I. The “Bull Moose” Campaign of 1912
With the Republican party split wide open, the Democrats sensedthat they could win the
presidency for the first time in 16 years.
One possible candidate was Dr. Woodrow Wilson, a once-mildconservative
but now militant progressive who had been the president ofPrinceton University,
governor of New Jersey (where he didn’tpermit himself to be controlled by the bosses),
and had attacked trustsand passed liberal measures.
In 1912, in Baltimore, the Democrats nominated Wilson on the 46thballot,
after William Jennings Bryan swung his support over toWilson’s side.
The Democratic ticket would run under a platform called “New Freedom,”
which would include many progressive reforms.
At the Progressive convention, Jane Addams put TheodoreRoosevelt’s name on the
nomination, and as TR spoke, he ignitedan almost-religious spirit in the crowd.
TR got the Progressive nomination, and entering the campaign, TRsaid that
he felt “as strong as a bull moose,” making thatanimal the unofficial Progressive symbol.
Republican William Taft and TR tore into each other, as the formerfriends now ripped
every aspect of each other’s platforms andpersonalities.
Meanwhile, TR’s “New Nationalism” and Wilson’s “New Freedom” became the key
Roosevelt’s New Nationalism was inspired by HerbertCroly’s The Promise of
American Life (1910), and it stated thatthe government should control the bad trusts,
leaving the good trustsalone 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 tobreak up all trusts
—not just the bad ones—and basicallyshunned social-welfare proposals.
The campaign was stopped when Roosevelt was shot in the chest inMilwaukee, but he
delivered his speech anyway, was rushed to thehospital, and recovered in two weeks.
II. Woodrow Wilson: A Minority President
With the Republicans split, Woodrow Wilson easily won with 435Electoral votes,
while TR had 88 and Taft only had 8. But, theDemocrats 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 theelection.
William Taft would later become the only U.S. president to beappointed Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, when he was nominated in1921.
III. Wilson: The Idealist in Politics
Woodrow Wilson was a sympathizer with the South, a fine orator, asincere and
morally appealing politician, and a very intelligent man.