How did the Progressive political philosophies of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt differ during the presidential election of 1912?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During the 1912 presidential election, the ideas of Woodrow Wilson, running as a Democrat, and Theodore Roosevelt, running as the candidate of the Progressive, or “Bull Moose” Party, were called “New Freedom” and “New Nationalism,” respectively.  These were both fairly progressive philosophies.

Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” has been described as the use of Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends.  What this means is that Roosevelt wanted the government to intervene aggressively in economic affairs (Hamiltonian means) in order to help the common people (Jeffersonian ends).  Roosevelt wanted a relatively big and strong central government and he wanted it to help the average person.

By contrast, Wilson’s “New Freedom” aimed at having a lot of government intervention in the short term.  It wanted the government to do things like destroying monopolies and breaking up the power of the financial sector.  But then Wilson wanted the government to step back.  Once it had created a playing field that was fair for smaller businesses, the government was to stop intervening.  Wilson wanted, in the long term, a much smaller government than Roosevelt wanted.

Roosevelt ended up losing the election because he split the Republican vote with President Taft.  That allowed Wilson to win the presidency.

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