Alternative History
1916 1920 American Presidential Elections (PUSA) 1924 › ›
United States Presidential Election 1920
November 4, 1920
Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Warren G. Harding JohnWDaviscropped
Nominee Robert M La Follette Warren G Harding John Davis
Party Progressive Republican Democratic
Home state Wisconsin Ohio Pennsylvania
Running mate Parley P. Christensen William Edgar Borah James M. Cox
Electoral vote 274 131 126
States carried 21 17 10
Percentage 43.1% 35.7% 21.2%
Electoral Map

The 1920 Presidential Elections are often considered by historians to be one of the most important Presidential Elections in the history of the nation. It marked the first time since 1853 that someone other then a Democrat or Republic won(omitting Lincoln's as the National Union Party.)

After World War One there was an isolationist sentiment in America. Woodrow Wilson had suffered a massive stroke in 1919 and was incapable of moving from his bed. Most public opinion had turned away from him, anyway.

Robert M La Follette became the first Progressive candidate to win a Presidential Election. He was the heir to the Progressive Legacy of the last six years. With Roosevelt's death in 1919 there was no one to effectively oppose his dominance inside the party. Eugene Debs had gone to prison for speaking out against the war draft, preventing the Socialist wing of the party from rallying behind him as he had hinted that he had broken with the Progressives.


Progressive Party[]

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Robert Follette was overwhelming given the nomination by the Progressive Party convention in Milwaukee. The only opposition to him were some Socialist elements of the party who wished for Norman Thomas to be chosen instead. Follette easily defeated Thomas for the nomination and Thomas withdrew after merely one round of voting at the convention. The Convention nominated Parley P. Christensen for Vice-president.

Republican Party[]

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On June 8, the Republican National Convention met in Chicago. The race was wide open, and soon the convention deadlocked between General Leonard Wood and Governor Frank O. Lowden of Illinois.

Others placed in nomination included Senators Warren G. Harding of Ohio, Hiram Johnson of California,Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts, Herbert Hoover, and Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler. Harding was nominated for President on the tenth ballot, after shifts.

Harding's nomination, said to have been secured in negotiations among party bosses in a "smoke-filled room," was engineered by Harry M. Daugherty, Harding's political manager who Harding intended after Harding's election to become United States Attorney General. Prior to the convention, Daugherty was quoted as saying, "I don't expect Senator Harding to be nominated on the first, second, or third ballots, but I think we can afford to take chances that about 11 minutes after two, Friday morning of the convention, when 15 or 12 weary men are sitting around a table, someone will say: 'Who will we nominate?' At that decisive time, the friends of Harding will suggest him and we can well afford to abide by the result." Daugherty's prediction described essentially what occurred, but historians Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris argue that Daugherty's prediction has been given too much weight in narratives of the convention.

The delegation choose William Edgar Borah as his running mate.

Democratic Nomination[]

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James M. Cox was the presidential candidate for the democrats, he was also a former newspaper editor for the New York Times.


Irish Americans were powerful inside of the Democratic Party and resented going to war on the side of Britain, especially after the 1916 Easter Rebellion. Wilson had previously won them over by promising that he would ask the United Kingdom to grant Ireland its independence. Wilson however did not for fill his promise at the Treaty of Versailles and many Irish Americans were angry over this and left the Democratic Party.

La Follette was very popular among immigrants and thus gained much of the German and Irish vote. He also had been opposed to any American entry into World War One as well.

Warren Harding's slogan was "A return to normalcy". La Follette balked at him stating that his grammar was horrific and the correct term was "normality". Although Harding out spent Cox by four to one and La Follette by a two to one ratio he still had troubles due to his political gaffes, which were brought to the public's attention by newspapers, which were quoting the new radios.

On election night, November 2, 1920, commercial radio broadcast coverage of election returns for the first time. Announcers at KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh read telegraph ticker results over the air as they came in. This single station could be heard over most of the Eastern United States by the small percentage of the population that had radio receivers.

La Follette was named President Elected. This is considered on the most historic elections in the history of the US as it marked the Progressive Party as a force that would remain in America for sometime.


Candidates Party Electoral Vote Popular Vote
LaFollette/Christensen Progressive 274 43.1
Harding/Borah Republican 131 35.7
Davis/Cox Democratic 126 21.2