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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- The Election that Changed the Country

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Beginning with former president Theodore Roosevelt’s return in 1910 from his African safari, Chace brilliantly unfolds a dazzling political circus that featured four extraordinary candidates. When Roosevelt failed to defeat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican nomination, he ran as a radical reformer on the Bull Moose ticket. Meanwhile, Woodrow Wils Beginning with former president Theodore Roosevelt’s return in 1910 from his African safari, Chace brilliantly unfolds a dazzling political circus that featured four extraordinary candidates. When Roosevelt failed to defeat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican nomination, he ran as a radical reformer on the Bull Moose ticket. Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, the ex-president of Princeton, astonished everyone by seizing the Democratic nomination from the bosses who had made him New Jersey’s governor. Most revealing of the reformist spirit sweeping the land was the charismatic socialist Eugene Debs, who polled an unprecedented one million votes. Wilson’s “accidental” election had lasting impact on America and the world. The broken friendship between Taft and TR inflicted wounds on the Republican Party that have never healed, and the party passed into the hands of a conservative ascendancy that reached its fullness under Reagan and George W. Bush. Wilson’s victory imbued the Democratic Party with a progressive idealism later incarnated in FDR, Truman, and LBJ. 1912 changed America.


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Beginning with former president Theodore Roosevelt’s return in 1910 from his African safari, Chace brilliantly unfolds a dazzling political circus that featured four extraordinary candidates. When Roosevelt failed to defeat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican nomination, he ran as a radical reformer on the Bull Moose ticket. Meanwhile, Woodrow Wils Beginning with former president Theodore Roosevelt’s return in 1910 from his African safari, Chace brilliantly unfolds a dazzling political circus that featured four extraordinary candidates. When Roosevelt failed to defeat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican nomination, he ran as a radical reformer on the Bull Moose ticket. Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, the ex-president of Princeton, astonished everyone by seizing the Democratic nomination from the bosses who had made him New Jersey’s governor. Most revealing of the reformist spirit sweeping the land was the charismatic socialist Eugene Debs, who polled an unprecedented one million votes. Wilson’s “accidental” election had lasting impact on America and the world. The broken friendship between Taft and TR inflicted wounds on the Republican Party that have never healed, and the party passed into the hands of a conservative ascendancy that reached its fullness under Reagan and George W. Bush. Wilson’s victory imbued the Democratic Party with a progressive idealism later incarnated in FDR, Truman, and LBJ. 1912 changed America.

30 review for 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- The Election that Changed the Country

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark Desrosiers

    Two of the world's dullest humans face off against two brave, charismatic heroes for the U.S. Presidency. The dullest man wins, and six years later throws the kick-ass one in jail. Chace is more a storyteller than a historian, something most evident when he's trying to pin down Wilson's evasive ideology (if such a thing existed). Worth a look, but I'm definitely moving on to August Heckscher for my next take on this era. Two of the world's dullest humans face off against two brave, charismatic heroes for the U.S. Presidency. The dullest man wins, and six years later throws the kick-ass one in jail. Chace is more a storyteller than a historian, something most evident when he's trying to pin down Wilson's evasive ideology (if such a thing existed). Worth a look, but I'm definitely moving on to August Heckscher for my next take on this era.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    I wonder how many Americans know that at one time in this country the Democratic Party stood for segregation and limited government, and that the Republican Party represented progressivism and reform. Of course it's more complicated than that. In the early days of the 20th century the two most powerful presidents were progressives, and they ran against each other in 1912....Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. There were also two other candidates - Taft and Debs - in case people wanted a conserva I wonder how many Americans know that at one time in this country the Democratic Party stood for segregation and limited government, and that the Republican Party represented progressivism and reform. Of course it's more complicated than that. In the early days of the 20th century the two most powerful presidents were progressives, and they ran against each other in 1912....Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. There were also two other candidates - Taft and Debs - in case people wanted a conservative voice or an Socialist one. It was a time of upheaval and change which this book documents quite well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, and Deebs for good will. What could possibly go wrong in a story about these four characters? The Book itself is a fairly well written summary of the evens leading to the presidential election. Mucth of the story has been told in other works. Bully Pulpit and the recent biography on Wilson cover most of the events in much more detail and much more skill. This book is a good servicable coverage of the election. It is moderately well written, theres just not too much new or Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, and Deebs for good will. What could possibly go wrong in a story about these four characters? The Book itself is a fairly well written summary of the evens leading to the presidential election. Mucth of the story has been told in other works. Bully Pulpit and the recent biography on Wilson cover most of the events in much more detail and much more skill. This book is a good servicable coverage of the election. It is moderately well written, theres just not too much new or left to be said that hasn't been said elsewhere and better. If this is your first read on the subject you should do fine. EDIT: I really should proof read my posts if I'm going to write them at 1 am!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tony Heyl

    It's about, get this, the election of 1912! It's a very interesting book, though not altogether brilliant. Wilson, Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Debs all have plusses and faults. Taft never really wanted to be President and was goaded by his power hungry wife. Wilson cheated on his wife, who later died, and then remarried. That wife was almost de-facto President for a time after Wilson's stroke. Wilson is an interesting character, actually pretty forthright in his willingness to shift positions and It's about, get this, the election of 1912! It's a very interesting book, though not altogether brilliant. Wilson, Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Debs all have plusses and faults. Taft never really wanted to be President and was goaded by his power hungry wife. Wilson cheated on his wife, who later died, and then remarried. That wife was almost de-facto President for a time after Wilson's stroke. Wilson is an interesting character, actually pretty forthright in his willingness to shift positions and allegiances to get what he wanted, which is why he turned on the party bosses in New Jersey, which almost cost him the 1912 nomination. TR is maybe the greatest personality we've ever had as a US President and probably who I would have voted for in this election, especially considering Wilson's issues, including imprisoning people like Eugene Debs for speaking out against his Administration. Chace makes a cogent argument that this election paved the way for the activist government of FDR because of how Teddy and Wilson believed in a strong federal government, how the Socialist Party came to its heights, and how each candidate touted some kind of a Progressive plank due to the nature of the particular race. He also explains in better detail why the League of Nations failed, which was largely on Wilson's stubbornness. The book could have been better with more depth in explaining the nature of the country at the time. Instead it was about the individual stories of the candidates, which, while interesting, lacked a proper setting. It also could have benefited from comparisons to the present day. For example, in 1912, there were no real ways to do polling like today's constant poll driven politics, so that made it a different kind of race, as did a different media structure. Chace also touches on race a few times, which is interesting, but then kind of forgets about it, which is disappointing, because it could have been summed up rather easily in the epilogue. I think having background knowledge helps flush the story out more, but I did that as the reader, and Chace could have done that more as the author. Still, I would definitely recommend this and enjoyed it. The writing style was simple but not simplistic and it was certainly a learning experience throughout.

  5. 5 out of 5

    George

    INTERESTING, ENLIGHTENING, AND A GOOD READ. “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.—[Eugene V. Debs], page 257 “…that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” –[Theodore Roosevelt], page 57 INTERESTING, ENLIGHTENING, AND A GOOD READ. “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.—[Eugene V. Debs], page 257 “…that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” –[Theodore Roosevelt], page 57 In ‘1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs—The Election that Changed the Country,’ James Chace delivers and insightful look at these four giants of national politics, at their principles (or lack thereof) at some of their fellow travelers and at their times. I found it a bit tedious going at first, but it gets much better. Recommendation: An especially good read for us political junkies of the world. “A National Government cannot create good times. It cannot make the rain to fall, the sun to shine, or the crops to grow, but it can, by pursuing a meddlesome policy, attempting to change economic conditions, and frightening the investment of capital, prevent a prosperity and a revival of business which otherwise might have taken place.”—[William H. Taft], page 221 Simon and Schuster hardcover edition, 293 pages.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This was a decent book, nowhere nearly as interesting as the 1920 The Year of Six Presidents. The author presents a standard version of the 1912 election and the emergence of the Bull Moose Party. While he does a decent job recounting facts, he does very little if anything to show why the election was so pivotal. The most noteworthy aspect was the depiction of Taft not wanting to be president. Additionally, like many books, this text shows Woodrow Wilson as a very curmudgeonly and hateful indivi This was a decent book, nowhere nearly as interesting as the 1920 The Year of Six Presidents. The author presents a standard version of the 1912 election and the emergence of the Bull Moose Party. While he does a decent job recounting facts, he does very little if anything to show why the election was so pivotal. The most noteworthy aspect was the depiction of Taft not wanting to be president. Additionally, like many books, this text shows Woodrow Wilson as a very curmudgeonly and hateful individual. A somewhat disappointing book

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Canfield

    1912 was a year which saw a four-way race for president, and it was one of the rare cycles when a third party candidate (Theodore Roosevelt, running for a nonconsecutive third term under the Progressive Party banner) actually won a handful of states. It also featured the worst performance ever by an incumbent president: William Taft came in third in the popular vote as well as the electoral college, winning only two states. Yet perhaps what 1912 is still most known for is serving as the high tid 1912 was a year which saw a four-way race for president, and it was one of the rare cycles when a third party candidate (Theodore Roosevelt, running for a nonconsecutive third term under the Progressive Party banner) actually won a handful of states. It also featured the worst performance ever by an incumbent president: William Taft came in third in the popular vote as well as the electoral college, winning only two states. Yet perhaps what 1912 is still most known for is serving as the high tide for progressive ideas in America. The contest, coming on the heels of the Gilded Age and the apogee of the muckraker press, took place in an America increasingly concerned about the growth and abuses of corporate power. It was actually more of a race between Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Progressive Party (nicknamed the Bull Moose Party) candidate Theodore Roosevelt, with each of these men running on a platform of varying degrees of social reform. The eight hour work day, workmen's compensation, women's suffrage, more democratic primary voting, better regulation of corporations, an income tax and central bank, allowing the people and not state legislatures to pick a state's U.S. Senator; all of these progressive issues and more were front and center during the campaign. Although ideas dominated, voters could not help but contrast the professorial nature of Wilson with the bombastic, aggressive Roosevelt and the more temperately constituted Taft. Roosevelt's New Nationalism agenda, a bold plan of action laid out in August 1910 during his famous Osawatomie, Kansas speech, shocked the reactionary members of the Republican Party which he left after being "cheated" out of the nomination by his former friend President Taft. This was contrasted with Wilson's plan (laid out with the help of adviser and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis) known as New Freedom. A major difference between the two concepts, put forward by men who actually differed more in temperament than in their platform's commitment to social justice, was that T.R. wanted to establish a federal bureau to heavily regulate monopolies, whereas Wilson wanted to completely break monopolies up by passing laws to create more efficient competition. They just differed on the means of how to restore competition to markets many were coming to fear were dominated by a few consolidated players. Socialist candidate Eugene Debs-who would only get slightly over 6% of the popular vote and win zero states, was reduced to calling for a socialist revolution on the sidelines, while the incumbent President Taft had all but thrown in the towel on his reelection months before November. He was not wild about public speaking in the first place, and had a temperament more suited for the judiciary than executive work. Author James Chace covers the basics of the 1912 primaries and general election well. The friendship between Taft and Roosevelt, so strong when Taft took office in March 1909, slowly came undone as Roosevelt lost trust in his successor's strength as a leader. Roosevelt would eventually challenge Taft in the GOP primary, losing a close race and claiming it was "rigged" against him, as at that time only 13 of 48 states held primaries where rank and file party members could vote. Chace went over this falling out swiftly but with enough information to fill readers in (though nothing like the way it was covered by Doris Kearns Goodwin in the Bully Pulpit, which in Chace's defense was a book more on that specific relationship and its deterioration than on the actual 1912 race). The book also did a serviceable job on explaining Woodrow Wilson's swift rise from professor to president of Princeton to governor of New Jersey to U.S. president. His writing on Debs and his involvement with the American labor movement was especially concise and lacking in depth. But because 1912 was written merely to provide snapshot of all four candidates--Taft, Roosevelt, Wilson, and Debs--Chace could not go into the level of detail he probably would have liked to on each of their upbringings and rises to power. Chace uses the last portion of the book to look at Wilson's presidency, a decision which created for reading that seemed slightly incongruous with the rest of the book. It would have been a stronger whole had he just made a few mentions about the the consequences of Wilson's victory and the long term outcome of the reformist policies championed to one degree or another by the four 1912 candidates. This book gives great background on one of the most wacky and compelling elections in U.S. history. A wonderful read, though one lacking too much in depth toward any one person or single idea, that will be enjoyed by those who cannot get enough knowledge about exciting eras in the past. -Andrew Canfield Denver, Colorado

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lewyn

    This book combines short biographies of the major 1912 contenders with the story of the 1912 election. Chace's discussion of Wilson is more interesting than his discussion of the others; Wilson comes across as reptilian in his willingness to stab old allies in the back, and yet self-destructively self-righteous in refusing to compromise. Debs comes across as simply saintly, Taft as kindly and a bit dull, and Roosevelt as a force of nature. Some of the questions I hoped the book would answer are: This book combines short biographies of the major 1912 contenders with the story of the 1912 election. Chace's discussion of Wilson is more interesting than his discussion of the others; Wilson comes across as reptilian in his willingness to stab old allies in the back, and yet self-destructively self-righteous in refusing to compromise. Debs comes across as simply saintly, Taft as kindly and a bit dull, and Roosevelt as a force of nature. Some of the questions I hoped the book would answer are: 1. Why did Roosevelt break from Taft? This book cites a variety of factors, including Taft's willingness to support higher tariffs, his wishy-washy attitude towards Roosevelt's conservationist legacy, and his administration's filing of an antitrust lawsuit that accused U.S.Steel of misleading Roosevelt. 2. Why did Taft split the Republican Party in half by fighting Roosevelt rather than standing aside for him? Here, the book is not so clear. However, Taft did not campaign very much in the fall, and apparently believed that he could not win the general election 3. Why did Wilson beat Roosevelt? Here, the book is again not very clear- perhaps because the question is unanswerable. Chace sometimes suggests that Roosevelt was a bit too progressive for the time, while Wilson's wishy-washy rhetoric enabled him to unite progressives and conservatives.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rigg

    What an election year! It was interesting to read about how radicalized the American people were in that era- the socialist candidate got the highest percentage of the vote before or since, and Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party and the Democrats were running on progressive platforms. And, never before have I felt so sorry for an ex-president as I did for Taft after reading this book. He never wanted to be president, but Teddy Roosevelt and especially Taft's wife talked him into it. This book What an election year! It was interesting to read about how radicalized the American people were in that era- the socialist candidate got the highest percentage of the vote before or since, and Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party and the Democrats were running on progressive platforms. And, never before have I felt so sorry for an ex-president as I did for Taft after reading this book. He never wanted to be president, but Teddy Roosevelt and especially Taft's wife talked him into it. This book was more than readable and obviously well researched, and the content was really just incredibly interesting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Figueiredo

    A great and entertainingly written overview of the 1912 election. Chace follows each of the candidates through their journey that year. This book is well-researched and illuminating. Chace displays the nuances of each candidate--the fact that Wilson oscillated between Jeffersonian and reformer, the way Teddy Roosevelt shifted leftward going into 1912, Taft's commitment to a reformist conservatism, and Debs' deep patriotism. Indeed, the 1912 election presented 4 different visions of what American A great and entertainingly written overview of the 1912 election. Chace follows each of the candidates through their journey that year. This book is well-researched and illuminating. Chace displays the nuances of each candidate--the fact that Wilson oscillated between Jeffersonian and reformer, the way Teddy Roosevelt shifted leftward going into 1912, Taft's commitment to a reformist conservatism, and Debs' deep patriotism. Indeed, the 1912 election presented 4 different visions of what American could become. I always wonder what this country would have been like had Teddy Roosevelt won in 1912.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laurence

    Easy-to-read account of 1912 election between Taft, Wilson, Debs, Teddy Roosevelt...parallels to 2016, with Trump as New Nationalist like TR, Hillary as Wilson, Bernie as Debs, Bush as Taft...now we can see what happens when history moves in a different direction....

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Van Horne

    Found it a little difficult to get into, but once I got to the meat of the book it was quite interesting. Election of 1912. 4 perspectives, but similarities in their views. Interesting times in American history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Some overview facts, not particularly put together well and not always consistent but adequate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    NICE TITLE BUT MOOSE TICKET. THAT WAS WAY BACK THEN. 1912

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deb W

    This author's writing is so convoluted, taking so many divergent paths from his topic that I am forced to give it up before reaching the second chapter. This author's writing is so convoluted, taking so many divergent paths from his topic that I am forced to give it up before reaching the second chapter.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Nguyen

    James Chace undertook an admirable project: to document the thoughts and circumstances of the 4 presidential candidates of 1912, yet his book is a let down. His biggest flaw is that he wasted too much valuable time to chronicle unimportant events, such as Roosevelt's Europe trip, and to document minor characters from Louis Brandeis to Charles Murphy, without ever telling us why these backgrounds and events are important in understanding what was unfolding. Chace did not provide any insightful an James Chace undertook an admirable project: to document the thoughts and circumstances of the 4 presidential candidates of 1912, yet his book is a let down. His biggest flaw is that he wasted too much valuable time to chronicle unimportant events, such as Roosevelt's Europe trip, and to document minor characters from Louis Brandeis to Charles Murphy, without ever telling us why these backgrounds and events are important in understanding what was unfolding. Chace did not provide any insightful analysis into the main characters' thoughts and circumstances that affected their beliefs. Readers are left completely in the dark as for why Wilson changed his position from conservative to progressive, why Taft snubbed Roosevelt at the New York State Republican Convention despite his professed loyalty to Roosevelt, why Roosevelt became more radical, etc. We are also none the wiser as to why Chace seems to portray Wilson as unintelligent, despite Wilson's appointments as both Professor and President of Princeton University, and Chace's own assertion that Wilson was considered an authority in constitutional law and government. The narrative is brisk, but it suffers from the same flaw as above. Chace's emphasis on quotes to substantiate what he said is the book's strength, yet it's also its weakness. There are not many sources, and a selected few of them dominate the book, Wilson's mistress for example. And by focusing too much on a few sources, Chace did not portray a complete picture. The book lingers too long on a few relatively minor episodes (e.g. Taft's stay at the White House before his inauguration), and rushes through the more important ones (how the Republican machine robbed Roosevelt off his deserved delegates). And despite the book's claim that the 1912's election has changed the political landscape of the US in the 20th century, it did not bother to give any justification as to why this is the case. We are not sure how Wilson's position of free market led to FDR's extreme government intervention, or how Roosevelt's paternalism led to the current Republican's obsession with free market. The supposed link between this election and the age-old debate of Hamilton and Jefferson is also tenuous, with many in the book straddled the Hamilton-Jefferson's divide. The only character that got a satisfactory treatment was Eugene Debs, and the only party that readers can come to a greater understanding is the Socialist Party, with its many factions, from the AFL to the IWW. Chace's writing is nothing to rave about, but it's not bad either. The writing is well-structured and easy to follow. Given his academic background, the colorful characters, and the breadth of sources that he seems to have, it's a shame that Chace could not come up with a more penetrating account into this fascinating juncture of American politics.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    - When elected for 2nd term (1904) TR said he wouldn't seek a third term. He passed presidency to Taft, who said he would keep TR's policies, but TAFT became more conservative and TR was unhappy with his - Taft wanted to be supreme court justice, not president. (his wife wanted him to be president) - after presidency he became justice! - Roosevelt split from Republican party - new party Progressive Party BULL MOOSE. ("i'm feeling like a bull moose" TR had responded). Very liberal: unions, campaig - When elected for 2nd term (1904) TR said he wouldn't seek a third term. He passed presidency to Taft, who said he would keep TR's policies, but TAFT became more conservative and TR was unhappy with his - Taft wanted to be supreme court justice, not president. (his wife wanted him to be president) - after presidency he became justice! - Roosevelt split from Republican party - new party Progressive Party BULL MOOSE. ("i'm feeling like a bull moose" TR had responded). Very liberal: unions, campaign spending limits, woman suffrage, 8-hour working day, etc. -- but no equality for blacks. - Eugene Debs was union organizer who was Socialists Party candidate in 1904, 1908. "Debs rebellion" was his call for a strike against trains with Pullman cars. Jailed several times. Sometimes jailors were friendly and let them have visitors; others kept him in room with rats so big that dogs put in jail to kill rats shrieked in fear.re - IWW (wobblies) let in all workers. American unions had only whites and skilled laborers. - Lousitana was torpedo'd - it had civilians but also munitions (babies and bullets). - Wilson, in office, suffered a stroke, and country was led by his wife. People suspected, but she kept outsiders away. - Wilson was also progressive, but also a white supremacist (at Princeton he let stand the college's ban against blacks). He also needed Southern democrat vote, so he didn't challenge Jim Crow laws. - While campaigning, TR was shot. He went and gave a speech BEFORE going to hospital. While he was in hospital, other 3 candidates stopped campaigning out of respect. The man who shot him claimed to have dreamed that the assassinated McKinley told him to do it. - "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm..." TR while in Africa - "Happiness likes not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort." - FDR

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    1912 provides a brief but mostly comprehensive overview of that year's U.S. presidential election, a unique and historically significant contest that pitted against one another four viable political parties – Democrat, Republican, Progressive, and Socialist – each of which had national reach and a formidable candidate at the top of the ticket: respectively, Wilson, Taft (the incumbent), Roosevelt, and Debs. James Chace tells the story competently. The book is most engaging in its first section, w 1912 provides a brief but mostly comprehensive overview of that year's U.S. presidential election, a unique and historically significant contest that pitted against one another four viable political parties – Democrat, Republican, Progressive, and Socialist – each of which had national reach and a formidable candidate at the top of the ticket: respectively, Wilson, Taft (the incumbent), Roosevelt, and Debs. James Chace tells the story competently. The book is most engaging in its first section, which provides interesting background on the four political parties and candidates and establishes the candidates' motives, and its final sections, which provide an epilogue and offer insights on the election's significance and aftermath. But the book gets bogged down in the section on each party's national nominating convention. Things quickly become confusing as the reader is confronted with far too many names of minor characters who will never reappear in the book, and too many details of political machinations and horsetrading. Another complaint is that throughout the book, while we see some of 1912 America from the points of view of the four candidates and their associates, we never really catch a glimpse of either the country or the candidates from the perspective of the electorate, and this lack of context leaves the story with a hollow soul. Overall Chace, who died before the book was published, does an admiral job of capturing the essence of a big subject in fewer than 300 pages. He maintains good objectivity, the coverage is nicely balanced among the four parties and candidates, and he includes many thoughtful insights that make the study relevant to the current U.S. political situation as well. But with its centennial just around the corner, I expect that more books on the 1912 election will be published soon, and it's not unlikely that Chace's effort will be surpassed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    This is an interesting, somewhat short (under 300 pages), and fairly easy to read book about the 1912 US presidential election and the four candidates: Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), William Howard Taft (incumbent Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and Eugene Debs (Socialist). Giving equal treatment to Debs is a pleasantly surprising choice; he usually gets ignored as a fringe candidate who never won a single electoral vote and never got more than about 5% of the popular vote. However, w This is an interesting, somewhat short (under 300 pages), and fairly easy to read book about the 1912 US presidential election and the four candidates: Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), William Howard Taft (incumbent Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and Eugene Debs (Socialist). Giving equal treatment to Debs is a pleasantly surprising choice; he usually gets ignored as a fringe candidate who never won a single electoral vote and never got more than about 5% of the popular vote. However, with 2 of the 3 major candidates running on a progressive platform and the Socialists gaining more votes than ever before or since he is quite relevant. Chace's portrayal of the different candidates comes across pretty clear. Wilson is a deeply flawed individual, although not demonized as sometimes happens these days in literature. Roosevelt comes across mostly positive, but with some bombast and other mistakes that cost him the election. Taft is the sad man who doesn't want to be there - perhaps played up a little too much. Debs in shown in a positive light that will probably surprise many readers. This book is solid popular history. It has good background on the candidates, but I think it could have used more detail on the election campaign itself and dug a little deeper on some of the issues and impact. Robert La Follete probably deserved more attention too since he was a Progressive Republican hopeful before TR and, as mentioned in passing in the epilogue, ran as a Progressive candidate in 1924.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Hollyberry

    I left it so long at around 200 pages read, this time I went back and read the entire book. Extremely interesting but the writing is weird. Each little section, sometimes paragraph, is ended with a "punchy" quotation or a reference to some political term and nearly all of these need to be explained because I have no idea what they mean. What did that obscure politician 100 years ago mean when he made that remark? Please illuminate. So, not entirely a read to recommend to everyone. My education h I left it so long at around 200 pages read, this time I went back and read the entire book. Extremely interesting but the writing is weird. Each little section, sometimes paragraph, is ended with a "punchy" quotation or a reference to some political term and nearly all of these need to be explained because I have no idea what they mean. What did that obscure politician 100 years ago mean when he made that remark? Please illuminate. So, not entirely a read to recommend to everyone. My education has not been in the direction of the history of American politics, and apparently such is needed to get the full effect. Apart from that it is an extremely interesting book that totally explains the various trends of reform and progressiveness at the time, and gives some good info about how some of these trends were followed up on later in the Depression, as well as hinting at the reasons why they were not followed up until much later or never. The events take place before the great changing places of Republicans and Democrats, and show some of the reasons why that was beginning to happen, also.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

    I'm biased toward this kind of electoral history in general, as well as toward biographies of both Roosevelt and Debs, so my rating probably reflects that. Nevertheless, this is a well-written history of a key U.S. election, which balances erudition with readability nicely. 1912 was a fascinating election year for a variety of reasons: it pit 3 presidents (past, present, and future) against each other; it featured the most successful runs ever by a 3rd-party candidate (Roosevelt) and by a social I'm biased toward this kind of electoral history in general, as well as toward biographies of both Roosevelt and Debs, so my rating probably reflects that. Nevertheless, this is a well-written history of a key U.S. election, which balances erudition with readability nicely. 1912 was a fascinating election year for a variety of reasons: it pit 3 presidents (past, present, and future) against each other; it featured the most successful runs ever by a 3rd-party candidate (Roosevelt) and by a socialist candidate (Debs); and it marked the high-watermark of Progressivism in U.S. Presidential politics, with even the most right-wing of the candidates (Taft) holding positions well to the left of any subsequent Republican (and, indeed, any candidate of either major party in the last few decades). This book seems to have been an unusual one-off for Chase, a history professor at Bard College whose area of expertise was U.S. foreign policy (he passed away in 2004); based on his writing here, I'll probably seek out his well-regarded biography of Dean Acheson at some point.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    It certainly is a good account of the 1912 election. However, my main dislikes of the book were that it often provided asides to note some future importance of some figures. While this can certainly be helpful, there were times when it became distracting and seemingly unnecessary. At one point. he notes the year that John Schrank died was the same year that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term. While an interesting coincidence, it seemingly bore no relevance to the story whatsoever. It certainly is a good account of the 1912 election. However, my main dislikes of the book were that it often provided asides to note some future importance of some figures. While this can certainly be helpful, there were times when it became distracting and seemingly unnecessary. At one point. he notes the year that John Schrank died was the same year that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term. While an interesting coincidence, it seemingly bore no relevance to the story whatsoever. (I don't think Schrank died in 1940, either, but that is beside the point). Also, there seemed to be a more slanted focus on Eugene V. Debs, while not as much on William Howard Taft. Perhaps this could be because of Taft's more passive approach to campaigning and administrating, but it was still noticeable. All in all, I really did enjoy the book and is a good guide for someone wishing to learn more about the 1912 election. It certainly isn't an exhaustive guide to the race, but it certainly paints an excellent picture of the issues, happenings, and actors involved.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence A

    This is a fascinating history of the presidenital race of 1912, when even the "conservative" candidate, the incumbent William Howard Taft, embraced many of Progressivism's most cherished ideals, including Teddy Roosevelt's famed "trust-busting." I knew that Wilson, a native Virginian, had changed his economic stripes, morphing from a classic "southern-style" Jacksonian Democrat, with all that such a characterization entailed in the early 20th Century [including deeply-ingrained racism], to a mor This is a fascinating history of the presidenital race of 1912, when even the "conservative" candidate, the incumbent William Howard Taft, embraced many of Progressivism's most cherished ideals, including Teddy Roosevelt's famed "trust-busting." I knew that Wilson, a native Virginian, had changed his economic stripes, morphing from a classic "southern-style" Jacksonian Democrat, with all that such a characterization entailed in the early 20th Century [including deeply-ingrained racism], to a more "northern-style" Progessive, happy to throw the weight of the federal government behind programs for economic justice. What I didn't know was the extent to which Kentuckian Louis D. Brandeis shaped Wilson's economic philosophy. Moreover, any history which follows the career of Eugene V. Debs has to be entertaining and poignant, as this book clearly is. Well written and well paced, this book presents quite a colorful bunch of classic American characters

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Fallon

    A running buddy found out I was a Roosevelt fan, and he sent me this book. My knowledge of the election was mostly limited to the TR side of the story. I’ve always look at the personal split between him and Taft as a very dark moment, and a real tragedy. I always wonder what would have happened if Archie Butts hadn’t booked a ticket on the Titanic. The background on Wilson and Debs was fascinating. The political maneuverings of Wilson, combined with the missteps of others, makes some of the modern A running buddy found out I was a Roosevelt fan, and he sent me this book. My knowledge of the election was mostly limited to the TR side of the story. I’ve always look at the personal split between him and Taft as a very dark moment, and a real tragedy. I always wonder what would have happened if Archie Butts hadn’t booked a ticket on the Titanic. The background on Wilson and Debs was fascinating. The political maneuverings of Wilson, combined with the missteps of others, makes some of the modern Democrats look like saints. And Debs is certainly a figure I’ll have to read more about. I read Part 1 of Emma Goldman’s autobiography not that long ago. The socialists and anarchists were so far out there, I’m always amazed at how many followers they were able to gather. Of course, the description of the Republican Convention was fantastic! Could you imagine a brawl on CSPAN? Now, that would be must see TV!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    This is an interesting take on the Presidential campaign of 1912. I learned a lot not only about the political climate of that period but about the candidates themselves. The book gives insight into the rift between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Roosevelt was a petulant child in a lot of ways, and Taft was too human to be always a good policitian; Roosevelt was vindictive in the rift between the two men, while it pained Taft greatly to have lost such a good friend). I also learned abo This is an interesting take on the Presidential campaign of 1912. I learned a lot not only about the political climate of that period but about the candidates themselves. The book gives insight into the rift between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Roosevelt was a petulant child in a lot of ways, and Taft was too human to be always a good policitian; Roosevelt was vindictive in the rift between the two men, while it pained Taft greatly to have lost such a good friend). I also learned about Woodrow Wilson's complete inability to admit being wrong about anything and his continual viewing of those who opposed him over the slightest thing as eternal enemies. (Does that sound like anyone currently sitting in the Oval Office? I guess leopards and presidential prototypes don't change over the decades!)For a portrait of a tempestuous time in America this is a good choice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Wise

    An entertaining historical analysis of the American presidential election of 1912, which was essentially a four-way race. The Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would benefit from a split in the Republican party following the return of Theodore Roosevelt as candidate for the Bull Moose Party, but the Socialist Eugene Debs would make the strongest showing ever for that party. Author Chace was a respected analyst of American foreign policy, especially for the attention he paid to the personalit An entertaining historical analysis of the American presidential election of 1912, which was essentially a four-way race. The Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would benefit from a split in the Republican party following the return of Theodore Roosevelt as candidate for the Bull Moose Party, but the Socialist Eugene Debs would make the strongest showing ever for that party. Author Chace was a respected analyst of American foreign policy, especially for the attention he paid to the personality strengths and flaws of the leaders involved. This was his last book, as he died just months after in October 2004. I found it intriguing that many features of our democratic process we take for granted today, were still being fought for in 1912, and some long after. This book came to my attention when it was listed by the New York Times as one of the 100 most notable books of 2004.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Solid, workmanlike history of the 1912 election and surrounding context. I would have like to have seen a bit more on the 1920s, where Harding and Coolidge really ran counter to the trends of the early 1910s. In particular, I would have like to have seen a bit more on 1924, a truly odd election in comparison to 1912, where there were two very conservative candidates (Coolidge, Davis) getting the lion's share of the vote. Instead, he draws a line between the 1912 campaign and FDR, which is unders Solid, workmanlike history of the 1912 election and surrounding context. I would have like to have seen a bit more on the 1920s, where Harding and Coolidge really ran counter to the trends of the early 1910s. In particular, I would have like to have seen a bit more on 1924, a truly odd election in comparison to 1912, where there were two very conservative candidates (Coolidge, Davis) getting the lion's share of the vote. Instead, he draws a line between the 1912 campaign and FDR, which is understandable but implies more continuity than there actually was. Still, the book is about 1912, and he did a good job covering that subject. It is worth reading if you want some background on a very consequential election.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Admittedly, I have just a cursory knowledge of the United States presidency prior to FDR. So, when I saw the book 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country in the library, I hoped it would be a good, introductory read for me. My instincts proved correct, overall. The book excelled in the beginning, when we were introduced to the four candidates; yet, I felt the author got bogged down later on with the minutiae of the party conventions. Even so, I learned a gre Admittedly, I have just a cursory knowledge of the United States presidency prior to FDR. So, when I saw the book 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country in the library, I hoped it would be a good, introductory read for me. My instincts proved correct, overall. The book excelled in the beginning, when we were introduced to the four candidates; yet, I felt the author got bogged down later on with the minutiae of the party conventions. Even so, I learned a great deal, which was my goal in making this selection.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Scott

    This was a nice capsule of the era, which is what I was looking for, but I was probably more interested in the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic and establishing why they broke than Chace was probably able to determine. But there's a nice intellectual history here in terms of Roosevelt and Wilson (in particular). I went in asking how history would have been different had Roosevelt secured the Republican nomination and my answer is basically "not much" because the Democrats basically preempted so much of th This was a nice capsule of the era, which is what I was looking for, but I was probably more interested in the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic and establishing why they broke than Chace was probably able to determine. But there's a nice intellectual history here in terms of Roosevelt and Wilson (in particular). I went in asking how history would have been different had Roosevelt secured the Republican nomination and my answer is basically "not much" because the Democrats basically preempted so much of the progressive platform (though Roosevelt was certainly less racist than Wilson, so had he become the champion of progressivism instead of Wilson, racial progress might have come faster).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Chace presents an excellent account of an important election in American history. This was the most successful election for two parties outside of the main ones. The Democrats took the election with a victory for Woodrow Wilson but TR's progressive party and Debs socialist party polled amazing results given their standing. This book goes beyond the 1912 election and takes people through the world war showing what happened to each of these parties and the men. Debs life in particular was interest Chace presents an excellent account of an important election in American history. This was the most successful election for two parties outside of the main ones. The Democrats took the election with a victory for Woodrow Wilson but TR's progressive party and Debs socialist party polled amazing results given their standing. This book goes beyond the 1912 election and takes people through the world war showing what happened to each of these parties and the men. Debs life in particular was interesting and seeing the way in which the government reacted was indicative of the future. The book is very well written and worth taking the time to explore.

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