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The Effects on American Politics from the Election of 1912

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The Effects on American Politics

From the Election of 1912

During the Progressive Era, Americans faced the challenge of choosing between four strong candidates of the election of 1912. Each candidate held concrete platforms that would have different effects on progressivism. Americans could chose the conservative presidential incumbent William Howard Taft(R), the New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson (D), the long-time fighter for social reform-Eugene V. Debs (S), or the former president Theodore Roosevelt of the newly formed Bull Moose Party (Progressive Party). Through this election many steps were taken to change the face of the election season, including women's rights, primaries, and third parties.

The 1912 election became the first to use presidential primaries on a nationwide scale, encompassing 12 states. Rhodes Cook states that by early 1912, seven states had enacted legislation establishing presidential primaries with either a preference vote, the direct election of delegates, or the combination of two. Cook also states that five other states added primaries in short order. (21-22) The primaries forced the nominees of each party to run two full campaigns, one for the nomination and one for the general election. The 1912 election showed that poor campaigning in the primaries led to low numbers of votes in the general election. This was seen in Taft's case, which did little in the Republican primary and got 632,874 popular votes less than Roosevelt and 2,806,829 less than Woodrow Wilson (Congressional Quarterly 122). Roosevelt is to be quoted on the issue of candidates' attitudes of primaries"[Their] feeling is that politics is a game, that the people should simply sit on the bleachers as spectators, and that no appeal lies to the people from the men who, for their own profit, are playing the game."(March 8, 1912 Kendell 1) Since this first important presidential primary, the presidential election has not been the same: twice the campaigning, twice the voting, and twice as likely for the election process to fail.

In the August before the election, the most successful third party in the 20th century was formed. After Theodore Roosevelt was denied the Republican nomination, he was elected in the newly formed Progressive Party. Theodore was the man for the job saying, "In loyalty, honor and duty there was nothing for me to do but to heed their call and make the race with all my might, regardless of present or future consequences to myself". (Miller 527) With this spirit, this third party had accomplished the unthinkable by becoming in second in the presidential election of 1912. This was the only time in American history that the Republican Party has come in third in both the popular and electoral vote. Sidney M. Milkis stated, "Ostensibly, the "cause" of Progressivism--the platform's commitment to direct democracy and social and industrial justice--gave reform leadership its dignity, indeed its heroic quality."(Claremont Institute) The Progressive Party's accomplishment proved that third parties can have influence on an election and they are not to be taken lightly.

This election served as the initial step into the world of politics for women. The Progressive Party was the only main party to support women's rights, and women were extremely active in supporting it. The Kansas newspaper editor William Allen White stated referring to the Progressive Party Convention: "We were, of course, for woman suffrage, and we invited women delegates and had plenty of them. They were our own kind, too-- women doctors, women lawyers, women teachers, college professors, middle-aged leaders of civic movements, or rich young girls who had gone in for settlement work."(Theodore Roosevelt Association) It is no surprise

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