I. The “Bull Moose” Campaign of 1912
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.
, 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 liberal
In 1912, in Baltimore, the Democrats nominated Wilson on the 46th ballot, after
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.
At the Progressive convention,
’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 Howard 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 “
” and Wilson’s “
” became the key issues.
Roosevelt’s New Nationalism was inspired by Herbert Croly’s
The Promise of American
(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.
II. Woodrow Wilson: A 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%)!
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.
III. Wilson: The Idealist in Politics
Woodrow Wilson was a sympathizer with the South, a fine orator, a sincere and morally appealing
politician, and a very intelligent man.