Comment Of The Day: “Today’s Chaos, Ethics And Alternate History Note: Teddy’s Fateful Decision”

This unique Comment of the Day, by Steve-O-in NJ,  has come closer to cheering me up than anything else today. Taking of from my post about the historical chaos set off by Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to split the Republican Party in 1912, Steve-O draws on his impressive knowledge of history to give us what Paul Harvey called, “The rest of the story. Well, what would have been the rest of the story.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Today’s Chaos, Ethics And Alternate History Note: Teddy’s Fateful Decision”:

I’m late to the table, but I love playing “what if?” So, here’s my take on the alternative future where Teddy Roosevelt did not run in 1912. He was a year back from Europe and disgusted that Taft was approaching the task of governing completely different than he had. To Roosevelt, a president was a trustee of the people’s power, to use it for them as best he saw fit. Taft saw the president as more a chief magistrate, who should be careful not to exceed his enumerated powers – when not hitting the links. Roosevelt swore he’d topple Taft, if not as the Republican nominee, then as the nominee of his own party. However, a few of his friends who could talk to him frankly told him, “Ted, there are times you act like you’re about six years old, but this is the six-year-oldiest. You can run, but all it will do is split the Republican vote and hand the White House to that dead-eyed, ivory-tower, political neophyte from Princeton. Is that what you want? This country isn’t yours to use for your own vendetta or destroy when you don’t get your way.”

Angry, but seeing the point, Teddy dropped out of public life and retired to Sagamore House in Oyster Bay to write and figure out what was next for him at 54. Although he took no part in the 1912 election, his neutrality was enough to guarantee Taft a second term and send Woodrow Wilson back into academia. Vice President James Sherman died shortly before the election. As a gesture to his former friend, who he still respected, Taft replaced him with political sage and longtime Republican public servant Elihu Root. Roosevelt’s account of his many meetings with the rulers of Europe during his time there, “The Gilded Path,” was published in 2013, and his proposal for a stronger international community and a possible international court, “A Firmer Foundation,: was published the next year…a month before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand touched off a war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, and the Kaiser foolishly delivered “the German Blank Check.” Continue reading

Today’s Chaos, Ethics And Alternate History Note: Teddy’s Fateful Decision

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. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Alternate History Ethics

In 2017, “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced that HBO  would carry their new original series “Confederate,” an alternate history show taking place in  an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War, creating a new nation in which slavery remains legal and continues as a modern institution. (yes, presumably they knew this was unlikely, bordering on impossible. )Their release added, “The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

While I generally dislike alternate history fiction (unless it involves extravagant revenge on unequivocal villains, like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,)” the genre, done well, has the potential to be enlightening and provocative, like Amazon’s The Man in the High Tower,” a series based on Philip K. Dick’s novel about a world in which Germany and Japan defeated the U.S. in World War II.

Now, however,  we learn:

…. HBO president Casey Bloys officially confirms to TVLine that the…long-gestating, controversial slavery drama Confederate will not be moving forward.

The 2017 announcement was greeted by the same people who want to see all statues of slave-holders and Confederate soldiers melted down (and the Confederate flag regarded with the same revulsion as the Nazi swastika) as a dangerous white supremacy plot. Benioff and Weiss even felt they had to make it clear in interviews that they knew “slavery was wrong.” Here’s an example of the social media brickbats the announcement of the series spawned in 2017: Continue reading