1912 US Presidential Election

A hundred years ago three Presidents faced off in one of the most divisive elections in our country’s history.

The incumbent President William Howard Taft and his VP **James Sherman **(later replaced by Nicholas Murray Butler after Sherman’s death) was running on the Republican ticket after having beat off a challenge at the Convention in Chicago by former President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt formed his own party, the Progressives and was nominated for President with Hiram Johnson as his running mate.

Meanwhile the Democrats had nominated Woodrow Wilson the governor of New Jersey and a Princeton professor and Thomas R Marshall as his running mate. The steadily growing Socialists ran Eugene V Debs and Emil Seidel. Among the minor parties the Prohibitonists ran Eugene W Chafin and Aaron S Watkins while the Socialist Labour Party ran Arthur E Reimer and August Gillhaus.

Who would you have cast a vote for in 1912?

Interesting question. From my perspective in the here and now, with the benefit of hindsight, I voted for Roosevelt. He made some very good moves as president, and doubtless could have made a few more in another term.

Envisioning myself as an actual real-time voter of that era puts things in a different perspective. The era of 1880 - 1920 is a particular interest of mine. In all the reading I’ve done, my sympathy has always leaned toward the interests of labor. Had I been alive then, I’d probably have been an advocate of Gene Debs.

TR might have been the most dangerous person in the history of the US to have in the White House during WWI. Not only was he beholden to banking interests, he was an egotistical madman with no respect for limits on presidential power.

Wilson was his soulmate in his ideological opposition to a restrained executive, but he was not as charismatic (that’s a good thing). Wilson’s presidency was a disaster. From his support of the Federal Reserve Act and income tax, to his desperation to join WWI and subsequent bungling of the Treaty of Versailles, Wilson was an enemy to American liberty.

Taft was owned by the banks. Debs spoke out against the war and supported the working man (even if he was misguided) so he would have got my vote with the benefit of hindsight.

Over the past four years, the nation has moved from triumph to triumph. Need I trumpet the accomplishments of this great nation since the beginning of the Taft presidency? They are plain to see. The Interstate Commerce Commission has been reformed to help lower railroad rates. The Justice Department continues and expands its effort against those corporations who have engaged in unlawful combinations that are harmful to the public interest. The method of appointing judges has been reformed so that qualified men may come onto the bench, rather than those who are the tools of patronage and interest, and laws have been put in place requiring that those who contribute money to candidates put their donations on the record.

The Federal budgeting process has been reformed, and committees established to review and cut wasteful spending. We have put into place a tax on corporate incomes and even now the proposal for an amendment to allow a personal income tax is on its way through the states, two tools that will help put this country on a sound financial footing. We have introduced a protective tariff, to help American manufacturers and develop domestic industry.

The Taft administration has worked for the cause of civil rights for all Americans, resisting any attempts to legislate discrimination into law.

Internationally, we have expanded our influence over Central America, providing a system of loans and grants to those countries to help improve their financial standing and to act as good neighbors. We have lowered trade barriers with Canada, and are working towards a system of international arbitration and an International Court of Justice to allow negotiation to replace war as a method for settling disputes.

We have helped America’s veterans by increasing benefits to aged, ill, and wounded veterans and their widows. We have admitted Arizona and New Mexico into the Union, so that now, our continental territory is complete.

For these reasons, I urge you to support a second Taft administration.

:confused: The “banking interests” are/were . . . not what you seem to think they are/were.

T.R. is my favorite President so I can’t vote for anyone other than him. I do think Taft is sort of unfairly maligned, though. Taft actually had a good Presidency and followed good policies. Some of the stuff Roosevelt was especially lauded for, Taft actually pursued with more vigor (there was significantly more trust busting during Taft’s four years than during Roosevelt’s eight, but Roosevelt is sort of known as the trust busting President.)

Interesting that a Libertarian/Jeffersonian is voting for the Socialist… After all President Debs wouldn’t have gone even further than a mere income tax.

It’s a weak field. It’s more of a protest vote really. If avoiding involvement in WWI was at all possible (I believe it was), only Debs would have done it.

I would have liked to see a Roosevelt victory simply on the basis of overturning the party system at the time, which was very unresponsive to actual ideological issues. A successful Bull Moose Party would have been based on ideology alone instead of the long-lived demographic baggage leading back to the Civil War that mostly delineated the two major partys’ supporters. As it was, the parties didn’t end up mostly aligned along ideological lines until the 1930’s and the process wasn’t really complete until the 60’s (or even arguably the Reagan years).

The Progressives couldn’t govern on their own, even with the presidency, so they would have had to form a coalition with one of the major parties. I think this would have had the effect of unequivocally selecting one party as the progressive-leaning one and the other as the conservative party, decades before that actually came to pass. The Progressive party itself would probably then die out, but it would bring to an early end to the post-Civil War period of politics that were more concerned with power politics and spoils than actual issues of substance.

Wilson kept us out of war for the term we’re voting on here. You could totally wait until the 2016 election to put in a candidate for peace.

War? Why this talk of war? The President kept us out of war with Mexico, by wisely refraining from sending troops into Mexico in spite of the fact that the fighting spilled over into Arizona. And the Administration peacefully settled the Honduran crisis. It’s true we’ve sent Marines into Nicaragua to protect the railway there, but that moderate and non-belligerent policy was done strictly at the request of the government there.

Meanwhile, if you want to get rid of war, vote Republican, for the administration pledges itself towards the establishment of an International Court of Justice that will make war obsolete.

In fact, according to It Didn’t Happen Here, by Martin Lipset, the young Socialist Party of America (which included a lot of German-Americans at the time) did come out against America entering the war – and when America did get into the war, that “unpatriotic” position really hurt the party’s image and popularity and prospects – it never recovered.

Wilson had some great ideas, but unfortunately he never had a realistic notion of just what he would and would not be able to accomplish, and so ended up accomplishing almost nothing. So in hindsight, I would prefer Roosevelt.

If I were alive at the time, though, I probably would have voted for Wilson, since education is my #1 priority issue, and I would tend to trust an academic on that.

I would disagree with you on Wilson accomplishing nothing.

Who knows what would have happened if Wilson wasn’t agitating against Germany. While Germany was crippled by a starvation blockade, they were forced to resort to unrestricted sub warfare. They issued a warning to Americans traveling abroad that ships like the Lusitania would be sank. Wilson thought it reasonable to insist Americans had the right to travel on belligerent ships carrying war material during the war.

They were unresponsive because they were in the pocket of the same interests. Roosevelt was controlled by Morgan interests as well.

Oh, come on! When was Germany ever unable to grow enough food at home to feed its people? Japan had (still has) that problem, but Germany never did.

Ideology?! I thought the Bull Moose Party was based on TR alone – like the Reform Party was based on Ross Perot alone (Perot fiercely resisted any efforts to develop it into anything else, which is why it ain’t around any more).

424,000 dead from starvation.

We’d learn too late that Taft lied to Roosevelt about sharing his vision for preserving the “American wild” for the people. So, Roosevelt gets my vote if only to take away from Taft.

I voted for Roosevelt, mostly because Wilson was kind of useless and very definitely a racist. Not that most of his contemporaries weren’t, but Roosevelt at least appointed blacks and Jews to federal offices.

Yeah, that made me chuckle.

America can be proud that President Taft, mindful of the federal government’s role to preserve the wild, established by proclamation Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah, the Colorado National Monument in Colorado, and the Devils Postpile National Monument in California, and took a leading role in convincing Congress to pass the Weeks Act, allowing the Federal government to protect watersheds and prevent fires in America’s forests. President Taft is also proud that he has added thousands of acres of wilderness to the reserves, and has also appointed Henry Graves as Chief Forester, replacing the former Chief Forester, named by the previous administration, who chose, rather than do his duty, to stir up scurrilous rumors against the Secretary of the Interior; charges of which the Secretary has been cleared in every particular.