The 1896 Election That Started the Rural-Urban Voter Divide

At the start of the 1896 presidential election year, things looked rosy for Republicans. But the emergence of a brash young politician, William Jennings Bryan, quickly turned the tide. Bryan’s campaign exposed the competing interests of those whose livelihoods were tied to urban institutions and those who lived off the land in rural America.

With the nation mired in the wake of a severe economic depression and a deeply unpopular Democratic president – Grover Cleveland – in the White House, the GOP had leaped back in the late midterms to gain control of the House and Senate . Ohio Governor William McKinley easily won the Republican presidential nomination and seemed poised to make a smooth ride to the White House on his platform of economic protectionism and support for the gold standard, which defined value. of the country’s currency in terms of the amount of gold. he had in reserve.

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