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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country

Tekijä: James Chace

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
3911365,281 (3.61)28
Publisher's description: Four extraordinary men sought the presidency in 1912. Theodore Roosevelt was the charismatic and still wildly popular former president who sought to redirect the Republican Party toward a more nationalistic, less materialistic brand of conservatism and the cause of social justice. His handpicked successor and close friend, William Howard Taft, was a reluctant politician whose sole ambition was to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Amiable and easygoing, Taft was the very opposite of the restless Roosevelt. After Taft failed to carry forward his predecessor's reformist policies, an embittered Roosevelt decided to challenge Taft for the party's nomination. Thwarted by a convention controlled by Taft, Roosevelt abandoned the GOP and ran in the general election as the candidate of a third party of his own creation, the Bull Moose Progressives. Woodrow Wilson, the former president of Princeton University, astonished everyone by seizing the Democratic nomination from the party bosses who had made him New Jersey's governor. A noted political theorist, he was a relative newcomer to the practice of governing, torn between his fear of radical reform and his belief in limited government. The fourth candidate, labor leader Eugene V. Debs, had run for president on the Socialist ticket twice before. A fervent warrior in the cause of economic justice for the laboring class, he was a force to be reckoned with in the great debate over how to mitigate the excesses of industrial capitalism that was at the heart of the 1912 election. Chace recounts all the excitement and pathos of a singular moment in American history: the crucial primaries, the Republicans' bitter nominating convention that forever split the party, Wilson's stunning victory on the forty-sixth ballot at the Democratic convention, Roosevelt's spectacular coast-to-coast whistle-stop electioneering, Taft's stubborn refusal to fight back against his former mentor, Debs's electrifying campaign appearances, and Wilson's "accidental election" by less than a majority of the popular vote. Had Roosevelt received the Republican nomination, he almost surely would have been elected president once again and the Republicans would likely have become a party of reform. Instead, the GOP passed into the hands of a conservative ascendancy that reached its fullness with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and the party remains to this day riven by the struggle between reform and reaction, isolationism and internationalism. The 1912 presidential contest was the first since the days of Jefferson and Hamilton in which the great question of America's exceptional destiny was debated. 1912 changed America.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 13) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
The presidential election of 1912 was unique in American history, with four popular and viable candidates for office. The candidates were former president Theodore Roosevelt; sitting president William Taft; eventual winner and future president, Woodrow Wilson; and Eugene Debs, who earned the highest percentage of the electorate of any Socialist Party candidate.

When the election was over Wilson took the presidency. He became the only Democrat to serve as president between 1892 and 1932.

The Republicans, after owning the presidency for the past twenty years, were divided. Roosevelt, known to all as TR, had made his mark as president with a progressive agenda. He was disappointed that his hand-picked successor Taft had let the conservative Republican Congress run things. Roosevelt felt he could not in good conscience support Taft for a second term and threw his own hat in the ring.

When Taft outmaneuvered TR for the nomination at the Republican convention Roosevelt struck out on his own and formed the Progressive Party. With TR as it's presidential candidate, it became better known as the Bull Moose party.

Eugene Debs meanwhile, was the perennial candidate for the Socialist Party. But he was also a well respected labor leader and political activist. His candidacy rose in the wave of popularity for the progressive ideas he had long championed. Unfortunately for him, Roosevelt and Wilson took many of his ideas and incorporated them into their own platforms.

In 1912 author James Chace spends as much time on the biographies of the four candidates as he does on the presidential race. Thus, with five story threads to cover in less than 300 pages the book is more atmospheric than it is thorough. He succeeds mostly in giving a good sense of who the four candidates were.

Wilson and Roosevelt play the lead roles in the book. Wilson rose from the presidency of Princeton to the presidency of the United States. Much of his success came when he turned on the political bosses who had supported his run for the governorship of New Jersey. That turn solidified Wilson’s progressive credentials, so important to the 1912 campaign. Still, it took 46 rounds of voting for him to win the nomination at the Democratic convention.

Wilson depended on a “Southern strategy” to get and keep the White House. As a southerner himself he believed in the separation of the races. African Americans saw him as a white supremacist, and he showed them to be right by bringing Jim Crow rules into Federal jobs. He was not particularly fond of immigrants from Eastern Europe either. That issue caused him problems during the 1912 campaign, when he was forced to disown some of his documented statements on immigration.

TR had been unable to see Taft’s presidency as anything other than a poor reflection on him and a threat to his legacy. This blinded him to the potential for working with Taft to put himself back into the Republican nominee role. Instead TR antagonised the President, and forced Taft to run against him for the nomination.

Taft, you see, had never wanted to be president to begin with, being pushed into it by Roosevelt and his ambitious wife. After he lost the presidency in 1912 he finally got his wish to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was nominated to the post by President Harding in 1921. Taft is the only person to have ever been President and Chief Justice.

It is Debs who comes off as the most “modern” of the four. It's his progressive agenda that finally flourished under FDR during the Great Depression. Sadly, Debs didn’t live to see it.

The first decades of the twentieth century in America are a fascinating time. So much change was in the air. 1912 works best as a summary of the four men and their presidential race. It doesn’t go far beyond the summary level to put the race into the context of those times. If you are interested in the timeframe, or in presidential politics, it is a good starting point, but for me it’s a Two Star ⭐⭐ read. ( )
1 ääni stevesbookstuff | Dec 28, 2021 |
An unfortunately poorly written book about a fascinating cast of characters: Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, and William Howard Taft. The writing is labored, the political issues are poorly explained, and few of the interesting stories are exploited, e.g. Wilson's adulterous love affair. This s not a book I would recommend to others. ( )
  wildh2o | Jul 10, 2021 |
James Chace had an opportunity to tell a great story with his accounting of the Presidential election of 1912. Four very interesting men ran during a time when the US political landscape was changing and some very modern ideas were coming into play - things we take for granted today like an 8 hour workday, minimum wage, food and drug safety protections, regulation of businesses. After all, we had Taft and Teddy Roosevelt splitting the party, Wilson battling the Democratic party bosses, and the peak of the Socialist Party influence with Eugene Debs.

Unfortunately, Chace's retelling is only adequate. He's concise and moves the story along, but never seems to make the people come alive. I can't really recommend the book except to those studying the politics and political maneuvering of the era. ( )
2 ääni drneutron | Oct 1, 2011 |
In 1912, the political landscape of the United States was fracturing at the party level. President William Taft, the conservative republican incumbent, had only ever wanted to be on the Supreme Court, but was hand-picked by his progressive predecessor Theodore Roosevelt for the nation’s top office. Two years before, a political disagreement between the two led to internal strife in the GOP. The split led Roosevelt to run from his own party, the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party. Meanwhile, the Democratic Convention saw New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson emerge as the candidate after 46 ballots. Lastly, the Socialist candidate Eugene Debs joined the fray. James Chace’s 1912 is a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Chace's comprehensive account of the election of 1912 between the title characters is interesting in its own right. While the stage contains many, many more characters (each of which get their own mini-biographies in the book), these four are the ones that everyone remembers (although Debs may be a bit of a stretch). Interestingly enough, Wilson managed to win the Electoral College without a majority of the popular vote. The book is not as exciting as one would hope, and the story is communicated with only a modicum of elegance (which is probably as much as can be conveyed in a book about an election). Political scholars should explore this account, but I found it to be slightly wanting in some areas. A middling-well book. ( )
1 ääni NielsenGW | Aug 15, 2009 |
A wonderful romp through one of the greatest political years in American history. A look at three great presidential characters, in an electoral match-up that I do not think could ever be repeated---a three way race for the presidency where all three are presidents!
1 ääni lesserbrain | May 29, 2009 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 13) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (5)

Publisher's description: Four extraordinary men sought the presidency in 1912. Theodore Roosevelt was the charismatic and still wildly popular former president who sought to redirect the Republican Party toward a more nationalistic, less materialistic brand of conservatism and the cause of social justice. His handpicked successor and close friend, William Howard Taft, was a reluctant politician whose sole ambition was to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Amiable and easygoing, Taft was the very opposite of the restless Roosevelt. After Taft failed to carry forward his predecessor's reformist policies, an embittered Roosevelt decided to challenge Taft for the party's nomination. Thwarted by a convention controlled by Taft, Roosevelt abandoned the GOP and ran in the general election as the candidate of a third party of his own creation, the Bull Moose Progressives. Woodrow Wilson, the former president of Princeton University, astonished everyone by seizing the Democratic nomination from the party bosses who had made him New Jersey's governor. A noted political theorist, he was a relative newcomer to the practice of governing, torn between his fear of radical reform and his belief in limited government. The fourth candidate, labor leader Eugene V. Debs, had run for president on the Socialist ticket twice before. A fervent warrior in the cause of economic justice for the laboring class, he was a force to be reckoned with in the great debate over how to mitigate the excesses of industrial capitalism that was at the heart of the 1912 election. Chace recounts all the excitement and pathos of a singular moment in American history: the crucial primaries, the Republicans' bitter nominating convention that forever split the party, Wilson's stunning victory on the forty-sixth ballot at the Democratic convention, Roosevelt's spectacular coast-to-coast whistle-stop electioneering, Taft's stubborn refusal to fight back against his former mentor, Debs's electrifying campaign appearances, and Wilson's "accidental election" by less than a majority of the popular vote. Had Roosevelt received the Republican nomination, he almost surely would have been elected president once again and the Republicans would likely have become a party of reform. Instead, the GOP passed into the hands of a conservative ascendancy that reached its fullness with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and the party remains to this day riven by the struggle between reform and reaction, isolationism and internationalism. The 1912 presidential contest was the first since the days of Jefferson and Hamilton in which the great question of America's exceptional destiny was debated. 1912 changed America.

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