 delegate lead over the runner-up, Walter Q. Gresham, on the first ballot, however, several hundred short of a majority. This deadlock would remain on the next ballot, where Russell Alger and Benjamin Harrison began building up support. Soon after, Benjamin Harrison gave a speech describing himself as a “living and rejuvenated Republican”, which began to win attention for the Senator. It was on the fourth ballot, once the small number of Blaine delegates shifted to Harrison, that he emerged as a dark horse candidate who was gaining momentum as a compromise. On the eighth ballot, once Allison had endorsed him and the majority of Sherman’s delegates moved over, Harrison gained the Republican nomination. Soon after, Harrison chose Businessman Chauncey Depew as his running mate, and a rejuvenated GOP set off to take back the Presidency.

Benjamin Harrison, for President
Chauncey Depew, for Vice President


On the other hand, the Democratic Convention was incredibly predictable. The incumbent President Grover Cleveland was renominated by voice vote. As his previous Vice President had died in office, the convention selected the former Senator from the electoral-vote-rich state of Ohio Allen G. Thurman for his running mate.

Grover Cleveland, for President
Allen G. Thurman, for Vice President


Clinton B. Fisk, who had run for Governor of New Jersey in 1886 and gained 19,808 votes out of 231,666 cast, was nominated unanimously. He had begun his political career as Assistant Commissioner for the Freedmen’s Bureau in Kentucky and Tennesse, and by founding the “Fisk School” in Nashville, the first free and racially integrated school in the South. After Reconstruction, he became a banker in New York and a national leader in the movement for Prohibition. For his running-mate, he chose John A. Brooks, a Methodist pastor from Missouri who had similarly performed well in a Gubernatorial election, and was a former Confederate chaplain. Their campaign was accused of potentially splitting the rural vote which favored Republicans as John St. John had for Blaine in 1884. A famous anecdote of the campaign was a Republican telling Fisk "General, if I should vote for this [prohibition] bill it would lay me in my political grave." Fisk responded "Vote for it and die, then, and I will write on your tombstone, 'Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord'” [1]

Clinton B. Fisk, for President
John A. Brooks, for Vice President


Similarly to the Democratic Convention, Laborites had an obvious choice they rallied around months ahead of the nomination, the most well-known member of their party and its founder, Mayor Henry George. After an incredibly unproductive term as Mayor marked by perennial fights with Tammany Hall, prolonged budget battles which failed to enact a Land-Value Tax, appointing dozens of progressives and reformists in the police, judicial, and other city government offices, and creating advisory regulatory commissions on public health, sanitation, and workers rights. It was an exhausting job that George was not enthusiastic to keep, happily taking up the presidential nomination. His campaign was not expected to win the presidency and it was expected he would mostly take votes from the urban working class and anti-corruption voters who favored Cleveland. For his running-mate, he chose George Thobe, the humble woodcarver who had defeated the Speaker of the House and become a staunch public advocate for rural interests. He was often ridiculed in the press as an eccentric and a “Luddite” who opposed modernity, however, George believed the synthesis of his personality and Thobe’s provided an opportunity to appeal to “the entire working masses of the nation”.

Henry George, for President
George Thobe, for Vice President

1. Both conventions go exactly as OTL.

1888 Presidential Election:​

Tariffs were the principal issue of the campaign, with Cleveland positioning himself in favor of low tariffs (though unable to achieve this in his 4-year term), and Harrison positioning himself in favor of high tariffs, gaining him favor among industrial workers and factory owners. During his term, Cleveland had also reduced soldier’s pensions and returned Confederate Battle Standards to Southern states, and attempted to enact a Gold Standard, earning him enemies among veterans and farmers. As well, Grover Cleveland refused to campaign or assist the campaign in any form, leaving the campaigning to his running-mate, Allen G. Thurman, who was 75 years old and collapsed on stage multiple times, bringing negative press. Meanwhile, Harrison ran an energetic campaign, giving hundreds of speeches, mostly in favor of his tariff position. Henry George for his part was called the “Workers’ Mugwump”, for his adamant support of free trade and low tariffs, along with his radical industrial and political demands, with his trade position dividing industrial workers on whether to support him or not, but winning him additional support from the Northern middle-class.

401 Electoral Votes, 201 needed for a majority

Benjamin Harrison/Chauncey Depew (Republican): 254 EV, 46.91% of the popular vote — 5,413,058 votes
Grover Cleveland/Allen G. Thurman (Democratic): 147 EV, 47.16% of the popular vote — 5,444,531 votes
Henry George/George Thobe (Labor): 0 EV, 2.61% of the popular vote —302,098 votes
Clinton B. Fisk/John A. Brooks (Prohibition): 0 EV, 1.97% of the popular vote — 228,745 votes

PPP 1888 pres wikibox.png

Harrison carried the electoral college by a massive margin, the largest electoral college margin since 1872, even while losing the popular vote by ~31,500 votes. Harrison narrowly carried most swing states he required, not winning any by more than 3% save for New York, with this mostly attributed to Cleveland losing his support from Republican Mugwumps, the constituency who carried him to victory in 1884. George’s campaign surpassed the Prohibition Party in vote total, and as well was blamed by Democrats for their loss, particularly in New York (Where George had gotten 104,502 votes), and otherwise mostly taking urban working class votes from Cleveland.

1888 House Election:​

Coinciding with Harrison's strong campaign, the Republicans were expected to take control of the House of Representatives. As the election pivoted on tariffs, the Democrats' free trade position hurt their candidates in industrial regions, with Republicans focusing their efforts on winning these Midwestern seats. Most Labor district chapters were controlled by the local AFL, meaning the candidates they selected were almost entirely union men or workers recruited by the AFL, thus held AFL endorsed positions, especially protectionism, which contradicted George’s national pro-free-trade speeches.

325 Representatives, 163 seats needed for a majority

Republicans: 171 seats, 47.2% of the vote (+22)
Democrats: 144 seats, 48.0% of the vote (-28)
Labor: 10 seats, 2.7% of the vote (+4)
PPP 1888 house wikibox.png

PPP 1888 House District Map.png

As expected, the Republicans were able to gather a majority in the House, giving the Republicans a government trifecta they had not held since Reconstruction which could attempt to pursue longtime Republican policy goals. Democratic losses were mostly in Northern industrial seats and the party was returned to an almost homogenously Southern caucus. Also benefitting, Labor managed to almost double their caucus among urban backlash to Democrats. Most of these new members were aligned to the protectionist union & farmer wing of the party loyal to Samuel Gompers. Of the new Labor MCs, only Bellamy was closely aligned to George’s ideas, and a caucus of 3 Socialists (Streeter, Matchett, & Rosenberg) within Labor now had a voice in Congress. As Henry Smith retired to run for Mayor Milwaukee (ultimately, unsuccessfully), Alson Streeter, who appealed to both the unionists and socialists, replaced him as Congressional Labor Party leader, with the caucus he led now consisting of:

- Denis Kearney from California’s 5th (NEW)
- Alson Streeter from Illinois’s 11th (NEW)
- James B. Weaver from Iowa’s 6th
- Edward Bellamy from Massachusetts’s 11th (NEW)
- Ignatius L. Donnelly from Minnesota's 4th (NEW)
- Charles H. Matchett from New York’s 11th (NEW)
- Wilhelm Rosenberg from New York’s 13th
- John Nichols from North Carolina’s 4th
- Samuel Isaac Hopkins from Virginia’s 6th
- Michael P. Walsh from Wisconsin’s 4th (NEW)

Presidency of Benjamin Harrison (Mar. 1889-Nov. 1890):​

PPP Harrison Cabinet.png

Benjamin Harrison had perhaps the most sweeping mandate to effect change since Ulysses S. Grant and was willing to take full advantage of the opportunity. His cabinet reflected this. He appointed the most prominent Republican of the day, James G. Blaine, as his Secretary of State, though did not give him the same autonomy over foreign policy as James Garfield had given Blaine. For his Treasury Secretary, he appointed William Windom, another holdover from the Garfield administration. In one of his first actions, he pursued statehood for the Western territories, a longtime Republican goal that had been blocked by Democrats who thought they would return Republicans to congress. An Enabling Act on statehood was pushed through the lame-duck congress for the territories of: Dakota (being split into the Southern state of Dakota and the Northern state of Pembina [1]), Montana, and Washington, allowing for votes on statehood in 1889, with all admitted in November 1889. The Wyoming and Idaho Territories would get a separate Enabling Act in the Summer of 1889 and would be admitted in July 1890. These 6 new states would have a collective 7 House seats, all of which would be filled by Republicans in special elections. Soon after, the 51st Congress would pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, which made illegal anticompetitive business practices and monopolies and criminalized all labor union activities. The Justice Department lacked the proper resources to properly implement the Antitrust aspects of the bill, however, took full advantage of prosecuting labor unions. Senator McKinley’s Tariff Act would prove the other deeply consequential legislation of the 51st Congress, massively hiking tariff rates to 50% in an unprecedented protectionist move. Opposition to this was fierce in Congress from the Democrats and some aspects of Labor, with Henry George going on a national speaking tour against the bill. Grassroots backlash to the McKinley Tariff would fuel the growth of a group of agrarian unions, called Farmers’ Alliances, with millions of poor small farm owners and tenant farmers joining the Farmers’ Alliances, Kansas alone boasted more than 150,000 members and roughly a million African-Americans joined the “Colored Farmers Union”. Harrison sought to implement a compromise on the Currency issue by having the federal government purchase a large amount of silver each month, which failed as a compromise and only further split his party and the country over the currency debate. He also passed a bill providing pensions for Veterans of the Southern Rebellion [2]. [3] Late into Congress, pursuing an ambitious civil rights agenda, Harrison and Depew were able to maneuver Lodge's Federal Elections Bill to narrowly pass both chambers, guaranteeing the right to vote for African-Americans to vote with federal oversight [4]. However, despite this full agenda, the economy was stagnant, and the Panic of 1890, or Baring Crisis, where a British bank went under after defaulting due to poor investments in Argentina and sparked an acute recession across the world due to widespread financial distrust. Alongside the massive spending and tariff increases implemented by Harrison, the economic situation seriously dampened the popularity of the Republicans heading into a crucial midterm election.

1. A proposal for the name of OTL's state of North Dakota that South Dakota wanted to be adopted, no good reason why it is here, just think it's neat.
2. Name for the Civil War ITTL
3. Everything up to here is pretty much just describing it as it happened OTL.
4. Narrowly failed IOTL due to compromises on other pieces of legislation. A more pro-civil rights Vice President presiding over the Senate get it passed here.

1890 House Election:​

The Panic of 1890 was the center point of the election, and with the rapid economic reforms by the Harrison administration, most blamed Harrison for failing to solve the crisis. The Democrats made pledges to cut the budget and lower tariffs in turn. As well, the Republican commitment to nativist laws that persecuted Germans and support of Prohibition lost much of their support in the Midwest. Taking advantage of this was the Farmers’ Alliance, which had rapidly grown in the past few years to more than 2 million members [1]. In the Winter of 1889, they placed a request to both the Republicans and Democrats to compromise and have the party adopt their platform (consisting of: a more flexible currency, abolition of national banks, unlimited coinage of silver, nationalization of rail and communications, universal suffrage, and various agrarian reforms like grain elevators) with both major parties outright refusing. They reached out to the Labor Party as well, who were more willing and opened a period of negotiation between the two, however, due to disagreements on the tariff and currency issues, as well as Labor insistence on reorganizing the Farmers’ Alliances, no deal came of this. Despite no deal, Labor and the Farmers’ Alliance agreed to support some common candidates like John Nichols, James Weaver, Ignatius Donnelly, etc. and relations between the two groups were highly amicable. The Farmers’ Alliance then decided to go their own way and endorse a slate of independent candidates for various offices, along with some endorsing some major party candidates who adopted their platform. The Labor Party took advantage of the anti-Republican sentiment as well, criticizing the tariff as going too far and advocating federal regulation of the banks, as well as focusing on building support in the newly admitted Western states. As well, Henry George sought a House seat in Manhattan’s East Village (New York’s 9th), the neighborhood in which he performed best in his runs for mayor, specifically to gain influence in the Congressional Labor Party which he had become highly critical of for their protectionism.

332 Representatives, 167 needed for a majority

Democrats: 221 seats, 50.1% of the vote (+74)
Republicans: 80 seats, 41.2% of the vote (-95)
Farmers’ Alliance: 20 seats, 2.0% of the vote (+20)
Labor: 11 seats, 2.8% of the vote (+1)
PPP 1890 house wikibox.png

PPP 1890 House District Map.png

The Democrats took an outstanding majority of 54 seats, which constituted a two-thirds veto-proof majority, with the Republicans brought down to a double-digit number of seats for the first time since 1856. This result was disastrous for Harrison and essentially meant he had no chance of passing any productive legislation in the next two years. Many papers would declare the new Democratic Speaker Charles F. Crisp the “most powerful man in Washington”, further adding to the humiliation for Harrison.

Of further note was the dramatic success of the Farmers’ Alliance candidates, who had swept the Plains states and made significant inroads with southern farmers, with plans to create a formal political party after the election set in motion. Their cadre of eccentrics, almost all freshmen MCs save for James Weaver, was:

- Reuben Kolb from Alabama’s 3rd (NEW)
- Milford W. Howard from Alabama's 7th (NEW)
- Lewis P. Featherstone from Arkansas’s 1st (NEW)
- John Calhoun Bell from Colorado At-Large (NEW)
- Thomas Watson from Georgia's 10th (NEW)
- Luman Hamlin Weller from Iowa’s 4th
- James B. Weaver from Iowa’s 6th (NEW)
- Benjamin Hutchinson Clover from Kansas's 3rd (NEW)
- John Grant Otis from Kansas's 4th (NEW)
- John Davis from Kansas’s 5th (NEW)
- William Baker from Kansas's 6th (NEW)
- Jerry Simpson from Kansas's 7th (NEW)
- Kittel Halvorson from Minnesota's 5th (NEW)
- Absolom M. West from Mississippi's 5th (NEW)
- Daniel Lindsay Russell from North Carolina’s 3rd (NEW)
- Alonzo Shuford from North Carolina’s 7th (NEW)
- William A. McKeighan from Nebraska's 2nd (NEW)
- Omer Madison Kem from Nebraska's 3rd (NEW)
- Thomas L. Nugent from Texas’s 11th (NEW)

The Labor Party significantly underperformed internal expectations, mostly due to infighting between Georgists and Unionists, particularly over the tariff issue, leading to less turnout for the other faction’s candidates. Henry George had gone as far as endorsing the Democratic position on trade over the Labor platform, which violated the party constitution and prompted some Socialists and Gomperites to call for his expulsion, however, this was ultimately avoided through negotiation which eliminated any mention of tariffs or trade from the Labor platform. This hurt the party all the more when the national mood turned against protectionism in 1890 due to the Panic, with the now marginalized Georgists fielding far fewer candidates and thus capturing less attention. As well, AFL-led Labor party locals developed a reputation as being supported by migrants, particularly Germans, which hurt their popularity among Anglo-Americans. This was the election in which Labor fielded the largest number of candidates so far, at 101, however they cross-endorsed several candidates with the Farmers’ Alliance.

- Denis Kearney from California’s 5th
- John Peter Altgeld from Illinois’s 4th (NEW)
- Alson Streeter from Illinois’s 11th
- Edward Bellamy from Massachusetts’s 11th
- Ignatius L. Donnelly from Minnesota's 4th
- William Kennedy from Montana At-Large (NEW)
- Henry George from New York’s 9th (NEW)
- Charles H. Matchett from New York’s 11th
- Wilhelm Rosenberg from New York’s 13th
- John Nichols from North Carolina’s 4th
- Tom L. Johnson from Ohio’s 21st (NEW)

1. This was according to the more optimistic internal estimates of potential party membership by 1890.

Presidency of Benjamin Harrison (Nov. 1890-):​

The rest of Harrison’s term would be filled with bipartisan and unambitious legislative goals, such as mild reforms to the court system or introducing the National Forests. He pursued increasing American prestige abroad by building up the Navy and repeatedly intervening in diplomatic crises. However, for all intents and purposes, his first term was over and both the Republicans and Democrats were scrambling to find who they thought would best replace him in 1892. Meanwhile, rumors abound about correspondence between the leadership of the Farmers’ Alliance and Labor Party…
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Good follow up. I'm impressed you got so much covered in this one chapter, a lot of writers would've given each section it's own.

The Labor Party seems to be experiencing some growing pains but that's to be expected for so young a party & their outperforming the more established Prohibition party in the presidential election is a good sign. They just need to find their voice on some key issues & they'll be fine.

Also an impressive first time performance from the Farmers' Alliance. Be interested to see if the two parties can keep up a cordial relationship despite of their differences.
Good follow up. I'm impressed you got so much covered in this one chapter, a lot of writers would've given each section it's own.

The Labor Party seems to be experiencing some growing pains but that's to be expected for so young a party & their outperforming the more established Prohibition party in the presidential election is a good sign. They just need to find their voice on some key issues & they'll be fine.

Also an impressive first time performance from the Farmers' Alliance. Be interested to see if the two parties can keep up a cordial relationship despite of their differences.
Genuine question, would it be better/easier to read if I did release it with each section in its own threadmark? I write them all at once but just wondering what people prefer.

Labor is in a way similar to Debs's SP of OTL (though obv less left-wing than the SP) in that it's a completely eclectic mix of people who disagree wildly over various things but are united in advocating for the working class in some form, and were brought and are held together because the Labor Party does so impressively in elections. So, also similar to the SP, internal crisis and infighting between these irreconcilably different people will follow, but the George-Gompers party has a much better shot at power.

Lots of things regarding the Farmers' Alliance are going to change very quickly...
Genuine question, would it be better/easier to read if I did release it with each section in its own threadmark? I write them all at once but just wondering what people prefer.
I think it would be easier on the reader as a) it makes each individual chapter shorter thereby taking less time to read & b) giving each event its own chapter it's easier to go back in case you need a refresher on a certain point.

Not to say you can't cover multiple topics in one chapter of course but it may be better served for things that are less important/you think are neat.

Just my opinion though, it's your story & you can write it however your comfortable.
This looks very interesting. If Debs is not turned off of traditional politics and doesn't form his Socialist Party this Labor party could really be powerful.

I wonder if James Weaver ends up doing a lot better in 1892, it seems like this would be ideal for him. It would allow him to gain Urban votes as well as rural Western ones. If he does really well, it might blunt William Jennings Bryan which would have interesting ramifications in itself, unless Bryan just takes over the Democratic Party anyway.

I suppose a third alternative would be that Harrison loses in 1892 and the Democrats don't do any better. I don't know how easily a third party could grab power in 1896 but I suppose it's possible.
Part 2 - Founding of People’s Party & 1892 Nomination Conventions
Founding of People's Party:

While President Harrison and Speaker Crisp were failing to address the economic crisis wracking the nation in 1891, the Labor Party and Farmers’ Alliance spent much of the 52nd Congress collaborating on bills to reform the American economic system. Inevitably, all of these measures would gain a total of 31 votes in favor to 301 votes against. The experience however would create a deep kinship between the two political groups, with their respective organization leadership seeing great potential for a path forward for economic and political reform through collaboration. Thus, when Leonidas L. Polk, President of the Farmers’ Alliance, announced a convention for February 1892 to reorganize the Farmers’ Alliance into a new political party, naturally Terrence Powderly and the Labor NEC were invited as well.

The convention, held in Atlanta, would see the Farmers’ Alliance membership voting nearly unanimously to form a political party called the “People’s Party”. The party focused on expanding freedom through state intervention for farmers but made rhetorical gestures to appeal to industrial workers as well and explicitly endorsed the work of the AFL and Labor Party. The economic goals of the People’s Party’s first platform included: unlimited coinage of silver and a flexible currency, a federal loans system for farmers, nationalization of banks, railroads, telegraph & telephone lines, and mail system, a federal program for crop storage facilities, a progressive income tax and low tariffs, an eight-hour workday. Politically, they demanded: the direct election of senators, single-terms for Presidents and Vice-Presidents, expanding pensions to Union veterans, a referendum and initiative system, and the secret ballot. After drafting their platform, they called for an alliance with the Labor Party in elections, especially presidential elections, and to hold a joint nominating convention that July. Powderly and the NEC voted unanimously to accept. Speculations about who the Labor-People’s candidate may be and how successful their campaign took the press by storm. With the Republicans so heavily losing popularity in 1890, some papers even speculated a candidate like Henry George or James Weaver could come in second place.

1892 Nomination Conventions:


Whether Benjamin Harrison would be nominated a second time was a completely open question. While few Republicans openly opposed him, almost none enthusiastically supported him, and two separate movements to draft an alternative candidate gained noticeable momentum after 1890. One was for James G. Blaine, who adamantly did not want to be nominated due to poor health but gained support anyway. The other effort was promoting the young and charismatic William McKinley, a staunch protectionist who was popular with congressional colleagues, had significant financial support from Mark Hanna, and had won the Governorship of Ohio, a crucial swing state. To ensure his own nomination, Harrison had McKinley appointed Chair of the Republican convention so he would be forced into neutrality.

On the first ballot, Benjamin Harrison was renominated with 60% of ballots cast in his name, the scheme had worked, though McKinley did come in second anyways. Chauncey Depew, who initially did not wish to serve a second term but was persuaded it was best for the party, was renominated unanimously. [1]

R Harrison-Depew.png


All throughout Harrison’s term, former President Grover Cleveland was preparing a third presidential run, with the rest of the Democratic Party largely falling in line or casting themselves in opposition to Cleveland. Then in the Spring of 1892, Cleveland died in a shark attack while out fishing on his boat from his estate in Gray Gables [2]. The Democrats were shocked and horrified by this development for a multitude of reasons. The party’s leader and their only successful leader since before the Southern Rebellion was gone and the party was thrown into chaos, scrambling to find a suitable replacement.

David B. Hill, the Governor of New York who had opposed Cleveland and supported bimetallism had already been running for the nomination and had a substantial organization behind him. Also lining up to run were: Bourbon former Speaker John G. Carlisle, Bimetallist Governor of Pennsylvania Robert Pattison, Bourbon Governor of Massachusetts William Russell, Bimetallist Governor of Iowa Horace Boies, and heavily labor sympathetic Walter Q. Gresham. All of these men expected to only be nominated after what would inevitably be a vicious fight for the nomination, so when the convention came and first ballot results were announced, expectedly, no 2/3 majority had been reached. A slight plurality would go for Russell, with Boies following close behind. After several more ballots, the divide between Bourbon and Bimetallist delegates who had previously been able to unite behind Cleveland’s electability and character began to seem irreconcilable. This deadlock would continue for a dozen ballots until party bosses began to look for a compromise candidate who could end this chaos. Robert Pattison would be floated, but even with moderate support, he failed to gain the two-thirds required to be nominated. Soon after, former Cleveland administration members began to gain support as potentially unifying figures. The former running mate of Grover Cleveland, Allen G. Thurman got brief support and came second, however his staunch white supremacy lost him Northern delegates, and this draft effort quickly collapsed. Soon after, the conciliatory former Secretary of State and longtime Senator from Delaware Thomas F. Bayard began to garner delegates due to being broadly uncontroversial among Democrats. He had previously been aligned with Cleveland’s fiscal policies in his advocacy of the Gold Standard but had moderated on the issue in recent months, making him acceptable to all. Soon Bayard was able to coordinate Pattison dropping out in exchange for becoming his running mate, with Russell, Hill, and Carlisle dropping out in exchange for cabinet positions. On the 27th ballot, Bayard would gain 72% of delegates and become the Democratic nominee, although bloody and bruised with Western Democrats unsatisfied and Conservative Democrats tepidly in favor.

D Bayard-Pattison.png

National Alliance:

Just five months after the People’s Party was founded, a joint People’s Party-Labor Party-Prohibition Party nominating Convention was held. While all parties were for the most part aligned in their programs, the split between urban and rural class interests made forging a common platform and finding a nominee difficult. Ultimately, a compromise platform that focused on tax reform, bank & rail nationalization, and reduction of working hours was settled on, with tariffs and the currency issue not touched due to intraparty and factional disagreement. Of note is that in one of the many speeches throughout the convention, Representative Edward Bellamy’s declaration of the new platform supporting “a government that works, not in the interest of the elite, but the national interest” would inspire journalists to refer to the People’s-Labor alliance as the “National Alliance” or the “Nationals” interchangeably.

This convention was being held in early August, weeks after both the Republican and Democrat conventions with the frontrunners generally thought to be James Weaver, Henry George, and Ignatius Donnelly, until the nomination of Thomas F. Bayard for President by the Democratic Party. With a heavily conservative Democratic ticket, some of the more reformist and pro-Labor delegates from the Democratic Convention in Chicago decided to attend the National Alliance convention in neighboring Des Moines as well. Most notably, Walter Gresham, who had just weeks earlier come second place in balloting at the Democratic convention, entered his name for the National nomination.

To understand the significance of this, it’s necessary to explain who Walter Gresham was. Walter Gresham had begun his career in Indiana politics in the 1860s as a Republican, representing a district that was overwhelmingly Democratic. He quickly rose to Chair of the Military Affairs Committee, preparing the state militia for the war effort. He then enlisted, became a colonel, and assisted in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, then got shot in the knee and was disabled for the rest of his life. In 1869, he received a District Court appointment from President Grant in which he would serve until 1883. In this court position, he would become a hero to farmers because of his rulings against railroad tycoons and other monopolies, also becoming a personal rival of fellow Indiana Republican Benjamin Harrison. Gresham would serve in Presiden Arthur’s cabinet, both as Postmaster General between April 1883 and September 1884, then as Secretary of the Treasury from September 1884 to October 1884. 7 days before the 1884 election, he would return to the Circuit Court [3] From the moment the Labor Party was founded, Gresham’s potential to be their presidential nominee was discussed, with these discussions ramping up even further after the formation of the People’s Party and National Alliance [4]. Gresham remained optimistic he could be the Democratic candidate, but after this failed and with the rapid growth of both parties in 1890, he decided to gamble and take the nomination, hitching his career to the Nationals.

His entrance into the 1892 National Convention brought cheering and excitement to the hall. Just hours later, Walter Gresham was unanimously nominated for President on the ballot line of both the Labor Party and People’s Party. For his running mate, the convention chose James G. Field. A well-known name among Southern Farmers’ Alliance members and across Virginia for his leading role in the pro-slavery Virginia Conservative Party. His selection was hoped to balance any potential sectional divide that was brought by nominating a former Republican and member of the Union Army. With this, the Nationals had an incredibly strong ticket heading into an election with an unpopular incumbent Republican and weak Democratic candidate, as well as massively increased resources that allowed for the fielding of far more candidates across the nation. Their optimism was palpable.

N Gresham-Field.png

1. Pretty much as OTL with a different Vice President.
2. No particular justification for this, just was convenient and Grover Cleveland dying to shark attack is funny to me.
3. All OTL.
4. Gresham was heavily considered for the Populist nomination in 1892 and did not decline wanting it until days before the convention, with his main concern being logistics. I’m honestly shocked he doesn’t really show up in TLs, he’s a fascinating figure who even in a conventional scenario about the People’s Party could have massively improved their results in 1892.
5. The Beaver is chosen as sort of a de facto logo for the National Alliance due to a political cartoon that parodied the eccentricities of the politicians in this new party, especially James Weaver, calling the National Alliance "Weaver's Beavers". The name sticks and the Beaver becomes the go-to culture symbol for the Nationals in political cartoons.
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Love seeing Bellamy! Also I'm a huge fan of divergent political parties and symbols, the beaver was a good choice. The potential of a future formal unification into a single National Party has interesting knock-on effects for the Democrats, while staying true to the period meaning of "national" to refer to "nationalization".
I just finished checking out the real 1892 election & the extent of research you've put into this shows. I was originally caught off-guard by the Prohibition party joining the convention but it turns out they had been perfectly willing to join the People's party ticket, only being stopped due to a lack of time.

I'm expecting big results for the Nationals, not the White House but definitely some sizable gains in Congress.
I just finished checking out the real 1892 election & the extent of research you've put into this shows. I was originally caught off-guard by the Prohibition party joining the convention but it turns out they had been perfectly willing to join the People's party ticket, only being stopped due to a lack of time.

I'm expecting big results for the Nationals, not the White House but definitely some sizable gains in Congress.
The question is: If the Nationals do successfully cohere into a single party will it be one leg of a three-party system (perhaps with the Democrats as a regionalist party in the Deep South a la the Bloc Quebecois 🤔) or does one of the former big two fold/suffer dismemberment at the hands of the Nationals and the survivor of the old guard?
The question is: If the Nationals do successfully cohere into a single party will it be one leg of a three-party system (perhaps with the Democrats as a regionalist party in the Deep South a la the Bloc Quebecois 🤔) or does one of the former big two fold/suffer dismemberment at the hands of the Nationals and the survivor of the old guard?
One possibly is that they become the de facto opposition party in certain parts of the country, for example they could eclipse the Republicans in the South & the Democrats in the Northeast while carving out sections of the west/great lakes for themselves. Their more-or-less equal focus on rural & urban workers could allow them to act as a compromise vote in certain toss-up districts.