The election of 1912
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The Election of 1912. Simplifying this Complex Event. Questions Facing America in 1912. Should America be a capitalist or socialist society? Should government protect the social welfare of citizens? Should women vote, and participate as full citizens in the life of the nation?

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The election of 1912

The Election of 1912

Simplifying this Complex Event

Questions facing america in 1912
Questions Facing America in 1912

Should America be a capitalist or socialist society?

Should government protect the social welfare of citizens?

Should women vote, and participate as full citizens in the life of the nation?

Should Americans expand their democracy in other ways?

Should government exercise more control over businesses?

Should government try to solve the conflict between "capital" and "labor?"

Should the government work vigorously for the conservation of natural resources?

The issues

Election of 1912

The Issues

Big issues
BIG Issues

The Usual Suspects

The Usually Left Out


Judicial Reform

Safety of the Food and Medicine Supply


Cost of Living


  • Direct Democracy

  • The Labor Question

  • Womens’ Suffrage

  • The Race Problem

  • The Tariff

  • Trusts

  • Regulation of Business

  • Conservation


  • Direct Democracy

  • Women Suffrage

  • Judicial Reform

  • Trusts

  • Regulation of Business

  • The Tariff

  • Cost of Living

  • Prohibition

  • Lynching

  • Immigration

  • Race Problem

  • Food and Medicine

Cost of living
Cost of Living








The Cost of Living

The candidates

Election of 1912

The Candidates

The big four
The Big Four

Theodore Roosevelt (P)

Woodrow Wilson (D)

William Taft (R)

Eugene Debs (S)


  • Early life

  • Education

  • PhD Thesis

  • Career prior to politics

  • Governor of New Jersey

  • Personality

Theodore roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

  • Background

  • Physical culture

  • Personality

  • Pedigree as 26th President of the United States

  • Republican or Progressive?

William taft
William Taft

  • Background as judge and governor of the Philippines

  • Friendship with TR

  • Taft as Sec of War

  • Incumbent President

  • Increasing friction with TR

Eugene debs
Eugene Debs

  • Background as Union organizer

  • Role in railroad strikes

  • Prosecution and jail

  • Evolution to socialism

  • Adherence to American socialism rather than European socialism

The platforms

Election of 1912

The Platforms


  • High import tariffs.

  • Put limitations on female and child labor.

  • Workman’s Compensation Laws.

  • Against initiative, referendum, and recall.

  • Against “bad” trusts.

  • Creation of a Federal Trade Commission.

  • Stay on the gold standard.

  • Conservation of natural resources because they are finite.


  • Government control of the monopolies

    • trusts in general were bad

    • eliminate them!!

  • Tariff reduction.

  • One-term President.

  • Direct election of Senators.

  • Create a Department of Labor.

  • Strengthen the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

  • Did NOT support women’s suffrage.

  • Opposed to a central bank.

New Freedom


  • Women’s suffrage.

  • Graduated income tax.

  • Inheritance tax for the rich.

  • Lower tariffs.

  • Limits on campaign spending.

  • Currency reform.

  • Minimum wage laws.

  • Social insurance.

  • Abolition of child labor.

  • Workmen’s compensation.

New Nationalism


  • Government ownership of railroads and utilities.

  • Guaranteed income tax.

  • No tariffs.

  • 8-hour work day.

  • Better housing.

  • Government inspection of factories.

  • Women’s suffrage.

The election results

Election of 1912

The Election & Results

The republican nomination
The Republican Nomination

  • Return of TR

  • Failure of Republicans to nominate him

    • Too radical

    • Too reform minded

    • Not controlable

  • Republicans split into two separate parties

1912 election
1912 Election

Wilson becomes a minority President

Results of the election
Results of the Election




  • Wins but is a minority President

  • Is wholly unsuited to the job

  • In the end the Progressive Party died out

  • TR left the party, refusing to split the Republicans in 1914

  • Left the White House

  • Republicans lost the Pres and Congress for first time in 16 years

  • Goes on to serve on the Supreme Court

Debs and the socialists
Debs and the Socialists

  • 1912 was the high-point for the Socialists at the ballot box

    • 6% of the popular vote

  • Membership falls off, then rebounds slightly during WWI

  • Debs doesn’t run in 1916, but does in 1920 – from a jail cell

  • The Bloshevik revolutions and accordant fear of Bolshevism in America virtually destroyed the party in the 1920’s

Special thanks
Special Thanks

  • Ohio State University, Department of History, ehistory, Multimedia Histories Section, “1912: Competing Visions for America”.

  • Radosh, Ronald, Debs (Englewood Cliffs, N.J..: Prentice Hall, 1971)

  • Shannon, David, The Socialist Party of America: A History (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967)

  • Peterson, A. The Election of 1912 (Lakeside, CA: Interaction Publishers, 1992)

  • HarpWeek/Elections. “Election of 1912.”