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United States Senate election in South Carolina, 1918

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1918 South Carolina United States Senate election was held on November 5, 1918 simultaneously with the special senate election to select the U.S. Senator for a six-year term from the state of South Carolina. Nathaniel B. Dial won the Democratic primary and was unopposed in the general election to win the six-year term to the Senate.

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How did Adolf Hitler, a tyrant who orchestrated one of the largest genocides in human history, rise to power in a democratic country? The story begins at the end of World War I. With the successful Allied advance in 1918, Germany realized the war was unwinnable and signed an armistice ending the fighting. As its imperial government collapsed, civil unrest and worker strikes spread across the nation. Fearing a Communist revolution, major parties joined to suppress the uprisings, establishing the parliamentary Weimar Republic. One of the new government's first tasks was implementing the peace treaty imposed by the Allies. In addition to losing over a tenth of its territory and dismantling its army, Germany had to accept full responsibility for the war and pay reparations, debilitating its already weakened economy. All this was seen as a humiliation by many nationalists and veterans. They wrongly believed the war could have been won if the army hadn't been betrayed by politicians and protesters. For Hitler, these views became obsession, and his bigotry and paranoid delusions led him to pin the blame on Jews. His words found resonance in a society with many anti-Semitic people. By this time, hundreds of thousands of Jews had integrated into German society, but many Germans continued to perceive them as outsiders. After World War I, Jewish success led to ungrounded accusations of subversion and war profiteering. It can not be stressed enough that these conspiracy theories were born out of fear, anger, and bigotry, not fact. Nonetheless, Hitler found success with them. When he joined a small nationalist political party, his manipulative public speaking launched him into its leadership and drew increasingly larger crowds. Combining anti-Semitism with populist resentment, the Nazis denounced both Communism and Capitalism as international Jewish conspiracies to destroy Germany. The Nazi party was not initially popular. After they made an unsuccessful attempt at overthrowing the government, the party was banned, and Hitler jailed for treason. But upon his release about a year later, he immediately began to rebuild the movement. And then, in 1929, the Great Depression happened. It led to American banks withdrawing their loans from Germany, and the already struggling German economy collapsed overnight. Hitler took advantage of the people's anger, offering them convenient scapegoats and a promise to restore Germany's former greatness. Mainstream parties proved unable to handle the crisis while left-wing opposition was too fragmented by internal squabbles. And so some of the frustrated public flocked to the Nazis, increasing their parliamentary votes from under 3% to over 18% in just two years. In 1932, Hitler ran for president, losing the election to decorated war hero General von Hindenburg. But with 36% of the vote, Hitler had demonstrated the extent of his support. The following year, advisors and business leaders convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, hoping to channel his popularity for their own goals. Though the Chancellor was only the administrative head of parliament, Hitler steadily expanded the power of his position. While his supporters formed paramilitary groups and fought protestors in streets. Hitler raised fears of a Communist uprising and argued that only he could restore law and order. Then in 1933, a young worker was convicted of setting fire to the parliament building. Hitler used the event to convince the government to grant him emergency powers. Within a matter of months, freedom of the press was abolished, other parties were disbanded, and anti-Jewish laws were passed. Many of Hitler's early radical supporters were arrested and executed, along with potential rivals, and when President Hindenburg died in August 1934, it was clear there would be no new election. Disturbingly, many of Hitler's early measures didn't require mass repression. His speeches exploited people's fear and ire to drive their support behind him and the Nazi party. Meanwhile, businessmen and intellectuals, wanting to be on the right side of public opinion, endorsed Hitler. They assured themselves and each other that his more extreme rhetoric was only for show. Decades later, Hitler's rise remains a warning of how fragile democratic institutions can be in the face of angry crowds and a leader willing to feed their anger and exploit their fears.


Democratic primary

United States Senate Democratic primary election in South Carolina, 1918

← 1912 August 27, 1918 1924 →

Nathaniel B. Dial.jpg
Coleman L Blease (cropped).jpg
Nominee Nathaniel Dial Coleman Livingston Blease
Party Democratic Democratic
Popular vote 65,064 40,456
Percentage 58.7% 36.5%

U.S. Senator before election

Christie Benet

Elected U.S. Senator

Nathaniel B. Dial

The primary election in 1918 for Senate was shaping up to be a contentious affair between Ben Tillman and Cole Blease, two of the state's most notorious demagogues. Blease had performed surprisingly well in the 1916 gubernatorial election where he had almost knocked off incumbent Governor Richard Irvine Manning III. The death of Tillman in July ended all prospects of an epic battle and the race became a contest between Blease and Nathaniel B. Dial. The South Carolina Democratic Party held the primary on August 27 and Dial garnered over 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff election. Blease suffered the worst loss of his political career mainly because of his vitriolic opposition to World War I which made him appear as a traitor. There was no opposition to the Democratic candidate in the general election so Dial was elected to a six-year term in the Senate.

Democratic Primary
Candidate Votes %
Nathaniel B. Dial 65,064 58.7
Coleman Livingston Blease 40,456 36.5
James F. Rice 5,317 4.8

General election results

South Carolina U.S. Senate Election, 1918
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Nathaniel B. Dial 25,792 100.0 0.0
Majority 25,792 100.0 0.0
Turnout 25,792
Democratic hold

See also


  • Jordan, Frank E. The Primary State: A History of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, 1876-1962. pp. 64–67.
  • "Report of the Secretary of State to the General Assembly of South Carolina. Part II." Reports of State Officers Boards and Committees to the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Volume II. Columbia, SC: 1919, p. 43.
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