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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -The Election that Changed the Country
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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -The Election that Changed the Country

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  394 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Four extraordinary men sought the presidency in 1912. Theodore Roosevelt was the charismatic and still wildly popular former president who sought to redirect the Republican Party toward a more nationalistic, less materialistic brand of conservatism and the cause of social justice.

His handpicked successor and close friend, William Howard Taft, was a reluctant politician wh
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ebook, 336 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Mark Desrosiers
Two of the world's dullest humans face off against two brave, charismatic heroes for the U.S. Presidency. The dullest man wins, and six years later throws the kick-ass one in jail.

Chace is more a storyteller than a historian, something most evident when he's trying to pin down Wilson's evasive ideology (if such a thing existed). Worth a look, but I'm definitely moving on to August Heckscher for my next take on this era.
Tony Heyl
It's about, get this, the election of 1912! It's a very interesting book, though not altogether brilliant. Wilson, Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Debs all have plusses and faults. Taft never really wanted to be President and was goaded by his power hungry wife. Wilson cheated on his wife, who later died, and then remarried. That wife was almost de-facto President for a time after Wilson's stroke. Wilson is an interesting character, actually pretty forthright in his willingness to shift positions and ...more
Rick
I wonder how many Americans know that at one time in this country the Democratic Party stood for segregation and limited government, and that the Republican Party represented progressivism and reform. Of course it's more complicated than that. In the early days of the 20th century the two most powerful presidents were progressives, and they ran against each other in 1912....Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. There were also two other candidates - Taft and Debs - in case people wanted a conserva ...more
Lisa
Admittedly, I have just a cursory knowledge of the United States presidency prior to FDR. So, when I saw the book 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country in the library, I hoped it would be a good, introductory read for me. My instincts proved correct, overall. The book excelled in the beginning, when we were introduced to the four candidates; yet, I felt the author got bogged down later on with the minutiae of the party conventions. Even so, I learned a gre ...more
Dan
Solid, workmanlike history of the 1912 election and surrounding context.

I would have like to have seen a bit more on the 1920s, where Harding and Coolidge really ran counter to the trends of the early 1910s. In particular, I would have like to have seen a bit more on 1924, a truly odd election in comparison to 1912, where there were two very conservative candidates (Coolidge, Davis) getting the lion's share of the vote. Instead, he draws a line between the 1912 campaign and FDR, which is unders
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Adam
It certainly is a good account of the 1912 election. However, my main dislikes of the book were that it often provided asides to note some future importance of some figures. While this can certainly be helpful, there were times when it became distracting and seemingly unnecessary. At one point. he notes the year that John Schrank died was the same year that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term. While an interesting coincidence, it seemingly bore no relevance to the story whatsoever. ...more
Marc
1912 provides a brief but mostly comprehensive overview of that year's U.S. presidential election, a unique and historically significant contest that pitted against one another four viable political parties – Democrat, Republican, Progressive, and Socialist – each of which had national reach and a formidable candidate at the top of the ticket: respectively, Wilson, Taft (the incumbent), Roosevelt, and Debs.

James Chace tells the story competently. The book is most engaging in its first section, w
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Andrew
- When elected for 2nd term (1904) TR said he wouldn't seek a third term. He passed presidency to Taft, who said he would keep TR's policies, but TAFT became more conservative and TR was unhappy with his

- Taft wanted to be supreme court justice, not president. (his wife wanted him to be president) - after presidency he became justice!

- Roosevelt split from Republican party - new party Progressive Party BULL MOOSE. ("i'm feeling like a bull moose" TR had responded). Very liberal: unions, campaig
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John
I'm biased toward this kind of electoral history in general, as well as toward biographies of both Roosevelt and Debs, so my rating probably reflects that. Nevertheless, this is a well-written history of a key U.S. election, which balances erudition with readability nicely. 1912 was a fascinating election year for a variety of reasons: it pit 3 presidents (past, present, and future) against each other; it featured the most successful runs ever by a 3rd-party candidate (Roosevelt) and by a social ...more
Josh Liller
This is an interesting, somewhat short (under 300 pages), and fairly easy to read book about the 1912 US presidential election and the four candidates: Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), William Howard Taft (incumbent Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and Eugene Debs (Socialist). Giving equal treatment to Debs is a pleasantly surprising choice; he usually gets ignored as a fringe candidate who never won a single electoral vote and never got more than about 5% of the popular vote. However, w ...more
George
INTERESTING, ENLIGHTENING, AND A GOOD READ.

“The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.—[Eugene V. Debs], page 257
“…that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” –[Theodore Roosevelt], page 57
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Andy Nguyen
James Chace undertook an admirable project: to document the thoughts and circumstances of the 4 presidential candidates of 1912, yet his book is a let down. His biggest flaw is that he wasted too much valuable time to chronicle unimportant events, such as Roosevelt's Europe trip, and to document minor characters from Louis Brandeis to Charles Murphy, without ever telling us why these backgrounds and events are important in understanding what was unfolding.

Chace did not provide any insightful an
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Lawrence A
This is a fascinating history of the presidenital race of 1912, when even the "conservative" candidate, the incumbent William Howard Taft, embraced many of Progressivism's most cherished ideals, including Teddy Roosevelt's famed "trust-busting." I knew that Wilson, a native Virginian, had changed his economic stripes, morphing from a classic "southern-style" Jacksonian Democrat, with all that such a characterization entailed in the early 20th Century [including deeply-ingrained racism], to a mor ...more
Mark Fallon
A running buddy found out I was a Roosevelt fan, and he sent me this book.

My knowledge of the election was mostly limited to the TR side of the story. I’ve always look at the personal split between him and Taft as a very dark moment, and a real tragedy. I always wonder what would have happened if Archie Butts hadn’t booked a ticket on the Titanic.

The background on Wilson and Debs was fascinating. The political maneuverings of Wilson, combined with the missteps of others, makes some of the modern
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Ronald Wise
An entertaining historical analysis of the American presidential election of 1912, which was essentially a four-way race. The Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would benefit from a split in the Republican party following the return of Theodore Roosevelt as candidate for the Bull Moose Party, but the Socialist Eugene Debs would make the strongest showing ever for that party. Author Chace was a respected analyst of American foreign policy, especially for the attention he paid to the personalit ...more
Rae
Sep 08, 2007 Rae rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians
This is an interesting take on the Presidential campaign of 1912. I learned a lot not only about the political climate of that period but about the candidates themselves. The book gives insight into the rift between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Roosevelt was a petulant child in a lot of ways, and Taft was too human to be always a good policitian; Roosevelt was vindictive in the rift between the two men, while it pained Taft greatly to have lost such a good friend). I also learned abo ...more
Glen
This is an excellent history of the election of 1912, following all of the candidates, and giving an accurate picture of how fragmented the electorate actually was that year.

Highly recommended.
Kevin Scott
This was a nice capsule of the era, which is what I was looking for, but I was probably more interested in the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic and establishing why they broke than Chace was probably able to determine. But there's a nice intellectual history here in terms of Roosevelt and Wilson (in particular). I went in asking how history would have been different had Roosevelt secured the Republican nomination and my answer is basically "not much" because the Democrats basically preempted so much of th ...more
Brian
Chace presents an excellent account of an important election in American history. This was the most successful election for two parties outside of the main ones. The Democrats took the election with a victory for Woodrow Wilson but TR's progressive party and Debs socialist party polled amazing results given their standing. This book goes beyond the 1912 election and takes people through the world war showing what happened to each of these parties and the men. Debs life in particular was interest ...more
Elizabeth
A readable history of a pivotal time in American political history. Theodore Roosevelt running on the Bull Moose party pulled votes away from incumbent Taft so that Wilson could win the presidency. Eugene Debs gained 900,000 votes for the Socialist party--the largest number in history.

This is a fascinating look at an election that would put Wilson in the White House while Europe was on the brink of war. James Chace does a good job of describing personalities and how their idiosyncrasies influenc
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Bruce
While four individuals are named in the title, the book provides information on several others who had an effect on American history. The 1912 election is what the front two thirds of the book builds up to. A lot of information on other, earlier events, is used to work up to the election. A small section covers the election itself and the last two chapters are on the aftermath. Many programs on the progressive platform were adopted by the major parties. Though only a few Progressive Party candid ...more
Craig
This was an easy read for those interested in storytelling that feels partly like biography and partly like textbook. The biggest character in the telling of the 1912 election was Theodore Roosevelt, although there was plenty of story for Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Republican William Howard Taft and Socialist Eugene Debs.

I would recommend this read specifically for those with an above average interest in the way that presidents are elected, or those interested generally in comparing the wide-open
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Christa
Excellent book that shows how our system of government can be radical, cynical and dirty all in one election cycle. Taft and Debs never get enough credit as movers and shakers in the American political process, so it is worth a read just to see how adding strangers to the election mix makes for American politics (here, of course, the strangers are Wilson, the President of Princeton and Debs, the union organizer politic). The book is meticulously researched, and even more importantly pleasurable ...more
Bruce
Back in 1912 there were progressive Republicans, that is, Teddy Roosevelt. They were more progressive than the Democrats who were still beholden to the reactionary southern states. Woodrow Wilson was very conservative when he started his campaign, but he didn't arouse much interest until he switched to a progressive stance, much to the dismay of much of the Democratic machine.

I learned more about the 1912 campaign than I really wanted to know, but it was interesting to see how the the battles be
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Stuart
What a nice choice that voters in 1912 had to choose from various flavors of Progressive from conservative (Taft, Wilson) to moderate (Teddy Roosevelt) to radical (Debs). Whereas the stolen election of 1876 was when Republicans sold out their stance on civil rights for freedmen, the election of 1912 was the last stand for the progressive wing of the Republican party. From then on, Republicanism became synonymous with conservatism. This book covers this interesting election with the many issues t ...more
Matt
This was a decent book, nowhere nearly as interesting as the 1920 The Year of Six Presidents. The author presents a standard version of the 1912 election and the emergence of the Bull Moose Party. While he does a decent job recounting facts, he does very little if anything to show why the election was so pivotal. The most noteworthy aspect was the depiction of Taft not wanting to be president. Additionally, like many books, this text shows Woodrow Wilson as a very curmudgeonly and hateful indivi ...more
Mark
And you thought the upcoming presidential election would have one of the most interesting casts of characters? Try 1912, when the contestants included Woodrow Wilson, who is really rather unlikeable despite his noble principles and his eventual victory; William Howard Taft, the incumbent; Teddy Roosevelt, trying a comeback in a third party; and Eugene Debs, a socialist campaigning from prison. This was the last book by this fine historian, and is a strong depiction of the turmoil of early 20th-c ...more
Mark Sinnott
This was a very informational book on the election of 1912. It helped that I had just read the final book of the Edmund Morris Roosevelt series which dealt with many of the same subjects. The Chace book was much more concise and historical (being a much shorter book), but gave the point of view of all four of the candidates rather than just Roosevelt's. This book was a substitute for a Taft biography since I could not find a highly rated one in the Nook library.
Terry
An interesting account of the four men who contended for the presidency in 1912 and the forces that brought each to the fore. The author contends that the presidential activism of Roosevelt's New Nationalism and Wilson's New Freedom, along with the moderate socialism of Debs, sowed the seeds that allowed FDR to respond to the Depression and WWII as he did and, consequently, contributed significantly to America's course in the 20th century.
Steve
The four figures involved in the election of 1912 are followed in this book. It also looks at the Republican Party’s split that occurred between the Progressives and the Conservatives, and the future repercussions that had. Each individual is looked at as well, from the political views of Eugene Debs, to the relationship between Taft and Roosevelt. A very good look at an important political era. ...more
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