The Political Experience: Democratic Party

As an incumbent, Wilson (campaigning at top right) ran nearly unopposed in the 1916 Democratic primaries. Senator William Jennings Bryan and Senator Champ Clark were the only other possibilities championed by factions within the party; however, Bryan stepped aside early and Clark (portrait at bottom right)announced that he would not run under any circumstances if Wilson wished for reelection. Wilson actively shaped the campaign from the start; he helped to write the party platform and appointed delegates to the Democratic convention.

Democrats decided early in the campaign to focus on the liberal legislation record they achieved under Wilson's administration. The 1916 party platform endorsed rural credit legislation for farmers' benefit, adoption of national child labor laws, a living wage and workman's compensation for federal employees, a nonpartisan tariff commission, and federal aid to highway construction. Rural credits and child labor were directly addressed by Wilson's administration during the campaign: Wilson signed the Federal Farm Loan Act in July 1916, opening banks and providing low-interest loans to independent farmers. In September, Wilson signed both the Adamson Act, federally mandating an eight hour work day for first time, and the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, prohibiting interstate commerce on goods produced by child labor. As the campaign drew to a close, Democrats increasingly relied on the peace issue, declaring that Wilson had "kept the country out of war." 

By emphasizing Wilson's liberal legislation record, Democrats attempted throughout the campaign to draw Progressive votes away from the Republicans. George Creel, a public relations advisor to Wilson, penned a weekly newsletter, "The Bulletin," specifically highlighting Wilson's Progressive qualities. To win more Progressive western votes, Democrats devoted extra campaign time and money to the West and stressed the fact that the Democratic platform of 1912 had been honored by Wilson

Click here to read about The Political Experience: Republican Campaign.

Return to the 1916 Election


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation