Editor says, Roughly, in September of 1896 the Republican strategist Marcus Alonzo Hanna dies in a street accident, hobbling the campaign of Republican presidential candidate William McKinley just enough so that William Jennings Bryan, candidate of both the Democratic and People's ("Populist") parties manages to win a narrow victory in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by half a million ballots.
Ordinarily, this might have forced Bryan to be circumspect in office. But in April 1897, a cabal of corporate interests which had spent several months in an unsuccessful effort to overrule the electors in the courts turned to more aggressive means, instituting a nationwide industrial lockout designed to crash the economy unless Bryan voluntarily conceded the presidency to McKinley. When he refused to do so, the corporate rebels tightened the screws, cutting off the operation of the national banking system as well.
It proves a disaster for them. What will be known as the "Millionaires' Revolt" turns public opinion overwhelmingly in Bryan's favor instead, and the insurgents are defeated by a combination of popular resistance and the use of federal troops to force the reopening of factories and banks. Afterward, Bryan instituted a number of reforms, including "bimetallism" (free coinage of both gold and silver, intended to cause controlled inflation to devalue the debts owed by his largely rural core supporters), a federal minimum wage, federal relief and employment programs and so on. These measures will make Bryan a national hero.
That status will be important to him three decades later, at the Scopes "monkey trial" in Dayton, Tennessee, in July 1925. Whereas in our history Bryan, as a three-time loser for the presidency, felt forced to justify himself by agreeing to allow defense attorney Clarence Darrow to call him as a witness, in this altered history Bryan refuses and is cheered by onlookers for doing so. Thus, he is not humiliated on the stand and dies, not long after (he was 65 and diabetic), with his image untarnished - and, even more importantly, with the fundamentalist movement unstained by the embarrassment it sustained in our history.
In 1932, FDR does not get the Democratic nod. The growing fundamentalist movement, which dislikes him as a liberal Northeasterner, is strong enough to deny him the prize, which goes instead to Texas' John Nance garner (FDR's vice-president in our history). Garner, however, institutes nothing like the New Deal, preferring to "tough out" the Depression in the hope that free-market capitalism will pull the country out of its slump. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen, and by 1936 unemployment stands at 30 percent and extremists of right and left alike are going strong. In the '36 election won by Smith, Norman Thomas wins 2 million votes on the Socialist Party ticket while Earl Browder, the Communist candidate, gets 100,000.
1) In 1896, Bryan came within a few thousand votes of winning the U.S. presidency in the Electoral College. He ran that year on a program which foreshadowed many elements of FDR's New Deal.
2) In our history, the Twentieth Amendment repealed Prohibition.
3) The Saudi royal family in "our" Saudi Arabia was elevated to the monarchy by the British. The Rashidis were a contending clan who lost out in the political struggle.
4) On that date in "our" history, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
5) In this timeline, America stayed out of the Great War of 1914 altogether, with the result that the Central Powers won in early 1919. Thereafter, both Britain and france spawned fascist movements, which eventually took power. As of 1976, there had still been no second Great War, and kaisers still reigned in the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.
6) The "Redeemers" actually existed, and between 1876 and the 1890s undid nearly all of the advances in black rights engineered during Reconstruction.
7) Hargis, best known as the Rev. Billy James Hargis, also existed, and was infamous as a right-wing religious crank in the 1950s and '60s. He died in 2004, in our history. Editorial comments are entered in [light green] typeface.