What were the key issues of the 1912 Presidential election and the basic principles of Wilsonian progressivism?

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dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 1912 Presidential election was composed of three candidates, Teddy Roosevelt, Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Each candidate's political platform was filled with reform credentials. Roosevelt ran on the new Bull Moose Party ticket, Taft on the Republican, and Wilson on the Democrat ticket. However, Roosevelt was a Republican but because he did not get the nomination he simply ran on the new 'third party' ticket. This caused the Republican vote to be split between Roosevelt and Taft, essentially making it impossible for either of them the gain the electoral votes necessary to win the election. This of course was a great help for the Democrats, Wilson won the electoral votes and the Presidency.

The major issues of his election were;

1. The passage of the Underwood Tariff- (federal income tax) which was progressive in nature...tax rate increased as income increased

2. The ratification of the 16th Amendment- gave Congress the authority to tax personal and corporate income

3. The Clayton Antitrust Act- which created the Federal Trade Commission- strengthening the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890

4. The Federal Reserve Act 1913- created the Federal Reserve System- this reform was designed to regulate the monetary system allowing it to expand or contract as needed throughout the economy

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 1912 election was a four-way race between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft on the Republican side, Woodrow Wilson running as a Democrat, and Eugene V. Debs running as a Socialist. The Republicans were split between a more conservative wing under Taft, who was unpopular after passing a high tariff, and a more progressive wing under Roosevelt's Progressive Party (nicknamed the "Bull Moose Party"). Popular sentiment had turned against Taft when he went against progressive ideas, such as a lower tariff and anti-trust regulation. Roosevelt advocated land conservation, labor unions, and protections of working women. Under the banner of "New Nationalism," Roosevelt also sought a federal commission to oversee business, tax reform, and other measures of social and financial reform.

Wilson shared Roosevelt's progressive stance. His plan of "New Freedom" sought to create opportunities for the middle class through the reduction of tariffs, anti-trust regulation, and banking reforms. Debs, for his part, advocated the destruction of capitalism. In the final vote, Wilson won about 42% of the popular vote to gain the presidency, while Roosevelt captured 27% of the popular vote. It was a year in which the population was receptive to progressive ideas.