Convict Number 9653 for
President: The Campaign
While there is a lower class, I am in it,
while there is a criminal element, I
am of it, while there is a soul in prison,
I am not free.
Eugene V. Debs, 1918
America in 1919 and 1920 was a nation at peace with everyone except itself. The war it fought for democracy had come and gone and though the peace it brought was the great issue in the campaign of 1920, that peace was already hollow. Bitter disillusionment with the fruits of war and victory alike filled many with apathy. They took unkindly, with much justification, any talk of crusades and moral chimeras. It was a poor climate for socialism. The forces of change triggered by the war and its accompanying hysteria still operated in many parts of the land. If the German menace had been overcome, fear of anarchism, communism and radicalism of any kind had not, and countless Americans who had fought for democracy abroad now perverted it at home. It was but fitting, and somehow symbolic of the times, that the socialist presidential candidate ran from a prison cell.