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Theodore Roosevelt Political Party: Republican Split Launched Progressive Party

By Morgan Chilson   |   Monday, 25 Aug 2014 06:45 PM

President Theodore Roosevelt founded a new political party, the Progressive Party of 1912, after his dissatisfaction with the Republican Party led him to part ways.

A reformer from the beginning of his political career, Roosevelt tackled graft and corruption in the Republican Party from his early days in the New York legislature and throughout his career. But he ran and served as a Republican vice president and then president, even though his progressive policies got him into trouble with his own party.

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According to Biography.com, his vocal criticism of the party led its leaders to slip him on the ticket as President William McKinley’s vice president, thinking it would keep him quiet. But McKinley was assassinated soon after the election, and Roosevelt became president.

In office, he enacted and focused on many progressive policies, including civil rights, women's suffrage, and desegregation. Today, Roosevelt is sometimes called the nation’s “first modern president” and also the “first environmentalist president,” Biography.com said.

When Roosevelt left office, his successor was President William Howard Taft, who had served as Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, and whom Roosevelt thought would continue on in the progressive tradition. But Taft quickly departed from his predecessor’s policies, earning Roosevelt’s scorn.

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PBS said the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft became a “political brawl of the lowest order.”

“TR announced Taft had ‘brains less than a guinea pig,’ while Taft called TR a ‘demagogue,’ and questioned his veracity,” PBS said. “In a typically fiery nationwide tour, TR hammered Taft and the Conservatives mercilessly, winning the support of the common folk and delegates from those states that held primary conventions. But at the Republicans' national convention, the tide turned. The Republican machine supported Taft. TR's delegates refused to vote, then walked out.”

Two months later, Roosevelt and his supporters formed the Progressive party and selected him as their presidential candidate.

At the Republican convention of 1912, Roosevelt lost the nomination to Woodrow Wilson, who was also a progressive candidate.

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