Saturday, December 3, 2016

Roosevelt and Taft:The Fathers of Modern Day Liberalism (Part II)

Domestically, Taft was very much built in the progressive Roosevelt image. For that reason, Roosevelt pushed for Taft to succeed him in 1908 which was done successfully. Taft’s four years as president may have been more productive than Roosevelt’s 7.5 years (Roosevelt was vice president when McKinley was assassinated. Interestingly, Republicans placed Roosevelt in the vice president (VP) position to keep him out of the way since the VP has limited power. Ironically, Taft would have more than likely been the 1904 Republican candidate had McKinley not been assassinated). Taft used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to break up dozens of monopolies; passed an income tax amendment to the constitution; granted two more territories statehood; passed new corporate taxes; and was the first to push for the passage of free trade laws (protectionism tariffs had been the central government philosophy up to that point). In response to a major recession under the Roosevelt presidency (many blamed it on his anti-corporation laws) Taft created what would eventually turn into the Federal Reserve (under Woodrow Wilson) and he created the postal savings system where people can save their money in a government bank instead of private banks that failed at a high rate during the Roosevelt recession.

Roosevelt was not particularly happy with Taft once he became president. Roosevelt was not happy that Taft removed all his cabinet members and he was not happy that he undid many of his regulations especially western land grabs. Taft thought that Roosevelt violated the Constitution by circumventing congress to make many western lands public property. Even though Taft successfully got Congress to legally approve the land grabs, Roosevelt was beside himself. The rift was so bad that Roosevelt decided to be the first president to seek a third term. The Republican primary between Roosevelt and Taft was heated. It was the first time a presidential election held primaries where the people of each state decided the delegates and the outcome (similar to our present day system – 13 states used the primary system and the rest used the conventional manner at that time to decide elections at the convention). Hence, it became the first election where candidates went to states to campaign for votes in the primary season. Roosevelt’s rhetoric was just as harsh as anything we may witness today. Taft would not stoop to Roosevelt’s level other than to defend himself over the many falsehoods that Roosevelt claimed. Roosevelt won most of the primaries but Taft won the nomination at the Convention winning most states who did not have a primary. Roosevelt was upset and felt the Republican nomination was robbed from him. Roosevelt decided to run in 1912 as a third party candidate – the progressive Bull Moose Party. The unfortunate outcome of this skirmish is that it allowed Woodrow Wilson win the presidency. Taft would have won the presidency if it were not for Roosevelt’s massive super ego.

Wilson continued the progressive movement started by Roosevelt and Taft. Wilson lowered the protection tariffs, instituted a progressive Federal Income Tax, passed Child Labor Laws, and passed the Federal Reserve Act. Wilson tried to create a League of Nations (our United Nations today) but failed after WWI. This action was not much different than a treaty created by Taft with many nations to decide issues through arbitration to avoid wars (This agitated the war thirsty Roosevelt). In fact, everything Wilson did was merely an enhancement of Roosevelt and Taft policies. Wilson was Taft and Roosevelt on steroids. Hence, the start of the progressive era with each liberal president trying to outdo their predecessor (not with new ideas, but by making old ideas more restrictive).

Taft and Roosevelt were the fathers of Democratic progressive policies. To Taft and Roosevelt’s credit, back in their day, there was a need for child labor laws, working condition laws, and so forth. Today, the need for unions and further regulations are not needed nearly to the extent as they were needed in the beginning of the twentieth century. However, that has not stopped Democrats and liberals from being more intrusive by creating more laws, taxes, and regulations to beat down corporations. But all the ideas of progressive policies originated from Republicans – everything from an inheritance tax to radical ideas such as repealing judicial decisions came from these two Republicans. They even championed ideas that are a part of American tradition today: women’s suffrage, election of Senators (originally Senators were appointed by state legislators), election primaries, and free trade.

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