Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where is Teddy Roosevelt When You Need Him?

Teddy Roosevelt may be the only man in American History that can rival the life and legends of George Washington. He was a war hero, cowboy, was almost assassinated, a politician, adventurer, and all-around bad ass. President Roosevelt's achievement list can go on and on, but there is something TR did that needs to be looked at again, especially now in an election year. Today's political climate is, well lets face it, a complete catastrophe. Nothing good has come out of Washington, in a while, but who is to blame? Can we blame the President? the Senate? the House? the Supreme Court? Who!? Everyone lets to blame someone but I am going to blame the system. The system I speak of is our two party system. Now before you think I've turned on the Founders, just wait and hear me out. It is time for those running for office, and Americans as well, to look back at TR's attempt to change the political landscape of America with his Bull Moose Party.

Don't let that happy face fool you! Teddy Roosevelt would punch you in the throat as easily as he flashes his pearly whites. Roosevelt left the highest office in the land in 1909. But instead of being a normal retiree and enjoying his well deserved time off he jumped right back into politics. After Roosevelt's Presidency the Republican Party began to take a sharp turn to the right. His recommendation for President, President Taft, also abandoned the hopes of Roosevelt and became quite the poster child for the conservative right. Finally, when 1912 came around, Roosevelt felt the U.S. needed another dose of awesomeness and decided to throw his name in the hat for President. In the earliest of polls Roosevelt seemed like a shoe in, but Taft controlled the party and the convention. Never to be discouraged, Roosevelt claimed he'd accept a nomination from a "honestly elected" convention. It would only be a matter of time before Roosevelt would be back in the political spotlight, but not without a few bumps in the road.

The party was formed in a way that would make even some people in the Occupy Wall Street movement cringe. Roosevelt met with Governor Hiram Johnson of California, publisher Frank A. Munsey, and George W. Perkins who was the director of U.S. & Chairman of the International Harvester Company Steel. Working together the group formed the new Party. However, many Republicans were hesitant to side with Roosevelt and his Progressive platform. Of the 15 Progressive Republicans, only five sided with TR. Hell, even Roosevelt's own son-in-law Nicolas Longworth sided with Taft, which must have caused some long quite dinners and lonely nights on the couch in the Longworth home. The silver lining is that many Independents liked the message and sided with the new Party. Aside from the problem of not being supported, the second problem came from the Democrats. They nominated Woodrow "The Schoolmaster" Wilson, perhaps the most progressive thinking man in America at the time. This in turn split that Independent base that Roosevelt was counting on. I mean even Republicans were siding with Wilson over Taft, thats how good he was. But this did not deter Roosevelt of his Party.

The convention took place in August of 1912 in Chicago. Well over 2,500 delegates showed up to support Roosevelt and the the Progressive Party. The one main difference between the Progressive Party and the Republican and Democratic Convention was the amount of women in attendance. The reason, the BMP endorsed the women's suffrage movement as a national movement. Roosevelt ignited the crowd in his typical fashion, animated, enthusiastic, empowering and many more adverbs that can describe how the great Teddy Roosevelt spoke. His speech was direct and thorough. Explaining the platform and direction he wished to take America in, in the early stages of the 20th century. The Party's idea was a concoction of ideas from both parties. It was bipartisanship come to life. The party touched on both social and political reform. The eight hour work day, workers compensation, social insurance for the elderly, unemployed & disabled and the inheritance tax are just a few things the Party pushed for in 1912 that we still have today. They pushed for a minimum wage for women, which was quite the scandalous idea then. They aimed at changing the political system as well, direct elections for Senators and direct democracy. The power was literally given to the people, recall elections, referendums, initiatives and Judicial recalls. Even though this was the base of their case the main goal was ending big businesses influence in politics. They wanted to do so by limiting and disclosing campaign contributions, registering lobbyists and recording & publicating Congressional proceedings. Now, this seems pretty liberal and one sided but wait! The Party also called for lowering tariffs, creating a "strong national regulation," a vigorous foreign policy, strengthening the military. However the main goal here was the idea of "New Nationalism," a strong central government aimed at protecting the working and middle class all the while industry would take on great projects to propel the U.S. into a future of success.

Even though the Roosevelt name was as big as Washington or Lincoln, he was still the dark horse candidate. But like the forming of the party the campaign was not easy. With no backing, money was tight. Backers who supported Roosevelt in the prior elections stayed away and finally many did not like that he was running for a third term. By the time the smoke cleared after the 1912 election, the BMP walked away just short of winning the election. Fortunately, 4.1 million Americans felt that Roosevelt and the BMP had the right idea to take America into the future. However, he had to admit defeat to Woodrow Wilson. This would be the best showing by any third party candidate in American Presidential History. After the failed attempt Roosevelt ended his illustrious political career to backpack through South America and then formed a volunteer unit for WWI. Even though Roosevelt was still active, the Progressive Party was about to sputter out of steam. Attempts were made in the '14 and '18 Presidential elections but they were blown out of the water. However, several Senators, Representatives and State Officials ran on the BMP platforms and won. There wasn't another big push until the 1924 and 1948 elections both which also as we know resulted in loses. But what is there to learn from Roosevelt's experiment in third party politics?

The thing we have to learn from Roosevelt is that in America is a place of compromise. Today the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Republicans and Democrats are in a, and excuse my language, dick-measuring contest. And that is the real problem that can be solved in reviewing the BMP. Like I said in the beginning, who is to blame? In the end its all of them, its everyone involved and its all of us. Today the style which Roosevelt used is almost gone. The idea that all sides can be appeased is genius and Roosevelt had the plan. He wanted social reforms while at the same time building the military. He believed in protecting workers while allowing industries to grow. However, the one thing that can't be ignored then and now is the amounts of money dumped into the politic process. Roosevelt saw it then and prepared steps to limit it, yet for some reason today that it is not true. On November 6th we will all go to the polls, cast our vote and hold our breaths until the results are announced. We will either, in the words of Stan Marsh, we have a Douche or a Turd Sandwich for President. The cycle will then continue on...until we have another Teddy Roosevelt. The one great thing about America is that it is full of people who want to defend their rights. Unfortunately, American "rights" are different for all of us, some want to be taxed others don't want to pay a dime. This past week I was told the ideas that I hold true to me as an American are gone, that they are impossible to go back to, but it will take one voice, one movement, a true American movement that will bridge the gap between all of us and move us into a new American Century.

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