On this day in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was nominated to run for Presidency by the newly formed Progressive Party, quickly dubbed “the Bull Moose Party” after Teddy said he felt like Bull Moose. Roosevelt’s platform called for the direct election of U.S. Senators, woman suffrage, and many social reforms based on fair business competition and increased welfare for the poor. As anyone could have told Roosevelt and many tried, this move was based on vanity and anger, and almost certainly ensured that Woodrow Wilson would end up President after Republicans split their votes between Roosevelt and President Taft. Wilson was indeed elected, and the result for the country was disastrous. A proud racist, Wilson endorsed Jim Crow and eliminated what had been the gradual racial liberalization of government agencies. He took the U.S. into World War I, something a re-elected President Taft would not have done (but, alas, Teddy would have, since he liked wars), helping to spread the Spanish flu world -wide. Wilson allowed the treaty ending he war to be excessively punitive to Germany, planting the seeds of World War II, the Holocaust, and the rise of the Soviet Union.
Roosevelt couldn’t have predicted any of this, of course, except for Wilson’s election. Still, it was his irrational decision that set the marbles on the infinite pool table in motion.Roosevelt had impulsively announced that he would not run for re-election in 1908 (he had almost served two full terms, but he he had only been elected to one), and almost immediately regretted it. He expected his hand-picked successor and best friend, William Howard Taft, to follow his policies, and when he didn’t, Roosevelt turned on him with a vengeance.
Imagine what the alternate U.S. history might have been if we had been spared two terms of Woodrow Wilson, and there is no doubt that we would have been spared, had not Teddy Roosevelt been nominated for President 108 years ago.