TR goes rogue
On the evening of June 22, 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt, commonly referred to as “TR” asked his supporters to leave the floor of the Republican National Convention and reconvene in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall to endorse the formation of a national progressive party. TR was angry the Republicans had not endorsed him for a third term, instead recognizing the current president, William Howard Taft, as their flag bearer.
When formally launched later that summer, the new party chose Roosevelt as its presidential nominee, getting its name from TR’s quip about his health, “I’m as strong as a “bull moose. ” Roosevelt’s new party promised to increase federal regulation, protect the welfare of ordinary people, give women the vote and allow all federally elected officials to be “recalled.”.
Former protege gone bad
When Roosevelt tapped Bill Taft as his successor in 1908, he had assumed that Taft would continue to support his agenda. Instead, TR argued Taft coddled up to business and neglected conservation; his protege was a great disappointment. 0Then adding foment to the fire, TR argued the sitting President had allowed fraudulent seating of delegates in order to capture the presidential nomination from progressive forces within the party (unproven) and that was the only true reason he lost — the election was rigged. Teddy does not have a preponderance in the fifth house of creative imagination for nothing.
None of the allegations really hold up and they thought the Republicans, the party founded by Abraham Lincoln, did not want to break the precedent set by George Washington of limiting presidential terms to two; some argued that should be the rule throughout all of government, but that of course never happened. TR resented having to be bound by a former’s unspoken dictum, even if it was Washington, and so he ran, and ran bitterly against Taft in 1912.
Taft’s Legislative Legacy
While Roosevelt’s support of government regulation, and his groundbreaking efforts in conservation and consumer protection, plus his willingness to work with organized labor did alienate pro-business party members who wanted a more limited form of government, Taft set aside more public lands than Roosevelt had for national parks and brought about more anti-trust suits than TR too thus no matter what TR claimed, it could not have been Taft’s record, though admittedly Taft never ran on the women vote issue.
Thus technically TR was wrong, but that never seemed to stop him. Instead, many historians think he just wanted a third term like his cousin FDR (he kept the initials like his elder cousin) got when he broke Washington’s implicit two-term rule in 1940.
But what the real beef we’ll never know as Taft remained silent to the grave on the matter and only wished his mentor the best. A class act.
The campaign was bitterly fought, but with the Republican Party divided, the progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson captured the presidency handily. TR felt he had lost to a clone of himself; Wilson ran his game and said often “I would have had a sporting chance if the Democrats had put up a reactionary candidate.”
Although he failed to become chief executive again, Roosevelt received twenty-seven percent against Taft’s twenty-three percent in what many political analysts claim was a scorched earth campaign and while TR never proved any claims, nonetheless Taft was forever running a defensive game.
Wilson ran for two terms and in the second brought in the woman vote, he died in 1924 outliving his successor Warren Harding who died in office. Taft went onto the Supreme Court as Chief Justice and stayed there for years before dying on March 8, 1930 and TR? He went home to Oyster Bay, helped with the WWI effort, and died January 6, 1919 from a blood clot in his veins. He was 60 years old.