During this first week of party conventions, let’s look at a unique Republican, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909) and, later, the founder of the Progressive Bull Moose Party. If you’re in New York, check out the exhibition running until September 9 at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (28 East 20th Street) titled “TR in ’12 – The Story of the Campaign of 1912.” It has been organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Association, directed by the former Society of Illustrators director Terry Brown, and curated by Rick Marschal and Gregory A. Wynn.
The campaign of 1912—100 years ago—was one of the most unique in America’s history: It pitted the former President against his friend and successor, President William Howard Taft, on the floor of the Republican convention. TR believed that Taft, whom he had supported as an anti-trust progressive, was not progressive enough in his tepid stand against the big monopolies or trusts. A raging battle of beliefs and politics ensued. Roosevelt founded a new party, based on his statement “I am sound as a Moose,” called the Bull Moose Party, hoping to unseat the incumbent and regain the presidency. TR’s goal was to: “To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. . .” He said: “This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.”
Roosevelt was extremely popular with the public, but most Republican politicians and party leaders supported Taft, and this proved difficult to beat in terms of accruing enough delegates.