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Let the people rule : Theodore Roosevelt and the birth of the presidential primary
2016
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For better or worse, Theodore Roosevelt changed how American presidential campaigns are handled. In 1912, after retiring and selecting William Howard Taft as his successor, Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his old friend for the Republican nomination for the presidency. Hoping to level the playing field, Roosevelt encouraged the use of presidential primaries and won nine out of 13 races, rallying around the slogan "Let the People Decide." Roosevelt thought that he could win enough primaries and enough popular support to gain the nomination. The party bosses, who did not like his methods and who had a different agenda, blocked his nomination. Roosevelt, in turn, walked out, creating his own political party, the Bull Moose Party. Joe Barrett reads the book with relish. VERDICT A very appropriate listening choice in an election year. ["Both general readers and historians will enjoy the book's you-are-there feel because of Cowan's excellent use of primary documents": LJ 2/15/16 review of the Norton hc.]-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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"Cowan has brought to life a fascinating part of TR's story usually left out of the history books. He tells it with verve and suspense, warts and all, his insights deepened by his own impressive background as a democracy activist."--Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars <br> <p> Let the People Rule tells the exhilarating story of the four-month campaign that changed American politics forever. In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his close friend and handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican Party nomination. To overcome the power of the incumbent, TR seized on the idea of presidential primaries, telling bosses everywhere to "Let the People Rule." The cheers and jeers of rowdy supporters and detractors echo from Geoffrey Cowan's pages as he explores TR's fight-to-the-finish battle to win popular support. After sweeping nine out of thirteen primaries, he felt entitled to the nomination. But the party bosses proved too powerful, leading Roosevelt to walk out of the convention and create a new political party of his own.</p> <p>Using a trove of newly discovered documents, Cowan takes readers inside the colorful, dramatic, and often mean-spirited campaign, describing the political machinations and intrigue and painting indelible portraits of its larger-than-life characters. But Cowan also exposes the more unsavory parts of TR's campaign: seamy backroom deals, bribes made in TR's name during the Republican Convention, and then the shocking political calculation that led TR to ban any black delegates from the Deep South from his new "Bull Moose Party."</p> <p>In this utterly compelling work, Cowan illuminates lessons of the past that have great resonance for American politics today.</p>
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