Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary

Geoffrey Cowan. Norton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-24984-2
In this timely, engaging story of Teddy Roosevelt’s role in changing how political parties choose their presidential nominees, Cowan (The People v. Clarence Darrow), director of the Annenberg School’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the University of Southern California, presents the 26th president as a conflicted, reluctant champion of popular democracy. Roosevelt served nearly two full terms as president (1901–9) before taking a hiatus from politics. Friends and supporters urged him to run again in 1912 to keep the Republican Party on a reformist course. However, Roosevelt’s personally groomed successor, William Howard Taft, refused to give up hopes for a second term, setting the stage for a fight at the nominating convention. Roosevelt knew he had to capitalize on his popularity, so the manner of choosing delegates and who they represented was critically important to securing the nomination. Cowan writes with a Rooseveltian verve, focusing on the political processes without losing sight of the major personalities who were involved as Roosevelt, Taft, and Robert La Follette jockeyed for the 1912 nomination. He also portrays Roosevelt as an opportunist who manipulated race and gender issues to further his candidacy. Roosevelt introduced an important change to the nominating process, but Cowan shows that it cost him and the Republicans the White House. Illus. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/23/2015
Release date: 01/01/2016
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-393-24985-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-000-2
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-393-35369-3
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