Outcome for the Socialist Party


For the Socialist Party, the 1912 election proved their most successful bid for the presidency. Eugene Debs and his running mate, Emil Seidel, captured 901,551 votes, or 6% of the popular vote, the highest percentage in party history before or since. The election marked the political peak of the Socialist Party, as they managed to gain these votes despite only having a $66,000 campaign fund, dispersed mostly for 3.5 million leaflets. In the aftermath of the election, the Socialist party, heavily fragmented began to decline. From a high of 112,000 registered members in 1912, the party declined to 79,000 by 1915. A spike in interest occurred in 1916, partially as a result of anti-war movements in the United States against participation in World War I. Debs did not run in the 1916 election, but did in 1920 from a prison cell, imprisoned after his infamous anti-war 1918 war speech in Canton, Ohio. At the same time, interest in the party boomed again in 1919 as a result of the Russian Revolution and the May Day Riots to a high of 109,000. In 1920, however, political fragmentation resulted in an almost complete destruction of the party. First, a large portion of the party left and organized the Communist Party of America. In addition, as a result of the party’s association with Communism, much of the Christianity-backed social efforts in the country turned their back on the Socialists. From a 1919 figure of 109,000 registered members, by late 1920 the numbers had declined to 27,000. By 1926, only 12,000 voters registered as Socialist.



Radosh, Ronald, Debs (Englewood Cliffs, N.J..: Prentice Hall, 1971)
Shannon, David, The Socialist Party of America: A History (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967)
Peterson, A. The Election of 1912 (Lakeside, CA: Interaction Publishers, 1992)