1896 and 1908

At Ten Miles Square today, Seth Masket notes that an important turning point in the direction of modern politics occurred in the presidential election of 1908, when Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan and Republican candidate William Howard Taft both recorded speeches that were distributed to campaign operatives around the country, making it possible for voters to hear their voices remotely.

Bryan’s involvement in this innovation is especially interesting because in his first presidential race, in 1896, he became the first presidential candidate to fully abandon the “front-porch campaign” tradition and personally barnstorm the country. So in the course of his remarkable career he both created and obviated the style of frenetic personal campaigning that gave him such a devoted following for so very long–if not, in the end, the keys to the White House.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.