Daniel Ruddy’s new book -- "Theodore the Great: Conservative Crusader" – reveals President Roosevelt’s relevance for us today. Get “Theodore the Great” on Amazon – Click Here. His article on the 2016 race follows below.
Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House recalls the presidential election of 1912 — when another brash New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt, defied the establishment of the Republican Party. Imagine what Teddy’s campaign would look like if he were running for the presidency today.
In many respects, Trump and Roosevelt are as different as night and day. But they also overlap in notable ways, especially in their populist appeal and nationalist worldview.
Destroying the ‘Invisible Government’
"Behind the ostensible government sits an invisible government owning no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people," Roosevelt declared in 1912, describing why he sought to replace a Republican president — William Howard Taft — in the White House.
He added that, "To destroy this invisible government, to destroy the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."
Roosevelt is the greatest phrase-maker in U.S. political history. He coined the term "invisible government" to inspire the American people to take their government back from unelected plutocrats, corporate lobbyists, and party bosses, who collectively had hijacked the nation’s democracy in the generation that followed the Civil War.
Roosevelt would undoubtedly smile with approval were he alive today to hear Donald Trump denounce the same nefarious "special interests," which unfortunately continue to thrive a century after TR’s death.
Promoting Popular Rule
In recent years, Theodore Roosevelt has been vilified as a "liberal fascist" and sinister "progressive" by Jonah Goldberg, Glenn Beck, and others on the right, particularly those with libertarian leanings. If we are to believe these critics, Teddy wanted "big government" to control the lives of ordinary Americans, taxing and regulating them to death.
This is a grotesque caricature of the truth. The constant theme of Roosevelt’s political career was to increase the control the American people had over their government, not the other way around. He wanted to replace the illegitimate rule of the "invisible government" with "popular rule," thereby empowering citizens at the expense of the state.
Accordingly, Roosevelt ran for president in 1912 on a farsighted platform that supported ideas radical for that time, but widely accepted today, even by conservatives. These included the ballot initiative, which allowed the people to call referendums on issues not dealt satisfactorily by their elected representatives; the referendum, which allowed the people to vote on a ballot initiative; and the recall, which allowed the people to remove elected officials from office and overturn judicial decisions that defied public opinion.
Given Roosevelt’s unyielding belief in popular rule, it is likely that he would favor statewide or national referendums on controversial issues like abortion, gay marriage, and the like, rather than have them decided by unelected judges.
It is hard to know if he would have supported Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union, but he would have liked that it was made by the British people themselves rather than Parliament.
When Trump said he was thrilled that Britain had "taken its country back" from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, he was in effect repeating Teddy’s mantra from 1912 about destroying the "invisible government" entrenched in Washington.
Defeating the Mohammedan Aggressor
An unrivaled champion of Western Civilization, Theodore Roosevelt once observed: "If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, and on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over, the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan, and the Christian religion would be exterminated. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor."
From these words, it is obvious that Roosevelt’s approach to confronting radical Islamists would be much stronger than President Obama’s. One of the greatest hawks in American history, Roosevelt was an enthusiastic warrior; he would take the fight to the enemy with a fervor even greater than that of Donald Trump.
One Flag, One Nation
A full-throated defender of the nation’s sovereignty, Theodore Roosevelt would not hesitate to enact new immigration restrictions — and yes, even build a border wall like the one Trump has proposed — if he felt they were in the nation’s interest.
We know this because he extended the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prevented "coolies" from entering the United States and taking the jobs of Americans, and made a "gentleman’s agreement" with Japan to limit the flow of Japanese migrants, which he hoped would lessen the risk of war with that country.
Roosevelt made it clear that he wanted all immigrants of "low moral tendency" and "unsavory reputation" kept out of the country, as well as those who insisted on maintaining their allegiance to their former country, denouncing them as "hyphenated Americans."
"America is not to be made a polyglot boarding house for money hunters of 20 different nationalities who have changed their former country for this country only as farmyard beasts change one feeding trough for another," said Roosevelt. "America is a nation. No man has any right to come here and no man should be permitted to stay here unless he becomes an American and nothing else. We must have in this country only one flag and that flag the American flag; only one language, the English language."
Get your copy of the newly released “Theodore the Great” from Amazon – Click Here Now
Daniel Ruddy is the author of the new book "Theodore the Great: Conservative Crusader," published August 29. He previously authored "Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States: His Own Words."
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