Political Platforms of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson
A new reform movement began to captivate the nation early on in the first decade of the new century. The Progressive Movement of the early 1900s was similar to the Populist movement of the 1880s and 1890s, only it was larger and had much more of an effect on American life and politics. Muckraking journalists, reform-minded politicians, women, socialists, and more were all classified as Progressives; those who wished to use the government as an instrument for the betterment of society. They were simply looking to clean up business and government while giving the lower classes the help that they deserved. Progressivism reached the White House in 1901 when Theodore Roosevelt assumed the office left vacant by the late President McKinley. Roosevelt attacked big business with his ‘Square Deal.’ When Woodrow Wilson won the election of 1912, a different type of Progressivism sat in the Oval Office in the form of the President’s ‘New Freedom.’ While, Wilson portrayed himself as a conservative, some of his actions while in office were as progressive as any. Both men’s platforms had significant differences, but also significant similarities. Only through consideration of both can we decide who’s approach to reform was the most effective.
Surprisingly, Roosevelt was not always a fan of Progressivism. He initially viewed laborers and the working class as people who complained before attempting to work hard for their own gains. Roosevelt looked to defend the public interest from corruption while at the same time, avoided spoon-feeding the American people. He wanted to give everybody a fair shot to make something of their life. As President, Roosevelt’s Progressive platform was dubbed the ‘Square Deal’ for capital, labor, and the public at large. Roosevelt tamed several corporations, while leaving alone companies such as US Steel which he believed were essential to the American economy. He then protected all American consumers in passing legislation such as the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act to ensure that the citizens of the United States would remain healthy. Throughout his two terms, Teddy believed he embodied Progressivism in fighting for the common man and backing off big business. He wanted to bring the confidence to the people, that if they worked hard, they could fight against other social problems. When Roosevelt ran for the presidency in 1912, he upgraded his Progressive platform to ‘New Nationalism.’ He wanted people to see the nation over the individual. What could the people do to improve their country; not what could the nation do to improve its people. He looked to continue to battle trusts, bring peace to unions and management, introduce new regulation and extend the vote to women. During his time in the political spotlight, Roosevelt clearly became more progressive over time and fought to reform most of societies issues.
Woodrow Wilson was raised in a conservative, religious background, making it tough for him to embrace reforms. However, Wilson listened and was very open minded. After receiving the Democratic nomination in the election of 1912, Wilson drew up his ‘New Freedom’ program to fight against Roosevelt and Taft. Wilson preached for small business and entrepreneurship. After an electoral landslide, Wilson entered his term with confidence ready to battle the tariff, banks, and trusts. In seemingly little time, Wilson held three special sessions of Congress where he pushed through a lower tariff, reform of the banking system with the Federal Reserve Act, and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act. He even nominated the first Jew to the Supreme Court. Wilson promoted causes for the common good, but it became a bit harder when it came to the African American population. The one flaw of Wilson was his refusal to halt the growing segregation.
In debating the ideals of Roosevelt and Wilson, they shared many similarities. Both men were for laissez-faire economics. Both believed that they stood for the common man and that they had the public’s interest at heart. They both became more progressive as their careers dragged on. In terms of action, Wilson might have been the more progressive candidate. While his isolationism approach to the war differed from the progressive T.R, he passed the 19th Amendment granting the vote to women. He also passed many types of legislation that could be seen as progressive. However, if Roosevelt would have won the election of 1912 he might have done the same. Lastly, it can be said that without Roosevelt, there may have been no Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt was the first progressive president and in a sense; he had to warm the country to the idea of reform. It may be true that during his time in office, he didn’t accomplish as much as Wilson, but he began the fight on corruption and on protecting the common man.
The Compare and Contrast of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson
Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were both major icons of the early 20th century and helped generate what we call the Progressive Era. Theodore Roosevelt being an American war hero in the late 19th century by helping The US succeed in the Spanish-American war with the help of his creation and leading of the Rough riders. He was also a Republican and the creator of the American conservation movement. Whereas Woodrow Wilson was a lawyer and an academic of multiple colleges such as Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University where he later became the 13th president of Princeton and severed from 1902-1910. Furthermore, he was part of the democratic party. These two presidents have many differences as well as similarities which both help them succeed in their presidential terms.
One prime example of similarities between these two was their commitment towards major progressive reforms. One of these reforms being “Wilson’s tariff reform, pushing through Congress the Underwood-Simmons Act, which achieved the most significant reductions in rates since the Civil War. He argued that high tariffs created monopolies and hurt consumers, and his lower tariffs were especially popular in the South and West” (Saladin, 2017). Another being one of Roosevelt’s reforms which was the Pure Food and Drug Act. “This Act was passed muckraking journalist like Upton Sinclair (in his book The Jungle) revealed unsanitary conditions in food production and exposed the existence of fraudulent medicine. The imposition of fines was authorized for any companies that endangered the health of consumers” (Solheim 83). This act later became what we know now as the Food and Drug Administration or FDA for short. Another similarity between Roosevelt and Wilson was that they both served as governors before their terms of presidency. Roosevelt served as the 33rd governor of New York in 1899-1900 where he then got elected as vice president in 1901 the same year, he was announced president after the assassinated of William McKinley. Where, Wilson was elected as the 34th governor of New Jersey in 1911, just one year before his presidential term. The next similitude linking these two together is they are both winners of the Nobel Peace prize. Wilson won his Peace Prize in 1919 by being the leading architect behind the League of Nations. League of Nations was to ensure world peace after the slaughter of millions of people in the First World War. On the other hand, Roosevelt won his in 1906 for negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905. He also resolved a disagreement with Mexico by resorting to arbitration as recommended by the peace movement. A further similarity of Roosevelt and Wilson was they were both authors. Roosevelt was a prolific writer with some of the most written works out of all the people who have served as the president. “Roosevelt wrote 45 works of biography, history, public policy, and adventure. Perhaps his most notable is The Naval War of 1812, his first book, which was published when he was only 24. It is highly regarded well over a century later” (Esposito, 2017). Now for Wilson he had not wrote quite as much as Roosevelt but he still has fair share of great works such as his first book called Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, which described his view towards the American and parliamentary government and suggested reforms that would make the American system more efficient to public opinion. The last likeliness of these two former presidents is they both ran for the 1912 presidential election.
Although there are many similarities between these presidents, there are also a few differences. One of these significant differences being their ages when they were sworn into office. Roosevelt was only 42 years old when he was sworn in. He was and still is the youngest person to ever hold the title of president of the United States. Whereas Wilson was a bit older at the age of 56 years old when he was inaugurated in. Another dissimilarity with Roosevelt and Wilson was their military backgrounds. Roosevelt supported former president William McKinley during the 1896 presidential election, after the election as a reward McKinley appointed Theodore Roosevelt as the assistant secretary of the navy. Once the war with Spain started to appear Roosevelt decided to resign from his role as assistant secretary of the navy to form his famous regiment called the Rough Riders. He led the Rough Riders into battle, which decorated him as a war hero. Whereas Wilson never served in the military, rather he was more of a scholarly individual studying at multiple colleges such as Princeton University, University of Virginia school of law, and Johns Hopkins University where he earned his Ph.D. for political science in 1886. He later become a professor for both Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University, where he eventually became president of Princeton in 1902.
- Esposito, Joseph A. “Presidents as Authors.” Washington Independent Review of Books, 25 Jan. 2017, http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/index.php/features/presidents-as-authors.
- Ambar, Saladin. “Woodrow Wilson: Domestic Affairs.” Miller Center, The University of Virginia, 29 Aug. 2017, https://millercenter.org/president/wilson/domestic-affairs.
- Solheim, Bruce Olav. Making History: A Personal Approach to Modern American History. Cognella Academic Publishing, 2016.
A Critique of the Foreign Policy During Wilson’s Administration, Following Two World Wars
A Liberal Critique of Wilson’s Fourteen Points
In 1948, the outlook on the effectiveness and viability of the United States foreign policy was grim. This was due to the fact that we had just engaged in two world wars, both of which we tried to avoid and prevent, and for both this didn’t happen. This led one of President Wilson’s former assistant’s to write a scathing critique on what he thought was a totally ineffectual foreign policy. He uses several tenets of realism such as the contentions that conflict is necessary and inevitable, the only way to prevent conflict is through asserting military power, and that international institutions are an inadequate means of moderating state power. While liberals would agree with some of his assumptions they would criticize his conclusion and argue his conception of liberalism is misguided.
One of the main points Lippmann seeks to make is that the United States refuses to see the “reality” of the situation which is that war and power politics are inevitable and necessary parts of foreign policy. By trying to avoid war we only make ourselves worse off because we are unprepared when it becomes unavoidable. He then criticizes liberal theory for being too concerned with ideals and being hesitant to go to war which he sees as one of our greatest tools in moderating foreign policy. This belief shows a misunderstanding of what liberalism is. Liberalism, like realism, asserts that conflict is natural and unavoidable, but can be moderated without the use of force. Liberals believe economic and social factors can be used to avoid war as the costs of war usually outweigh the benefits, so it can be mutually beneficial to avoid it(Zacher 110). It is important to note that liberals don’t think war should never be used, rather that it should be used as a last resort, not a primary tool. So while the necessity of war may be a reality it should not be your first solution to conflict.
Lippmann also contends that international societies such as the U.N or League of Nations are ineffectual. This stems from the realist belief that only states can truly hold power(Holsti 4). This may be true in some circumstances but it is only when they lack any real power. One would not expect a country with little or no resources to be able to influence international policy significantly but this does not lead us to believe that states are poor enforcers of policy. In the same way it should not be surprising when an international society is given very little power and resources and it fails to perform its role, which was very much the case with the League of Nations. When given sufficient power international societies can help mediate conflict and find mutually beneficial outcomes such as trade which help prevent war. One only has to look to an organization such as the European Union, which has fostered a plethora of beneficial trade deals, to see proof. Arguably these deals have created more interdependence between states, increasing globalization, and as a result reduced the motivations for war.
While Lippmann may have made some valid points, they lead him to an overly cynical conclusion, and one that arguably, isn’t practical. By oversimplifying policy he saw conflict and war as the natural state of the world without acknowledging that states can have other motivations such as social and economic incentives. These incentives can be utilized to foster interdependence between nations, thus decreasing motivations for war, and increasing mutually beneficial cooperation. While Lippmann would assert that these ideas are too idealistic history has shown them to be largely successful in moderating countries, effectively proving Lippmann to be misguided.
Exploring the Political Viewpoint of President Woodrow Wilson’s Political Beliefs Through Analysis of a Catchphrase
Discuss the statement: “Congress in its Committee Rooms is Congress at work”
Woodrow Wilson stated: “Congress in its Committee Rooms is Congress at work”, meaning that the majority of the work achieved in Congress can be attributed to smaller committees and not both chambers as a whole. Committee rooms are essentially Congress in microcosm for the party balance of committee rooms reflects the party balance of Congress as a whole. For example, if the Republicans had a majority in the House of Representatives, this majority would exist within the House’s committee rooms too.
It’s true to say that Standing and Select Committees command the substance of legislation put to Congress by holding hearings on the bill, gathering relevant information, finding witnesses all to ultimately make recommendations regarding in what form the bill should proceed, if it should proceed at all. Once a bill has been deliberated and amended in committee rooms, it is simply the job of Congress to vote on whether the bill in its current form should pass to the next stage of the legislative process. This means that Congress as a whole does not get the chance to debate and amend every bill that passes through.
Congress in its entirety does not debate the substance of every bill due to the impracticality of such a concept; there are 435 members in the House of Representatives alone, and to have every one of them participating in a debate would be impossible. No conclusion would ever be found, therefore legislative gridlock would occur. It makes much more sense to have the bulk of the deliberating take place in smaller committees (around 30-40 members in the House of Representatives committees and around 18 members in the Senate committees) as legislation can be agreed upon faster. Another benefit of this is that it gives the chance for more different types of legislation to be looked over and debated upon. While it’s true that in a typical two-year Congress term only 2%-4% of legislation makes it into law, this figure would be close to 0% if committees didn’t exist.
Another trademark of committees is that they are made up of experts in their field, meaning they have an informed and educated take on the legislation put in front of them. These experts became experts by thinking of what is best for their constituents. For example, a representative from Iowa would be an expert in the Agricultural Committee as this is an issue close to the hearts of his or her constituents. While being on such a committee is beneficial for the career of said expert, it begs the question that, do committees sacrifice the nationwide focus of issues by having experts work in committees to benefit only a small region of people and, by extent, benefit their political career and chances of re-election? Such a concept really serves to accentuate the decentralized nature of US politics and the legacy of federalism.
In conclusion, I agree with the statement that Congress in its Committee Rooms is Congress at work. These committees work on legislation far more than the entirety of Congress does. Committees really get the chance to examine bills, gather witnesses and information to assist their amendments, and ultimately present a cross-party agreed version of the proposed legislation. From there, all Congress has to do is accept or reject it. This role hardly grants the entirety of Congress much credit for their input in the legislation.
Similar Agenda for Two Presidents Pertaining to Different Periods in American History, Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
When he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in the mid-1880s, Woodrow Wilson wrote a dissertation that argued that Congress had become the ruling power in Washington, dangerously so, and that presidents had become more and more obscure and less and less powerful. President Theodore Roosevelt had very similar thoughts to Woodrow Wilson. He not only thought that Presidents were weak but he thought big business men were dangerous also.
Woodrow Wilson’s second term in office was dominated by World War 1. Although the president was very much against dragging the Unites States into war during the initial years of the war. On April 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. In early 1917 German submarines were launching unrestricted submarine attacks against U.S merchant ships. Around the same time, we learned about the Zimmerman Telegram, in which Germany tried to persuade Mexico to enter into an alliance against America. America’s participation helped bring about victory for the Allies though we didn’t contribute to a lot of the fight. A seize fire was signed by the Germans because of Wilson`s 14 points. Paris and Britain didn’t want a peace treaty because they were winning the war nevertheless Wilson made it happen. Wilson helped negotiate the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty included the League of Nations, an organization intended to promote international peace and prevent future wars. This is where I see how the government has more power than the president and or the president has very little power. When Wilson returned from Europe in the summer of 1919, he encountered opposition to the Versailles treaty from congress who feared the League could limit America’s independence and draw the country into another war. Frustrated after two failed attempts to have the treaty passed, the president embarked on a cross-country speaking tour to promote his ideas for the League directly to the American people. During his tour, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Wilson’s condition was kept largely hidden from the public, and his wife worked behind the scenes to fulfill a number of his administrative duties. The League of Nations held its first meeting in January 1920 and the United States never joined the organization. However, in December 1920, Wilson received the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in chartering the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles.
President Theodore was a very successful president, He got a lot accomplished during his terms. He managed this because he used the presidency as a “bully pulpit” to promote his views to the people. He was very tough when it came to foreign affairs. He blocked efforts by Great Britain, Italy, and Germany to meddle in South America and Central America. He favored a treaty to build the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Though very successful he still believed that the president was very weak. He believed in inherent executive power, basically any power that wasn’t designated to someone or that prohibited him was ultimately his to take. Using this inherent power, he went against these vastly powerful corporate trusts that were trying to dominate finance and industries across the country. He took it as an affront that the trusts were abusing their power and only a few months after taking office declared war on them including J.P. Morgan, who might have thought he was more powerful than the president due to his ghastly wealth and who was building a railroad monopoly in the Northwest. The president campaigned across the country, arguing that the rich were consolidating their wealth and the poor were getting poorer. Americans backed him overwhelmingly.