Teddy Roosevelt was a Progressive Republican who occupied the White House for seven and a half years. He left it to William Howard Taft, a man the size of Rhode Island before all the beach erosion. Taft was a premier machine politician in the day when patronage was king.
Robert Lafollette was the hand-picked candidate of the Progressive Republicans for the 1912 presidential election. He was a stem-winding political orator with the support of all those who would have supported Teddy Roosevelt, except Roosevelt was not running again, would not run again, could not be inveighed upon to run again.
Then, Taft let someone in his administration attack Teddy Roosevelt as a pawn of the giant steel trusts of J.P Morgan, J.D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. Teddy Roosevelt did not take kindly to being pilloried as a soft-minded fool deceived by the giants of industry.
Taft, who had grown so large his few friends feared for his life, had made an enemy of a friend. Teddy Roosevelt was not a good man for an enemy.
Roosevelt began to leak word he might run. He just might run as a Progressive, if Lafollette would step aside. He would have to win the Plains States because the South was solid for the Democrats in those days and the Northeast was sewn up by Taft's partronage. Roosevelt would have to sweep the Plains states and then let the West decide. The West would swing the election if Roosevelt would run.
And the West loved Teddy.
And the final beneficiary of all this Republican schisming and buffoonery was Thomas Woodrow Wilson. Wilson distinguished himself as "statesmanlike" during the vicious Republican debates. His practical atheism did not much hurt him and his outright racism was a must where the Democrats were then solid.
Roosevelt did run, after months of disclaiming his affection for the job. Taft defeated him at the Republican convention by parliamentary chicanery. Roosevelt ran anyway, on his own ticket, apart from Taft and the Republicans. Taft later whined that as many as a million Republicans had crossed over to vote Democrat because of their fear of the Progressives and as many more stayed home.
Taft and Roosevelt lost to Wilson. Wilson led the nation in and through WW I and into the Treaty of Versailles. Exhausted, he suffered a crippling stroke, while yet in office.
The weather change in American politics became a general fusion of the Progressive Republicans and Moderate Democrats, out of which came the party shift during the Great Depression. Out of all this came another Roosevelt, Franklin, Democrat Ascendancy and the New Deal.
In 2012, exactly a hundred years later, we may be watching another significant party change. The Republicans have savaged one another so badly they may have a brokered convention, with Senator Santorum playing the part of Teddy Roosevelt, Mitt Romney as the non-incumbet Taft and Mr. Obama, serene and somber, waiting on the wounded and divided to come out of the GOP convention, Wilsonian in his demeanor.
In his second term, Mr. Obama will have to address the budget deficit with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. He will have to continue to prosecute the conflict with state sponsored terrorism around the world. The American system of health provision will be brought under stricter control or it will fall in on itself.
The GOP might have done this, as well, but it lacks the one leader. Mr. Gingrich has been here too long, Mr. Santorum has probably come too late and Mr. Romney has no clearly stated purpose for running for the White House, except he seems to want to be President. This will not do.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.
Although opinions here are mine alone, I wish to offer this insight for a few recent posts. My history major friend, Michael Reynolds, of Marion, Ohio, caused me to think of the party shifts in American presidential politics. I curse you for this, Michael, as you have kept me up late at night reading and rereading some of the great texts. And you have made me think. Curse you. Curse you.