Let the People Rule tells the exhilarating story of the four-month campaign that changed American politics forever. In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his close friend and handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican Party nomination.Read more...
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Let the People Rule tells the exhilarating story of the four-month campaign that changed American politics forever. In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his close friend and handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican Party nomination. To overcome the power of the incumbent, TR seized on the idea of presidential primaries, telling bosses everywhere to "Let the People Rule." The cheers and jeers of rowdy supporters and detractors echo from Geoffrey Cowan's pages as he explores TR's fight-to-the-finish battle to win popular support. After sweeping nine out of thirteen primaries, he felt entitled to the nomination. But the party bosses proved too powerful, leading Roosevelt to walk out of the convention and create a new political party of his own.
Using a trove of newly discovered documents, Cowan takes readers inside the colorful, dramatic, and often mean-spirited campaign, describing the political machinations and intrigue and painting indelible portraits of its larger-than-life characters. But Cowan also exposes the more unsavory parts of TR's campaign: seamy backroom deals, bribes made in TR's name during the Republican Convention, and then the shocking political calculation that led TR to ban any black delegates from the Deep South from his new "Bull Moose Party."
In this utterly compelling work, Cowan illuminates lessons of the past that have great resonance for American politics today.
- ISBN-13: 9780393249842
- ISBN-10: 0393249840
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
- Publish Date: January 2016
- Page Count: 424
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-23
- Reviewer: Staff
In this timely, engaging story of Teddy Roosevelts role in changing how political parties choose their presidential nominees, Cowan (The People v. Clarence Darrow), director of the Annenberg Schools Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of Southern California, presents the 26th president as a conflicted, reluctant champion of popular democracy. Roosevelt served nearly two full terms as president (19019) before taking a hiatus from politics. Friends and supporters urged him to run again in 1912 to keep the Republican Party on a reformist course. However, Roosevelts personally groomed successor, William Howard Taft, refused to give up hopes for a second term, setting the stage for a fight at the nominating convention. Roosevelt knew he had to capitalize on his popularity, so the manner of choosing delegates and who they represented was critically important to securing the nomination. Cowan writes with a Rooseveltian verve, focusing on the political processes without losing sight of the major personalities who were involved as Roosevelt, Taft, and Robert La Follette jockeyed for the 1912 nomination. He also portrays Roosevelt as an opportunist who manipulated race and gender issues to further his candidacy. Roosevelt introduced an important change to the nominating process, but Cowan shows that it cost him and the Republicans the White House. Illus. (Jan.)
Political mudslinging in the U.S.A.
Here we are, well into the campaign for the 2016 presidential primaries, complete with televised debates, Twitter feuds and weekly sendups on “Saturday Night Live.” And who knew we had Theodore Roosevelt to thank for all this?
Such education comes courtesy of Geoffrey Cowan in Let the People Rule, an entertaining account of how Roosevelt and his minions created and benefited from 13 primaries in the run-up to the 1912 presidential election—an election in which Woodrow Wilson ultimately prevailed over incumbent William Howard Taft and a back-from-retirement Roosevelt.
Roosevelt battled Taft’s entrenched forces for the Republican nomination, championing “the right of the people to rule.” His success in the primaries made life difficult for Taft right up to the party’s convention in Chicago, but Taft’s network was too much to overcome. That’s when Roosevelt’s supporters famously walked out and had a convention of their own.
Roosevelt admirers looking for a love letter to their hero had best look elsewhere, though. As Cowan makes clear, Roosevelt’s No. 1 objective was returning to the presidency, and he was willing to do anything to achieve that goal, such as repeatedly denying the rights of African Americans from the Deep South.
Roosevelt’s charismatic personality notwithstanding, the real stars of Let the People Rule are the political operators—like the reporter who doubled as a campaign strategist or the clandestine organizer of a “draft Roosevelt” campaign that even Roosevelt’s daughter called “somewhat cooked.”
It wasn’t pretty, but that’s politics—then and now.