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In our timeline, a powerful union organizer and labor boss, Eugene V. Debs, was a perennial candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. He never gathered over 1,000,000 votes, but was a notable candidate in the elections of 1912 and 1920.
In the Red, White, and Red timeline however, Debs began to forge powerful political alliances earlier, and won in an extremely close Presidential election in 1912. Here is how it all happened, as related by the History of the Rise of Socialism and Communism.
The Pullman Strike
On the morning of June 29, 1894, a 39-year old union organizer managed to convince the world's most powerful union boss, Samuel Gompers to come to Blue Island, Illinois in order to help him plan and carry out the Pullman Strike. The man's name was Eugene V. Debs, and he would go on to be the first Socialist President of the United States.
As Debs met with the powerful Samuel Gompers of the AFL, Debs convinced Gompers and convinces him to support the strike, giving a huge morale boost to the protesters. With the ARU and AFL both on the sides of the Pullman Strike is supported very broadly and Debs is forced to be more moderate in order to work with Gompers, who is co-organizing the strike.
Instead of the protest becoming violent, the US government under Cleveland practically declares war on the strikers. After 200+ deaths of rail workers, the strike is broken, and Cleveland attempts to prosecute Gompers and Debs.
At this time, Debs and Gompers both mingle political theory, and Deb's ideas tend to prevail, and both men grow to espouse the same beliefs. Debs and Gompers are both sentenced to 6 months in prison, and both men, not just Debs, read Marx's Communist Manifesto.
After getting out, both are relatively socialist, but still manage to maintain their unions. Since the ARU had less leadership and fell apart, Debs began dabbling with the IWW earlier on. During In re Debs, the Supreme Court issues a split decision, further raising support for his later career in politics.
The Socialist Party
The IWW was founded around 1900, as opposed to 1905, and soon grew to be about half of the size of the entire AFL, by around 1910. In order to combat the friendly rivalry, Gompers had the entire AFL combined into "One Big Union" in 1907.
Politically, the Socialist Party of America was still founded in 1901, and both Gompers and Debs joined early on. The party grew really quickly, and the IWW was fast to become an official union by 1903. The AFL joined the Socialists in 1906.
With the widespread support of the Socialists by big labor groups, more and more unions ended up joining the party, and by 1910, half of all labor unions belonged to the Socialist movement. That same year, party leaders Gompers and Debs agreed to merge the two largest unions in fulfillment of the "One Big Union" philosophy. The AFL-IWW was then created.
During the election of 1912, President Taft began to run with extremely low ratings. In a challenge for the nomination, Theodore Roosevelt challenges Taft for the party nomination, but fails. Roosevelt decides instead to give his personal support to the Socialist Party, which nominates an all-star Debs-Gompers ticket. When Democrats nominate the ultra-conservative Champ Clark, Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan also lends his endorsement to Debs and Gompers.
In a close election, Debs has become the President of the United States.