Theodore Roosevelt was nominated by the Democrats at their national convention in the summer of 1920, along with Vice President McKenna. At the Socialist Party national convention, held in Toledo, Ohio, Upton Sinclair was chosen; his running mate was Hosea Blackford, a congressman from Dakota. After losing the previous three elections, Senator Eugene V. Debs was no longer the front-runner.
The Socialists campaigned on enacting reform and welfare for the working and middle classes; the Democrats ran on the fact they had won the Great War, even though they also had to contend with the millions of men killed and wounded in that conflict as the Socialists reminded them. The Democrats wanted to continue spending taxpayers' money on arms and keeping the defeated Confederacy down. However, Americans were fatigued by having the Democrats sit in power for so many decades. The Socialists captured Congress in the midterm election of 1918; this time they had the strength and the right message to land themselves in the Powel House.
Sinclair defeated Roosevelt that November, surprising many who had gotten used to the Democratic candidate always winning and the Socialist candidate always losing. When Sinclair took the oath of office in Franklin Square in Philadelphia on March 4, 1921, he inaugurated a new era in US politics, one in which the Democrats were no longer dominant. With the Great War over and revenge on the CSA gained, the country felt it was time to move on, and the result of that was Upton Sinclair's election. He would guide the country through unprecedented prosperity for the rest of the decade, though that prosperity would ultimate result in economic disaster and the return of the Democrats to Powel House in 1932.
The historical election of 1920 was preceded by fairly vigorous nomination battles in both parties, though nothing like the fierce conflict that had divided the Republican Party eight years earlier. The incumbent President, Woodrow Wilson, suffering from poor health, was retiring after two terms, and his Vice President, Thomas Marshall, did not seek the nomination. (In the 20th century it would grow increasingly rare for an election to include neither the incumbent President nor Vice President as a major party's nominee. It had last happened in 1908. It would next happen in 1952, and then not again till 2008.)
The Republican Party ran a ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. The Democrats ran James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Harding and Cox shared the home state of Ohio: Harding was that state's senior senator (and he became the first of, as of 2010, three sitting senators elected to the White House) and Cox was the governor.
Cox, in deference to Wilson, ran on a platform promoting the very unpopular idea of US membership in the League of Nations, an unpopular platform which greatly hamstrung him. Harding promised "a return to normalcy" (a word which he failed to define) in the wake of World War I and the economic and social unrest which had followed. Harding won in a landslide, even making inroads into the Democratic Solid South: He won Tennessee, becoming the first Republican to win the electoral votes of a state which had attempted to secede and form the Confederate States. The other ten Confederate states and Kentucky were the only states Cox and Roosevelt carried.
With the election of Harding, the Progressive Era was over. Normalcy soon proved to be a lie as a period of great technological innovation led to social and economic uncertainty. Harding proved to be an incompetent president, even admitting himself that he was very bad at the job. He died in 1922 and Coolidge became the sixth Vice President to assume the Presidency.
1920 saw Socialist Eugene V. Debs make the final of his five runs at the White House. This time his running mate was Seymour Stedman, and though he was once again shut out of the Electoral College, he won his highest vote total yet in the popular vote, taking almost a million votes despite serving a prison sentence.
Perhaps the real winner of the election was Franklin Roosevelt. Although he was on the losing ticket, he campaigned energetically and gained a national following for the first time. In 1928 he would parlay this into a successful bid for Governor of New York, and in 1932 he would win his first of a record four Presidential elections.
Parallelism Between OTL and Southern VictoryEdit
Just as 1920 marked the end of the Progressive Era in OTL, it also marked the end of an era of American political history in Southern Victory, with the Remembrance culture losing its forty-year hold as the dominant political ideology.
Many characters had assumed that, should the popular Theodore Roosevelt seek a third term, he would be reelected easily. Roosevelt seems to have been surprised at his defeat. Similar though not identical assumptions were made about Roosevelt's political stock in the historical 1912 election.
As of the end of the Southern Victory series, Roosevelt remains the only President in American history to attempt to be elected to a third term. In factual history, that distinction is held by his kinsman, Franklin Roosevelt, who began his rise to national prominence during the 1920 campaign.