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However, there were 254 contested delegates, whose legitimacy was judged by the National Republican Committee in a series of heated sessions ending on June 17.  Roosevelt was so angry that he traveled to the convention in order “to protect his own rights against the naked robbery being undertaken by the Taft forces.”  The national committee awarded 235 of the contested delegates to Taft and only 19 to Roosevelt.  On June 18-22, the Republican National Convention met at the Chicago Coliseum, where the Credentials Committee reaffirmed the National Committee’s vote.  Roosevelt’s representatives on the Credentials Committee walked out, and most of his delegates (344) refused to participate actively in the convention proceedings.  The remaining delegates renominated Taft over Roosevelt and La Follette, 561-107-41, and then renominated Vice President James Sherman.

The opening section of the Republican National Platform praised the virtues of constitutional government and “the authority and integrity of the Courts,” the latter in response to calls for the recall of judges or overturning of decisions by voters.  The platform endorsed legislation to criminalize specific acts commonly involved in the restraint or monopolization of trade, and endorsed a federal trade commission to regulate interstate commerce.  The document reaffirmed the party’s longstanding support for protective tariffs, while noting that some rates should be lowered, and commended the “scientific methods” of the expert tariff commission to suggests rates for the diversified modern economy.

The Progressive Party Convention
Midway through the Republican National Convention, Roosevelt decided to create a new political party as a reform vehicle to carry him to the presidency.  Delegates gathered in Chicago on August 5-7 at the Progressive National Convention.  Most of the professional politicians who had backed Roosevelt in the primary race, including seven of the eight governors who signed the petition urging his candidacy, stayed with the Republican Party.  Therefore, the Progressive Party was largely a group of various reformers, including social workers, suffragists, urban planners, and conservationists, who lacked direct political experience.  The meeting conveyed the earnest enthusiasm of a Protestant revival, and Roosevelt called his dramatic convention speech his “Confession of Faith.” 

Roosevelt began by vowing that the party’s purpose was to bring power to the people through agencies of the national government and to endorse a platform that was a binding contract with Americans.  The most pressing duty, he claimed, was to respond wisely and ethically to the fact that they were in the midst of an economic revolution.  He spoke of the Democratic and Republican Parties as empty husks void of principle and perpetuating power with the support of major newspapers and political machines.  The heart of his program was “The Right of the People to Rule” through more direct democracy:  presidential primaries, direct election of U.S. senators, short ballots (fewer elected officials), corrupt practices legislation, initiative, referendum, and recall.  His ideas for judicial reform were sweeping in nature.  He announced that the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution rested with the people, whose view should be adopted by their elected representatives.  He proposed that the removal of judges and the amendment process of federal and state constitutions should be easier.

With an increasing proportion of American workers earning wages in the industrial sector, Roosevelt argued that it was imperative for the government to regulate those industries, help the “industrial tool-users to become in part tool-owners,” and hold the companies legally responsible for ensuring occupational health and safety standards.  He endorsed limits on working hours, child labor, and women working in dangerous industries; a minimum wage; and a “living wage” made possible by various social security measures.  Although calling for stringent regulation of large business corporations, he accepted their growth as natural.  “Our aim is to control business, not strangle it…”  He argued for stronger antitrust legislation, and the establishment of a national industrial regulatory commission.  He supported the tariff for the national good, not for special interests, and urged the creation of a permanent, non-partisan, expert tariff commission.  He closed by repeating the conclusion of his speech to supporters at the Republican National Convention:  “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”

Roosevelt’s speech and the party platform, which essentially repeated its substance, ignored the plight of black Americans.  At Roosevelt’s behest, the convention accepted “lily-white” delegations from the South and biracial ones from the North.  In a speech later that August, he argued that blacks had earned the right of political participation in the North, but still needed white guidance in the South. With no other candidates, Roosevelt was chosen as the new party’s standard-bearer, and Governor Hiram Johnson of California (the only one of the eight gubernatorial Roosevelt-petitioners to bolt the GOP) was nominated for vice president.  Roosevelt’s previous observation that he was “strong as a bull moose,” was taken up by California supporters, who called themselves “Bull Moosers,” and then by cartoonists to symbolize the party. 

The Democratic Nomination
Not since Grover Cleveland in 1892 had a Democrat won the White House.  The party lost four consecutive contests under populist William Jennings Bryan (1896, 1900, 1908) and conservative Alton B. Parker (1904).  However, the state and congressional elections of 1910 raised partisan hopes for the next national campaign as Democrats took control of the U.S. House for the first time since 1894 and won six governorships.  Among the winners was Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, who was elected governor of New Jersey.  In 1906, Harper’s Weekly editor George Harvey had begun promoting Wilson for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1908, but the campaign did not attract sufficient support.  Harvey then helped convince Wilson to seek the New Jersey governorship, and persuaded the state’s Democratic Party “boss,” James Smith, to back his candidate.  The university president accepted the aid of the state political machine while refusing to promise it any political patronage or influence if he were elected.   

After winning by a landslide, Wilson pushed the machine aside and secured passage of a reform agenda that included utility regulation, workers’ compensation, direct primaries, municipal reform, school reorganization, and, at the end of his term, antitrust legislation.  Harvey endorsed Wilson for president on the cover of the November 11, 1911 issue of Harper’s Weekly, characterizing him as an honest, smart, good-government reformer.   This time, Wilson’s political record of achievement attracted substantial interest.  The New Jersey governor began cultivating closer relations with Bryan, the three-time nominee whose agrarian populism he had previously criticized.  The presidential candidate also gained the backing of two major donors to the Democratic Party, August Belmont Jr. and Thomas Fortune Ryan.  Despite his reform record, Wilson had been seen as a Cleveland conservative, which was an image he moderated with more liberal rhetoric.  Wryly observing the political conversion, Bryan noted that “Saul had become Paul.”

There were three other leading contenders for the 1912 Democratic presidential nomination.  The candidate of Southern Democrats was Congressman Oscar Underwood of Alabama.  Despite representing the industrial district of Birmingham and having married the heiress to a steel-industry fortune, he was a vocal advocate of tariff reform.  He rose through the Democratic congressional leadership, becoming floor whip in 1900 and minority leader in 1910.  Two years later, he became the first serious presidential contender from the Deep South since before the Civil War.



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