When the Free-American party was founded in the wake of the Crisis of 1883 and the 1884 interference by U.S. Marines in Cosa Nostra on the orders of President Horace B. Borden, it attracted many disaffected Union Labor Party and Federal Party supporters. This motley group, who could no longer stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of such graft and colonial enterprise, helped to offset the Republican Party off-shoot engendered by the American Freedom Party.
In 1888 the Free-American and American Freedom parties went head-to-head in a presidential election for the first time. While neither party won (Republican tailor’s dummy Benjamin Harrison took the prize), the nation split noticeably along each party’s political lines.
The wake of division flowed throughout the campaign, eventually splitting the nation along the route of the Montsylvania-Pacific Railway which had precipitated the Crisis of 1883 to begin with. Snaking its way from Southwest to Northeast, the railway separated regions politically as well as physically, creating what Teddy Roosevelt christened in 1904 as “The Great Diagonal Divide.” The Divide has had major bearing on every U.S. presidential election and national issue for the past 120 years.
The Free-American Party (The Greens), as the new children in the sub-division, planned to exploit every regional factor they could in an attempt to gain a huge electoral bloc. From the project representing the inchoate plans for what would become the Hoover Dam, through the speculative land crisis that would last decades and leave fallow the region which eventually formed Platha, into the Ohio Religious Persecutions, and all the way to immigration problems in the industrial and urban New England, the Free American Party stabbed at everything.
The American Freedom Party (The Purples), by contrast, was never able to gain the initiative in this first contest of wills. Fumbling the key issue of the St. Lawrence Seaway Blockade, they never recovered. Cut off at the knees for their support of Ku Klux Klan in Kentucky leader Arthur Phillips-Smoot, and having no appropriate response to the Great Blizzard of 1888, the American Freedom Party would barely have made it to election day if not for their vociferous embrace of Ernest Thayer’s poem “Casey at the Bat” as their convention keynote.
While neither party would make headway in presidential politics until the election of 1898, the Free-American Party and the American Freedom Party have essentially each taken turns in the leadership role and for the most part the geographic blocs created through their competition have remained static. And so every four years it becomes another battle of Green versus Purple, with the winner taking the White House.
Green and Purple, always diametrically opposed, continue to battle to this day. In 2008, the nation will see who will triumph; Dick Armstrong, who proudly wears the Green sash and golden starburst, or the eventual Purple-sashed contender. It is an exercise as old as 120 years and as fresh each time as the newborn calves of the field. And it is our choice, our vote, our will which decides if this year Green or Purple shall triumph.