I'm writing a fantasy novel in which a pivotal election takes place (first vote in which everyone above the age of 21 can vote - and the first time women can vote). The setting of the novel is heavily inspired by 1890s Europe. In the story, it is almost completely certain that the new Democratic Socialist Party (with ambitions to massively boost welfare and equality etc.) will win the election as they are hugely popular, which will result in the current party in power (which wants to maintain the status quo) being ousted. I would love to gather some ideas on how politicians from the party in power might try to discredit the very popular and charismatic Democratic Socialist leader and his 'righthand men' in a way that suits the 1890s. Their tactics should preferably seem effective but backfire in the end, leading them to later take desperate measures which I have planned ;) The general population of the country where the election is taking place are excited about progress, and the capital city organises frequent cultural/scientific exchanges and is the cultural capital of the world (think 1890s Paris/Vienna).I haven't really fleshed out any of the political characters yet so any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks so much! :) :)
You are writing about a time of class antagonism. Socialists were from the proletarian parts of society, former factory workers or craftsmen that in the times of industrial revolution found their jobs rapidly being mechanized. Bourgoise party functionaires were educated in elite schools, were typically factory owners or academics. Monarchists, beside being nobility, were almost certainly career militaries. Thus campaigns from the right side against the left had one very obvious target: the lack of education and "class" (in the sense of not knowing how to conduct oneself gracefully in bourgois circles).
A prominent example of such criticism comes from post-WWI Germany: Newly elected President Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat, was photographed in July 1919 at the shore, only clothed with bathing shorts (second to the right). - Not only is he looking a bit ridiculous, but a conservative man at the time would have worn a full bathing suit.
The photo was first published on August 19th, the day Ebert was sworn in as President, and was immediately used by the right wing papers to mock him, and contrasted with pictures of deposited Emperor Wilhelm II. and Marshall Hindenburg in full military regalia. Wikipedia quotes a mocking song to the melody of the Imperial anthem "Heil Dir im Siegerkranz", published by the satirical paper Kladeradatsch:
Heil dir am Badestrand
Herrscher im Vaterland
Heil, Ebert, dir!
Du hast die Badebüx,
sonst hast du weiter nix
als deines Leibes Zier.
Heil, Ebert, dir!
Another paper used a caricature of the picture, making a pun comparing his weight to that of a boar (ger. Eber).
‹Ebert in Badehose› wurde das wirkungsvollste, weil pöbelhafteste Argument gegen die Republik.
"Ebert in bathing shorts" became the most striking argument against the republic, because it was the most rude one.
For a full recount of the episode, there is a dissertation available online that also examines other cases from the Weimar republic.
Have a look at Charles Stewart Parnell.
Parnell led the Irish Parliamentary Party. The IPP wanted home rule for Ireland - something less than independence, but more than devolution as for example modern Scotland has.
He was a major powerbroker between 1885 and 1886, as the House of Commons did not have an overall majority of Conservative or Liberal MPs. This meant that both sides were bidding for his support. His prestige is shown by his nickname - the uncrowned king of Ireland.
It fell apart when he was revealed to be having an affair with a married woman. Separated, but still married. I don't know how old you are - if you're over 30 you may remember that the US president Bill Clinton was quite nearly removed from office because he had an affair and then committed perjury to cover it up.
There was no 'nearly' for Parnell. He had broken no law, but he was booted in 1891. One could say that his downfall was a factor in the bloodshed that started in 1916.