Chapter 32 ~ Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad ~ 1912 – 1916
I. The Emergence of Dr. Thomas Woodrow Wilson
With the Republican party split wide open, the Democrats sensed that they could win the presidency for
the first time in 16 years.
One possible candidate was Dr. Woodrow Wilson, a once-mild conservative but now militant
progressive who had been the president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey (where
he didn’t permit himself to be controlled by the bosses), and had attacked trusts and passed
In 1912, in Baltimore, the Democrats nominated Wilson on the 46th ballot, after William
Jennings Bryan swung his support over to Wilson’s side.
The Democratic ticket would run under a platform called “New Freedom,” which would
include many progressive reforms.
II. The “Bull Moose” Campaign of 1912
At the Progressive convention, Jane Addams put Theodore Roosevelt’s name on the nomination, and as
TR spoke, he ignited an almost-religious spirit in the crowd.
TR got the Progressive nomination, and entering the campaign, TR said that he felt “as strong as
a bull moose,” making that animal the unofficial Progressive symbol.
Republican William Taft and TR tore into each other, as the former friends now ripped every aspect of
each other’s platforms and personalities.
Meanwhile, TR’s “New Nationalism” and Wilson’s “New Freedom” became the key issues.
Roosevelt’s New Nationalism was inspired by Herbert Croly’s The Promise of American Life
(1910), and it stated that the government should control the bad trusts, leaving the good trusts
alone and free to operate.
TR also campaigned for female suffrage and a broad program of social welfare, such as
minimum-wage laws and “socialistic” social insurance.
Wilson’s New Freedom favored small enterprise, desired to break up all trusts—not just the bad
ones—and basically shunned social-welfare proposals.
The campaign was stopped when Roosevelt was shot in the chest in Milwaukee, but he delivered his
speech anyway, was rushed to the hospital, and recovered in two weeks.
III. Woodrow Wilson: Minority President
With the Republicans split, Woodrow Wilson easily won with 435 Electoral votes, while TR had 88 and
Taft only had 8. But, the Democrats did not receive the majority of the popular vote (only 41%)!
Socialist Eugene V. Debs racked up over 900,000 popular votes, while the combined popular totals of
TR and Taft exceeded Wilson. Essentially, TR’s participation had cost the Republicans the election.
William Taft would later become the only U.S. president to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, when he was nominated in 1921.
IV. Wilson: The Idealist in Politics