Theo Lippman Jr.

October 01, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

In 1900 the 29th saw a marked shift in America's attention, from domestic policy to international affairs. Thanks to prosperity and the Spanish-American War.

President McKinley was renominated, and so was William Jennings Bryan. As four years before, Bryan campaigned furiously across the nation, while McKinley ran a front-porch campaign. The president left stump speaking to his new running mate (the vice president had died in office), Theodore Roosevelt.

Bryan charged the administration with imperialism in the Spanish possessions the U.S. acquired in the war, a betrayal of the American ideal of independence -- and of scripture, to which he increasingly turned to justify his politics.

Roosevelt was almost his match on the stump, and in a sense this was the first modern presidential campaign, with dueling orators rushing about the landscape. To Bryan's Bible-thumping, war hero TR responded with flag-waving: It was our destiny to bring civilization to our lessers.

McKinley won by nearly a million votes, half again the margin of the first race with Bryan.

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