Bull Moose Party: Definition & Platform

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  • 0:00 Roosevelt, Taft & New…
  • 1:43 The Bull Moose Party
  • 3:11 The Election of 1912
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason McCollom
After years away from the office, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt returned to the campaign trail with the Bull Moose Party. Read about the colorful history of the party and the election of 1912, and check your knowledge with a quiz.

Roosevelt, Taft & New Nationalism

In 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt, the barrel-chested, spectacled, and mustached president, proclaimed he would not run for another term, there were doubters. Roosevelt had a big ego and big ambitions, and few believed he would stay out of the spotlight. They were right. Roosevelt returned in 1912 to challenge his former party and his old friend for the presidency with the so-called Bull Moose Party.

When Roosevelt stepped down in 1908, he groomed his friend and protégé William Howard Taft to be the Republican candidate. Taft won, but soon alienated Roosevelt and eventually turned his mentor against him. Roosevelt believed Taft was not progressive enough. To be progressive in the early twentieth century meant to use the power of the government to regulate big business, protect workers and the environment, and clean up corrupt politics.

Specifically, Roosevelt claimed that Taft's administration was full of corrupt lawyers, and he was upset that Taft had fired a conservation-minded cabinet official named Gifford Pinchot. For these and various other reasons, Roosevelt became alienated from his former political ally and claimed that Taft failed 'to carry out my work unbroken' and was 'utterly helpless as a leader.'

Roosevelt began making moves to challenge Taft for the Republican presidential nomination in 1912. Roosevelt made his unofficial political return when he gave a fiery speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1910. Back in the spotlight, Roosevelt used a catchy label to name his proposals. The platform of Roosevelt's New Nationalism promised to force corporations to 'play by the rules,' to promote government regulation of 'arrogant' big businesses, to institute a federal income tax, and called for additional federal regulations to protect children and workers. The New Nationalism would form the basis of Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party in 1912.

The Bull Moose Party

With the New Nationalism speech, Roosevelt entered with a bang the race for the Republican presidential nominee for the 1912 election. In language that clearly indicated his friendship with Taft was at an end, he called his rival a 'hopeless fathead.' President Taft responded with proclamations that Roosevelt was a 'dangerous egotist' and a 'demagogue.'

In state after state, Roosevelt defeated Taft in the primaries, by which voters chose their preferred Republican candidate. Despite this, at the Republican National Convention, the party bosses nominated Taft for reelection. Roosevelt denounced the party leaders as thieves, and he and his delegates walked out of the convention as fistfights erupted on the convention floor.

Roosevelt and his delegates formed a third party, officially titled the Progressive Party. However, when Roosevelt was nominated as the party's presidential candidate, he famously stated he felt 'fit as a bull moose.' The name stuck, and the Progressive Party became known as the Bull Moose Party.

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