If you’ve read between the lines in my previous posts, you’ve seem that I have high regard for Theodore Roosevelt.
To most people these days, T.R. is either just a face on Mount Rushmore, a progressive, or a bit of a nut.
But there is more to him than that. He was a vigorous champion of the working man, for one. This in an era when the GOP, much like today, was dominated by big business. In fact, T.R. was not liked at all by the party bosses. The reason for this was that he was not a business minded politician like most other high level republicans. He had a genuine love and affection for every day Americans. That was something many high level republicans could not boast.
That sounds a lot like today, doesn’t it?
Anyhow, had the GOP leaders had their way, he would never have been president.
He was governor of New York at the time of the 1900 presidential election. He was very popular, and several high level republicans wanted to get him out of New York because they thought he was a threat. So they sought to jam him into the essentially powerless job of vice president.
This they managed to do, but only after a lot of wrangling. Roosevelt himself suspected what they were doing. But he was unsure about taking the job. After all, he’d have to run for reelection in two years. Maybe he’d lose the race, and would be dumped out of politics for good. Perhaps, he thought, it would be better to be VP for four years, than risk being a governor for only two. In any wise, he was eventually put on the ticket. He was a great asset on the campaign trail, since he was such a strenuous man. He willingly worked multiple campaign stops per day for weeks. This at a time when many presidential candidates didn’t actually campaign for their own election since it was considered beneath the office.
The McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won the election handily, and T.R. settled in for a long political slumber. Aside from breaking tie votes in the senate, and a few ceremonial roles, the vice president had almost nothing to do.
It was the hope of the GOP elite to neutralize Roosevelt by putting him into a useless job. They didn’t know, of course, that an anarchist would kill McKinley a few months after his reelection. This is how T.R. became president.
He was the first real populist president since Lincoln. He made his share of mistakes. But one of his great triumphs was to ease the tensions between labor and capital. Capital, frankly, had been abusing labor for years, especially in the mining industry. A coal strike early in his presidency threatened to chill the nation, for winter was coming on and we relied greatly on coal for heat.
After much wrangling with the mine owners and labor leaders, negotiations were made between the two sides and work commenced. There were future battles between the two sides. But these also were resolved in time.
One of the developing threats in those days was from communism. Marx’s ideas were spreading like wildfire. And they found a number of willing ears, since labor was so often abused in those days. One man that helped to make America less hospitable to communism was Theodore Roosevelt. By his practical leadership, he helped guide the nation to safer waters, both economically and socially.