The Minnesota Farmer Labor Party was the dominant, left-wing, political party in Minnesota during the Great Depression. Growing out of populist movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the party formed in 1918 in an effort to represent struggling farmers and workers. In 1944, Hubert Humphrey and Elmer Benson worked to merge the party with Minnesota’s Democratic Party, forming what is today the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
In 1918, running on an anti-monopoly platform, the Farmer-Labor Party brought farmers and workers together in opposition to the state’s Republican Party. Although Charles August Lindbergh, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, narrowly lost, the party continued to gain momentum, electing to U.S. Senators in the 1920s.
The Farmer-Labor Party had its greatest success in the 1930s when Floyd B. Olson was elected governor three times in a row (he was likely on his way to the U.S. Senate in 1936 before he passed away suddenly of stomach cancer). Although the Farmer-Labor Party was never able to capture a majority in the State Senate, they successfully enacted laws protecting farms from foreclosure, banking reforms, a state income tax, and unemployment relief.
Throughout its existence, the Farmer-Labor Party faced attacks primarily from its Republican opponents, who accused the party of lacking patriotism, being corrupt, and later of harboring socialists and communists. The party too faced internal strife at times based on the competing needs of rural farmers and urban workers. As with other left-wing and pro-union political organizations across the country and in Minnesota, the Farmer-Labor Party was also the subject of antisemitic propaganda.
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