Exam preparation materials

THE 1912 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

By early 1912 Theodore Roosevelt decided that the policies of President Taft were not progressive enough and announced he was running for president. The single event that several biographers say pushed Roosevelt to run was the decision of Taft to go after United States Steel because it had purchased Tennessee Coal and Iron back in 1907. Taft knew that Roosevelt had personally approved this deal. As might be expected, Taft’s followers controlled the Republican party machinery, thus allowing Taft to easily win the 1912 Republican nomination.

Roosevelt’s followers marched out of the Chicago convention site, proclaimed themselves to be the Progressive party, and nominated Roosevelt for president (with California’s progressive governor Hiram Johnson as his running mate). This party soon became known as the Bull Moose party. Its platform included many progressive causes, including the elimination of child labor, suffrage for women, and an eight-hour workday. Many women supported the Bull Moose party; in several states where women had the vote, women ran for local offices as members of the party.

The beneficiary of the split in the Republican party was the Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey. Wilson also campaigned as a progressive, although in his platform, called the New Freedom policy, he also cautioned against big government. Wilson argued that government was wrong to concentrate on regulating big monopolies; instead, government should be trying to break them up. Wilson won the election, but only received 42 percent of the popular vote. Roosevelt received 27 percent and Taft only 23 percent. It should also be noted that Eugene Debs ran as a candidate of the Socialist party and received 6 percent of the votes. The political will of the times is easily shown in this election: The three candidates openly calling for progressive policies (Wilson, Roosevelt, and Debs) received 75 percent of the popular vote.

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