Teddy Roosevelt splits GOP apart

Posted by John Kanelis on

Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president, didn't take well to those who didn't see the world the way he saw it.

He served nearly two full terms as president, leaving office in 1909. He helped select his succesor, William Howard Taft. The plan was for Roosevelt to go quietly -- for him -- into retirement.

Then something happened, or perhaps didn't happen, that upset the former president.

President Taft began to preside over a drift in Republican orthodoxy.

Roosevelt thought government should play a larger role in shaping people's lives. He used government as a cudgel to bust up monopolies. Taft continued Roosevelt's fight against monopolies, but his tariff and environmental policies angered progressives within the Republican Party.

Roosevelt was one of them and he would have none of it. He became so upset over the direction his successor had set out for the country under the Republican banner, that he launched a full-scale political rebellion.

He ran for president under a progressive political standard. Roosevelt called his movement the Bull Moose Party, which is quite fitting, given Roosevelt's own aggressive nature.

"The Fire of Life" is the latest installment of historian Ken Burns's "The Roosevelts," which airs Tuesday night at 7 on Panhandle PBS.

The Bull Moose movement didn't bode well for the Republican Party. It split the GOP vote in 1912 and, in effect, handed the election to a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

This is just a hunch, but I'd be willing to bet that Teddy Roosevelt didn't lose much sleep over contributing to Taft's defeat in 1912. Roosevelt stood for something, whether you agreed with him or not.

Teddy Roosevelt lived just seven years past the 1912 election, dying at a young age. He gave it all he had while he was among us. His life certanly did burn with a fire.

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