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Video: Teddy Roosevelt Believed GOP Should Offer Real Solutions to Real Problems

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From the superb Ken Burns series, The Roosevelts, I loved the following passage about Teddy Roosevelt as Governor of New York. Yes, TR was a Republican, but as the following passage makes clear, he was absolutely NOTHING like the Republicans of today. Regardless, TR was right then and he’s right today: Republicans, and more importantly the country, would be far better off if they adopted TR’s attitude towards government, business, the environment, etc., than the bizarre, warped, extreme positions they hold today.

P.S. I started off as a progressive Republican myself as a teenager, in the same line of thought as Teddy Roosevelt and many others (e.g.,  Bob LaFollette, Dwight Eisenhower, John Chaffee, Lowell Weicker, Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller), but got the heck out of that party when I saw it taken over by supply siders (aka “Voodoo Economics”), racists and theocrats back in 1980. Sad to say, Republicans have only gotten (much) worse since then. I’m 100% confident that Teddy Roosevelt would not be a member of the Republican Party today (nor would Abraham Lincoln, of course, or Javits, LaFollette, probably George Romney, etc, etc.).

Boss Platt feared the new governor harbored what he called “altruistic ideas,” and was a little loose on questions affecting the right of a man to run his own business in his own way.  He was right. Roosevelt promised to consult Platt as he went along, but he had concluded that it was neither wise nor safe for Republicans to take refuge in what he called “mere negation.” New circumstances demanded a new kind of reform – progressive reform. The Republican Party, he felt, should actually offer real solutions to real problems…the old natural laws of the marketplace were no longer adequate. Government, [Roosevelt] believed, needed to step in to tame the market’s excesses and maintain necessary order. Wrongs now had to be righted through legislation as well as persuasion. Roosevelt intended to strike a balance between what he called “mob rule” and improper corporate influence…In less than 6 months, he secured passage of bills that taxed corporations, limited working hours for women and children, improved sweatshop conditions, created or protected forest preserves

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I was moved by the Ken Burns videos to look up the Progressive Party platform that TR ran on in 1912 when he challenged Taft. It still rings true.

    “This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest. It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.”

    “We pledge our party to legislation that will compel strict limitation of all campaign contributions and expenditures…”

    Much of the rest of the platform has been enacted during Democratic administrations (with the exception, perhaps, of the EPA during Nixon’s term), much of it during the terms of FDR. The problem right now is that much of that progressive improvement is under attack by the forces of reaction and extremism in the Republican Party.

    Hopefully, many people will see the Burns series and learn something about how the nation was made more rational and more humane.

  • Jim B

    One dark spot of the telecast is having George Will making comments. So far he has not said anything stupid, but it must pain the hell out of him to see what the old Rough Rider did.

  • pvogel

    trouble is,   the GOP welcomed  all the   southern white supremecists  racist,   and  scalawags     that  bought  shwme to the democrats.    Basically the partys   flipped  much like    north  and south pole flips  once  in awhile.

  • clark

    I’m a huge TR fan, James Chace’s book, 1912: The Election that Changed the Country is a really good read. Not only did a third party candidate come in 2nd (TR), but Eugene Debs got 6% of the popular vote. The title of the book comes right out and says it, and I agree that the 1912 election fundamentally changed the trajectory of both major parties.