At the turn of the 19th century an ambitious New York politician was nominated as the Vice President for the Republican Party. His party won the election and he assumed his role as Vice President on the fourth of March, 1901. He was just 42 years old. The following September, when the President died from an assassin’s bullet, he became the 26th, and youngest, President of the United States. What is lost on most Republicans today is the progressive and populist spirit he brought to the office.
His “square deal” focused on providing the common man with new benefits, increased government regulation of the food and drug industries, and destroying the monopolies that had grown during the industrial revolution and the expansion of the interstate transportation system of the day.
Recognizing the need to protect the land from the greed of the developers he established a system of National Parks where the pristine beauty of the land could be preserved.
A longtime proponent of the US involvement in foreign affairs he sent the US Navy on a trip around the world, without the funding to make it. The “great white fleet,” as it came to be known, did not have congressionally approved funding for the trip, but the President knew that once they were on the way the Congress would have little choice but provide the funding.
He earned the Nobel Peace prize for his work in bringing the Russo-Japanese war to an end.
So let’s review the facts: The president set out his vision on what would make life better for the individual, he created the “bully pulpit” to fight the corporations, he took unilateral action when the Congress was slow to act, and advanced our role in international affairs over the objections of an isolationist majority.
By most accounts Theodore Roosevelt is recognized as a “Great” President, with his face permanently displayed on Mount Rushmore. I wonder how most modern Republicans would view him today? Although a fiscal conservative, he was a social progressive (including support for eugenics), and an advocate for global involvement. Would he still find a home in the Republican party? He didn’t fit in well then, and I am guessing he wouldn’t fit at all now.