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The Election of 1912 and the Bull Moose Party

by Amos Cooper, published

This election cycle marks the 100 year anniversary of the historic election of 1912 presidential election. But wait a second, why does this election stand out so much? Well it wasn't your typical two-way race between the Democrats and Republicans. This time around it was a three-way race between the incumbent and Republican William H. Taft, the Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, and Teddy Roosevelt of the Bull Moose party.

So you're probably wondering how did something like this happen? Teddy Roosevelt served as the President of the United States for two terms from 1901 to 1909. Roosevelt was revered as a leader of The Progressive Movement and during his presidency was known for his ideals that the government should be the judge of the conflicting economic sources in the Nation, particularly capital and labor. He was also known for passing laws that regulated business and busted monopolies.

By the end of his presidency Roosevelt was satisfied with his accomplishments and named William H. Taft as his successor. Taft won the 1908 election by a landslide and Roosevelt went off to Africa on a safari. Unfortunately Taft did not live up to Roosevelt's expectations and upon his return in the election of 1912, Roosevelt sought the Republican nomination only to have it denied. In response Roosevelt organized his Progressive Party more commonly known as the Bull Moose party.

Now at this point it was clear to the Democrats that the split in the Republican party would mean almost total victory for them. The only question was who to choose as a candidate. It was ultimately decided that Woodrow Wilson would be chosen following his endorsement by the influential William Jennings Bryan.

Now that the stage was set, it was time for the theatrics to begin. Both Wilson and Roosevelt sought much of the public's attention. Roosevelt and Wilson were progressives, however, Wilson was more moderate and Roosevelt was more liberal. Wilson called for a “New Freedom” which advocated antimonopoly legislation and a return to small business. Roosevelt on the other hand called for New Nationalism in which the government had strong regulatory powers. Taft was mostly left out of the spotlight.

In the end, it was Wilson who was elected as the 28th President of the United States. It's interesting, however, to think about what would have happened to both the United States and our election process had Roosevelt been elected. Would being a third party have more viability? It's definitely possible. There hasn't been an election since 1912 that has broken the typical Republican vs. Democrat election cycle. It could happen soon though. Something interesting to note: the state of Colorado has seen an increase in registered independent voters since the 2008 election and little to no increase in registered Democrats and Republicans. Former Governor Angus King of Maine is also running very favorably as an independent candidate for his state's senate seat. Recent trends suggest Roosevelt's independent spirit may not be lost just yet.

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