Book Trailer The Noble Train

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Last Republican Progressive -Colonel Roosevelt

Reading Edmund Morris's Colonel Roosevelt is like reading the Democratic wish list for the year 2011. Stopping the power of big business and the influence of money in elections is the backbone of ills any dyed in the wool liberal Democrat would cite as the biggest evils confronting democracy today. Theodore Roosevelt out of office was as keenly aware of these twin evils as he was in office. "...we do not give the right to suffrage to any cooperation...the citizens of the United States must effectively control the might commercial forces which they themselves have called into being." That sounds like any Democrat of the present day. But of course Republicans were not always Tea Party lackeys of the far right.

Theodore Roosevelt believed in the Progressive Movement so much he splintered the Republican party to bring a new party based on those principals to life. Predictably Wall Street and the banks and big business hoped he would stay on his estate in Oyster Bay when he left the Presidency. But he couldn't. President Taft quickly sold out to the power of big business and money and gave into the forces against conservation so much so that Roosevelt felt he had to return to politics for the good of the country. These issues have not changed at all for the Democrats: conservation, Main Street versus Wall Street, the influence of special interests. But we do not associate these issues with this firebrand (Roosevelt) of the Republican Party.

Nor did Roosevelt approve of the power of corporations on our elections. " is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after the election but before the election as well..." He was for campaign finance reform long before it had become the buzz word of every election since. Of course Roosevelt fails in his attempt to bring real reform to the Republican Party and the country. His legacy of Trust Busting and setting aside millions of acres for future generations had already been established. What he did confront was the beginning of the end of the Progressive Era that would not see light until his cousin Franklin Roosevelt had to rescue the country with the New Deal. So once upon a time, there was such a thing as a progressive Republican. To put it into T.R.'s parlence: Bully for that!
Rocket Man will blast off April 26th

Books by William Hazelgrove