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Progressivism and the Presidential Election of 1912

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The presidential election of 1912 was the most Progressive in US history, with the two frontrunners, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, both espousing Progressive philosophies. Although both Wilson and Roosevelt were Progressive, their attitudes toward Progressivism differed, at least in theory. I need to write a paper that will provide an opportunity to review the complex nature of Progressivism, and to explore how presidents' policies while in office often differ from their rhetoric on the campaign trail.

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Progressivism and the presidential election of 1912 is examined.

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1912 Presidential Election

Progressive President Theodore Roosevelt had declined to run for re-election in 1908 in fulfillment of a pledge to the American people not to seek a second full term. Roosevelt's first term as president (1901-1905) was incomplete, as he succeeded to the office upon the assassination of William McKinley. It was a second term (195-1909) that he finished the four year term. He had tapped Secretary of War William Howard Taft, his secretary of War, to become his successor as President, and Taft had gone on to defeat Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the general election.

During Taft's administration, a split grew between Roosevelt and Taft as they became the leaders of the Republican Party's two wings. The progressives, led by Roosevelt, and the conservatives, led by Taft created the conflict. The progressive Republicans favored restrictions on the employment of women and children, favored conservation, and were more sympathetic toward labor unions. The progressives were also in favor of the popular election of federal and state judges and opposed to having judges appointed by the president or state governors. The progressives were a political movement that was a reaction to the issues created by the factories and the industrial revolution (Sturns, 1986). They support the individual and the free reign of capitalism as well as attacking business groups such as trusts and bosses. Trusts were a combination of either all the companies in an industry or the control of the processes of production. The progressives felt that it placed too much control in the hands of the rich.
William Howard Taft approved of high tariffs(tax on goods from other countries) on imported goods to encourage consumers to buy American-made products (as did most progressives), favored business leaders over labor unions, and was generally opposed to the popular election of judges. By 1910 the split between the two wings of the Republican Party was deep, and this, in turn, caused Roosevelt and Taft to turn against one another, despite their personal friendship. Taft's popularity among Progressives officially collapsed when Taft supported the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act in 1909, abandoning Roosevelt's anti-trust policy and fired conservationist Gifford Pinchot as head of the Bureau of Forestry in 1910. Pinchot had been hired by Theodore Roosevelt during his presidency.
Nominations(Gould Louis, 1998)

For the first time significant numbers of delegates to the national conventions were elected in presidential preference primaries, because of innovations from the progressives' factions. Primary elections were advocated by the progressive faction in the Republican Party, which wanted to break the control of political parties by bosses. City bosses were individual men who dominated political parties. Altogether, twelve states held Republican primaries. Robert M. La Follett, the Wisconsin Senator, won two of the first four primaries (North Dakota and Wisconsin). Beginning with his runaway victory in Illinois on April 9, however, Roosevelt won nine of the last ten presidential primaries (in order, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oregon, Maryland, California, Ohio, New Jersey, and South Dakota), losing only Massachusetts to Taft. Roosevelt even carried Taft's home state of Ohio.

The Republican Convention was gathered in Chicago from June 18 to June 22. However, Taft, had begun to group his own delegates, who were not chosen in the primaries earlier, and the Rooselvelt delegates chosen in the primaries were a minority. Taft had the support of the majority of the Republican party organizations from the Southern states. These states had voted solidly Democratic in every presidential election since 1880, and Roosevelt objected that they were given one-quarter of the delegates when they would contribute nothing to a Republican victory (as it turned out, delegates from the former Confederate states supported Taft by a 5 to 1 margin). When the convention gathered, Roosevelt challenged the credentials of nearly half of ...

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