The exhilarating, prescient story of the four-month campaign that changed American politics forever.
Let the People Rule tells the exhilarating story of the four-month campaign that changed American politics forever. In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his close friend and handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican Party nomination. To overcome the power of the incumbent, TR seized on the idea of presidential primaries, telling bosses everywhere to “Let the People Rule.” The cheers and jeers of rowdy supporters and detractors echo from Geoffrey Cowan’s pages as he explores TR’s fight-to-the-finish battle to win popular support. After sweeping nine out of thirteen primaries, he felt entitled to the nomination. But the party bosses proved too powerful, leading Roosevelt to walk out of the convention and create a new political party of his own.
Using a trove of newly discovered documents, Cowan takes readers inside the colorful, dramatic, and often mean-spirited campaign, describing the political machinations and intrigue and painting indelible portraits of its larger-than-life characters. But Cowan also exposes the more unsavory parts of TR’s campaign: seamy backroom deals, bribes made in TR’s name during the Republican Convention, and then the shocking political calculation that led TR to ban any black delegates from the Deep South from his new “Bull Moose Party.”
In this utterly compelling work, Cowan illuminates lessons of the past that have great resonance for American politics today.
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.