America has always been a very conservative nation, and the Left has always had great difficulty making any real headway in America (as it has in Europe). Two books that are well worth reading about this subject are: Right Nation and The Rise and Fall of the American Left.
Make no mistake; the recent controversy between liberals and conservatives over universal health care in the U. S. (at government expense) says more about the left than it does the right. I think it also says something about the widening economic divides between the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy in America.
In those days, the left railed against the big banks and corporate interests that were profiting from the sweat and toil of the American workers. The right was in cahoots with the big banks and the corporations, while the left saw government as the only tool powerful enough to resist the will of the big banks, corporations, and their right wing political allies.
One of the issues in those days concerned the westward expansion and the need for currency which it created. The U. S. was on the gold standard and the banks wanted the U. S. to stay on the gold standard. But there was a great and popular demand for the government to allow for the coining of silver in order to finance the westward expansion.
William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech was given during this time, and it is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. In his speech, Bryan chastised the big city bankers for wanting to crucify the American worker on a cross of gold (i.e., the gold standard they were clinging to) because they were dead set against the coining of silver. As you probably realize, the gold standard fell by the wayside (not officially until the Nixon Administration), the silver was coined, and the westward expansion was financed.
Economically speaking, the big bankers were right. They knew the U. S. currency would be devalued (and their profits subsequently lessened) if the nation were inundated with a flood of cheap silver coins. Gold is scarce; therefore valuable. Silver is not nearly as scarce as gold; therefore it isn't nearly as valuable as gold is.
Eventually, the coining of silver came to a halt and the nation began using a combination of paper currency and debased metal coins. The U. S. later began the practice of deficit spending using fiat currency, which, historically speaking, this was a new kind of economics; a new economics developed by the British economist: John Maynard Keynes.
William Jennings Bryan ran as the Democrat's candidate for U. S. President four times,
losing to the Republican's candidate all four times. He was the greatest orator during an era of great oratory, an outspoken supporter of the common man, and the enemy of any interest that would oppress him. In short, he was a true Democrat. The conservative Republicans backed the big corporations and their candidates for the U. S. presidency beat Bryan four times.
For an individual of Bryan's abilities and stature (he was once Secretary of State) to be beaten four times in a row tells us something important about the political climate in those days: America was, even then, a nation with a long history of conservative beliefs and practices. You can't lose four times in a row without knowing you're bucking the system.
People come to America to be free, which means they have the freedom to succeed or to fail. And the federal government is not responsible for supporting people who fail by bailing them out with the tax dollars withheld from the paychecks of hard working people.