Theodore Roosevelt’s Political Party

No. Although his family members were originally very strong Democrats, in the 1850s the family joined the Republican Party, which was fairly new. The Oyster Bay Roosevelts (as his family was known) were not only associated with the Republican Party, they also acted as frequent contributors.

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt, Republican politician, decided to try for re-election to the office he had vacated only three years earlier. Despite having hand-picked his successor (William Howard Taft) he had become increasingly disappointed by Taft’s policies, which ran the gamut of severely-conservative agenda issues. The final straw came in October 1911, with Taft’s order to file an ‘antitrust suit’ against U.S. Steel, which his predecessor (and mentor) had designated as a beneficial trust. By that time, Taft had alienated numerous groups and individuals, including: antitrust reformers, big business, Theodore, and Gifford Pinchot and his fellow conservationists.

Determined to fix the problem he had created, Teddy threw his hat into the ring for re-election by announcing his intentions to the Republican Party. However, his late entry into the contest – along with the fact they had already guaranteed their nomination to Taft – left Roosevelt in a quandary. Faced with the choice of giving up or making a way, he came up with his own version of the Republican Party. Begun as an offshoot (or branch) of the original, his creation was officially called the Progressive Party, but later nicknamed the Bull Moose Party by the press. Journalists had so-named his new party in response to a speech Teddy gave on October 14, 1912 only minutes after a would-be assassin shot him in the chest. When asked about whether the attempt would stop his campaign, he responded that “it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose”. Some citizens who were unfamiliar with political labels sometimes referred to it as the ‘Theodore Roosevelt Party’.

As part of his new party’s philosophy, Teddy began making a case for something he called ‘New Nationalism’. For a man such as Theodore Roosevelt, New Nationalism was the answer he had sought, to what he believed were many of the country’s ills. The basis of this philosophy consisted of the need to have government protect property rights and human welfare. However, he was also quick to point out that the need for welfare by far outweighed the need for property rights.

Part and parcel to his theory was the belief that there was a need for a powerful federal government – one that would guarantee social justice and ensure regulation of the economy, with specific focus on industry. He firmly believed this powerful, socially-conscious government should protect the rights of citizenry from labor exploitation, establish a nationwide health service, and offer ‘social insurance’ for those were elderly, disabled, or unemployed. Because of these ‘radical’ beliefs and philosophies – practically unheard of at the time he ran his bid re-election – there were many who deemed him: Theodore Roosevelt, Socialist. The policies and philosophies suggested by Teddy in 1912 would later become some of the most revolutionary standards of American government.