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Theodore Roosevelt was well known as a progressive president who used science, technology and the power of government to solve perceived social inequalities and ills. Under his leadership, the railroad, oil and banking were all regulated more effectively. Roosevelt also spearheaded several important public health laws such as the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. He was also one of the biggest supporters of public land preservation to ever grace the oval office. Roosevelt also appointed over 19 judges, along with three Supreme Court justices, most of which were liberal, reform minded individuals such as Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Taft on the other hand would have liked to consider himself a progressive, but his lack of flexibility and creativity, along with his devotion to the law which often made him a slave to the status quo put him in another league. He did try to continue the Republican party line of trust busting, but his adherence to law limited his effectiveness.. He did file 90 suits against large companies, including one against U.S. Steel and one against a hike in railroad fees, but he fell short of Roosevelt’s sweeping reforms. He took an active roll in African American education as well as vetoing anti-union laws from congress.
Wilson was a Democrat but a very reform minded leader as well. He persuaded a Democratic congress to pass a flurry of laws all aimed at closing the social gap and address the needs of the public. Child labor, farm loans, anti-trust laws, an 8-hour work day and even eventually coming around to the idea of women’s suffrage after a protracted argument with the movements leaders. These reforms were sweeping in scope, and had long-lasting consequences. The one area of reform he faltered in was civil rights. Being a Democrat, he brought many pro-Jim Crow southerners into his administration, did nothing to combat segregation and headed one of the most segregated administrations in the 19th century. For some reason African Americans still supported him in large numbers, even campaign for him, but he is widely regarded as a racist.
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