The Political World: wealthy vs. everyone else

At the turn of the century, cities were on the rise. Since manufacturing and mechanized agriculture eliminated the need for human labor, many men and women seeked job opportunities in the city. Even African Americans migrated to northern cities in hope to escape the poverty, racism, and violence of Jim Crow Laws in the South. With cities came crime, poverty, overcrowding, and disease. City political machines associated with the Democratic party began to grow very powerful, which horrified many wealthy and native born Americans. These political machines mobilized large blocs of working class and immigrant voters and started to develop relationships with real estate and business interests. Because of the rapid growth of cities and the development of the working class, the political world began to form.

Unfortunately, the growth of cities was not a good thing in all aspects of society because more than half of the population were still deprived of their rights. Although women were able to take on significant roles in the public, gender roles emphasized the need for women to stay in the home, while men were the ones involved in business and politics. This meant that women were not allowed to vote. Many activist women joined women’s suffrage movements, but African American women were excluded from these movements. In fact, African Americans were still being discriminated everywhere. Even farmers and industrial workers struggled to find their voice in the political world. They saw themselves as victims of big corporations and quickly found out that elected officials were doing nothing to address the problems due to their belief in a non intrusive government and laissez-faire philosophies. Although the government was little to no help, women, minorities, and working men sought ways to impact the political process.

First, farmers and industrial workers formed the People’s Party to challenge Republicans and Democrats. In the 1870’s, the Farmers alliance was formed was formed to ease the trouble of farmers plagued by rising costs and falling prices of their products. However, African American farmers were excluded and formed their own Colored Farmers alliance. The Northern and Southern Farmers alliances formed a National Farmers alliance to combat the power of monopolies and trusts by transforming it into a political movement to elect pro farmer candidates to office. Trusts were a major threat to American liberty, so the Sherman Antitrust Act was supposed to slow the growth of big businesses, but failed to do so. Coxey’s Army was formed to save the Republic from trusts and laissez-faire policies, but they were arrested. Therefore, it is very evident that women, minorities, and working men tried to impact the political process, but struggled to find their voice.

The public expressed severe revulsion over the wealthy in a time where America was going through a depression, for example, the period was marked by some of the most violent strikes, like the Pullman strike. Republicans, or businessman and the wealthy, favored “hard money” or gold because they thought free silver would cause inflation. On the other hand, Democrats, or farmers and workers, favored “soft money” or free silver because more money would raise the price of their goods and diminish the burden of their debts. In the election of 1896, Republicans nominated William McKinley, who favored the gold standard, while Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, who supported free silver. The People’s Party convinced millions of Americans that free coinage of silver would end depression and curb monopolies and trusts. Although the People’s Party worried the leaders of political parties, faced many challenges and were no match. McKinley, who the wealthy voted for, ended up winning the election.

The political process during that time was something that not everyone could find harmony in and it still is like this today regarding President Trump. With women not having the right to vote and African Americans severely discriminated against, only white men were involved in politics. Even then, the political world was split because the wealthy and the working class. Women, minorities, and working men tried to impact the political process, but faced many challenges. White women and African American women joined separate suffrage movements, white farmers and African American farmers formed separated Farmers alliances, workers for the People’s Party, Sherman Antitrust Act, Coxey’s Army, etc., but nothing ever seemed to overthrow the wealthy. After the outcome of the election of 1896, it started to seem like politics was only an arena for the wealthy because workers and farmers struggled to find their voice in the political world.

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.

10 thoughts on “The Political World: wealthy vs. everyone else

  1. I like how you tied it in with what is going on in world today. We like to think we have come so far and cannot believe that women couldn’t vote and minorities were treated so poorly but we really still have a way to go. The rich still have so much control in the decisions in politics and the poor are still stigmatized.

    1. It truly seems as though politics will never change. Your blog was very well written and insightful. I also liked the way you mentioned our current political situation with that of the past. Many would be inclined to agree that our political endeavors are nothing like those of the past, and others would disagree. But that seems to be the very definition of politics in America, two groups of people disagreeing about almost everything.

    2. Thank you for your feedback. I thought that the political world in the past is not so different than today and I am glad you agree. It is true that over the course of time, women and minorites were starting to be treated fairly, however, you are right, the government still has a long way to go. There are still a lot of issues in the way the government is run today.

  2. The title of the blog “The Political World: Wealthy Vs. Everyone Else” basically sums everything up. During the turn of the century those who cast votes to “better” their country were rich white men. The white men did not always have the best interest in mind and rarely took into consideration the things that would benefit not just themselves, but everyone around them. As the blog mentioned many African Americans migrated to cities in hopes to “escape the poverty, racism, and violence of Jim Crow Laws in the South.” However, they soon learned the unfair cold hard truth that no matter where they went they could not escape discrimination. “The Democratic party began to grow very powerful, which horrified many wealthy and native-born Americans.” People soon realized that if they weren’t a white man, they would be subjected to unimaginable things.

    1. The main problem in politics at the turn of the century was, like you mentioned, that those in charge did not always consider the ways in which their decisions would affect others. That problem is still evident in today’s political realm, but I would argue it is to a lesser extent. It is unfortunate that African Americans and women in America had to fight to earn their God given rights, but politics in America are no longer solely run based on the word of wealthy men. Our political system is predominantly run by the two major parties, but the individuals that make up those parties come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. Surely not every decision made by one political party will benefit every person, but with more representation of minorities in politics, specifically women and African Americans, it is more likely that decisions will be considered through multiple perspectives.

  3. Very good post Ally. There were plenty of specific examples you used such as the migration to the cities looking for a more fair lifestyle, and the discrimination that everyone faced other than the rich white man.

  4. Your blog was well written and very interesting to read. To me its crazy that in both these instances of women striving to be able to vote as well as the farmers alliance to fight against the two political superpowers that they still discriminated against African Americans. Both groups i felt needed all the help they could get to overcome their challenges, but still discriminated.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. I agree it was crazy African Americans were still discriminated against. I think there could have been a possibilty of a better outcome if whites and blacks united as one, instead of forming seperate alliances. In our modern world, in some cases, Africans Americans are still not accepted, which goes to show that instances of the past still linger today.

  5. This post was very well written and gave insight into many things that I didn’t know about prior to reading this. The farmers forming an alliance to try to combat the big business’s that were taking over politics is important because they didn’t succeed which is crazy considering how much effort was put in. Also, I like that you talked about how politics are today because they really aren’t that different from the past. Many people think we have come very far, and in some aspects we have, but most of the issues have just been masked to make it seem like they are no longer a problem even though they are.

  6. I really liked your comparison of politics then vs politics now. While we are constantly changing and progressing however not always is it fair or equal to everyone involved. We still tend to have two sides fighting against each other and nobody in complete agreement over what should be done. A current issue would be the debate over New York’s new abortion law, a lot feel it isn’t okay to abort, whereas others are looking at this law as a way for women to have complete rights over their body.

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