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. 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 liberal measures.
In 1912, in Baltimore, the Democrats nominated Wilson on the 46th
ballot, after William Jennings Bryan swung his support over to
The Democratic ticket would run under a platform called “New Freedom,” which would
include many progressive reforms.
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
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”
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%)!