The Last Round of ApplauseEdit
Bryan's third term has long been considered the textbook example of political overextension. The message that has been engraved on political bedrock has been “Even if you can, you shouldn't.' What is forgotten however is how much acclaim Bryan got at the time. Despite some perennial fear-mongers who worried about 'despotism' and 'monarchy', most voters strongly approved of the 'Great Commoners' move, as the polls from the time show.
A Strong LeaderEdit
In our current time, and distance, it might be easy to cynically say that Bryan was abusing a system with no limits and that the voters simply voted for the familiar face. However, despite its later disasters, the campaign was based on truth. Experienced, popular, and a reputation for getting things done are strong values in any race, let alone when used by a man with a golden tongue. Also, what can't be ignored was the war. The Second Atlantic War was in full swing, and Bryan (while at loggerheads with General Wood) was leading the nation forward, if not brilliantly. With domestic reform under his belt, and Congress only starting to gain traction against him, Bryan has a surprisingly easy election.
TR was fading figure, who while popular with the base of Republicans, was no longer powerful enough to challenge the party head on. The Republicans were stuck in the minority, with little plans to get out. They had assumed that after two terms the Democrats would give up their 'turn' and the Republicans could try again. The election of 1912 was nothing like that. Bryan raised more money, spoke in more states, and even went on the radio. Against this wave of support, the Republican race floundered and simply sank under the weight of Bryan's talent.
The Great CommonerEdit
However, despite this rather strong victory it is sad that Bryan's third term has such a negative aura associated it with it. Most of these stem from the original Republican attacks. These were so cutting, so original, and so sharp they still resound today. Political cartoons showing Bryan as worn out, and old fashioned covered newspapers of the day and the “Windbag” comic sold thousands. In amidst all of this was the very real fact. Bryan was behind the times.
The Last ProgressiveEdit
In many ways, Bryan truly was a relic of a former age. He was a politician from a conservative, moralist age, one far removed from the world of big business and foreign policy. His America had been smaller, rural, and insular. While Byran is called by many as the first modern president, in reality he was the last of the old guard. While many times this was a strengthen, in his last term it often turned to embarrassment and 'unprofessionalism'.
While a consummate political, Bryan often lived in a world of his own devising. He quoted Scripture in his long winded speeches and often derided city living. His amazing voice was slowly being drowned out in an age of coming radio and microphones. His politics were too extreme for some, and far too hide bound for others He represented a compromise between religious conservatism and urban Socialism, a compromise that was quickly becoming obsolete.
It is ironic that during these years as Byran dwindled, he achieved his greatest triumphs, the Direct Election of Senators and the 18th Amendment, guaranteeing referendums in all 48 states. This victories were long fought battles, but from a rapidly disappearing moralistic age. American was becoming more commercial, materialistic and more connected to the outside world. Byran was a politician from a time before the First Atlantic War, and he presided over the Second Atlantic War. The rest of the world seemed to be creeping in. Most of America embraced it, some for culture, other for money, adventure or knowledge. Byran was the brightest star of the passing world, of the 19th century.