"The best new discussion of the primary system." —Jill Lepore, author of These Truths
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination. TR seized on the campaign theme “Let the People Rule”—a cry echoed in today’s elections—and through the course of his run helped create thirteen new primaries. Though he won most of the primaries, party bosses proved too powerful, and Roosevelt walked out of the convention to create his own Bull Moose Party—only to make the shocking political calculation to ban black delegates from his new coalition. In Let the People Rule, Geoffrey Cowan takes readers inside the dramatic campaign that changed American politics forever.
In this timely, engaging story of Teddy Roosevelt's role in changing how political parties choose their presidential nominees, Cowan (The People v. Clarence Darrow), director of the Annenberg School's Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of Southern California, presents the 26th president as a conflicted, reluctant champion of popular democracy. Roosevelt served nearly two full terms as president (1901 9) before taking a hiatus from politics. Friends and supporters urged him to run again in 1912 to keep the Republican Party on a reformist course. However, Roosevelt's personally groomed successor, William Howard Taft, refused to give up hopes for a second term, setting the stage for a fight at the nominating convention. Roosevelt knew he had to capitalize on his popularity, so the manner of choosing delegates and who they represented was critically important to securing the nomination. Cowan writes with a Rooseveltian verve, focusing on the political processes without losing sight of the major personalities who were involved as Roosevelt, Taft, and Robert La Follette jockeyed for the 1912 nomination. He also portrays Roosevelt as an opportunist who manipulated race and gender issues to further his candidacy. Roosevelt introduced an important change to the nominating process, but Cowan shows that it cost him and the Republicans the White House. Illus.