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Editorial Comment

June 21, 2017

“[The President-elect] is a clean, learned, honorable, and patriotic man, and the country had better risk the dangers of the economic policy for which his party stands than return to power ‘the great personality’ insane with ambition and heedless of traditions or the lessons of history.”

The person who wrote these words was the editor of a Midwestern newspaper.  The editor had once voted for “the great personality” and then for his hand-picked successor.  Each had been President in his turn, but now, having split the Republican Party vote, neither would be re-elected in 1912.  These men were Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft respectively.  When they ran head to head, the editor supported Taft, who was the incumbent.

Roosevelt was indeed ambitious, but he could still technically say he was not breaking the two-term tradition.  After all, he had been elected only once before.  Prior to 1905 he was serving out McKinley’s unexpired term.

Taft, unlike Roosevelt, was not flamboyant, but he was no less dedicated than his predecessor to breaking up business monopolies.  Roosevelt should have supported Taft in 1912, but instead he challenged him for the nomination.  When this failed, he accepted the nomination of a third party.  Perhaps this is what the editor meant when he accused Roosevelt of being “heedless of traditions or the lessons of history.”

The man who defeated them both that year was Democrat Woodrow Wilson.  He would serve two terms and then be succeeded by a Republican, a freshman Senator who had once been editor of a Midwestern newspaper, the man who penned the sentence at the top of this page, Warren Harding.





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