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Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  156 ratings  ·  49 reviews
"As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, Unreasonable Men, it was 'the greatest period of political change in American history.'" -Washington Post, 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Republican Party stood at the brink of an internal civil war. After a devastating financial crisis, furious voters sent a new breed
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published July 22nd 2014 by St. Martin's Press
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4.07  · 
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 ·  156 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
”Here is the thing you must bear in mind,” Roosevelt retorted indignantly, “I do not represent public opinion: I represent the public. There is a wide difference between the two, between the real interests of the public and the public’s opinion of those interests.”

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The Standpatters were relieved to discover that Teddy’s Big Stick talk was mostly just a lot of swinging and missing.

Theodore Roosevelt made a promise, hand raised, that he would not run for another term after he won election in a lan
The present political climate in America is sometimes called The Second Gilded Age, and it's not difficult to see why - income inequality, legislative stonewalling, political corruption, and loud cries for political reform are hallmarks of the late 19th as well as the early 21st centuries.

The story here is about the people who tried to change this stagnant order, and those who defended it. Those who agitated for change included the progressive firebrand Robert La Follette, and the pragmatist Th
Disappointing. My biggest gripe was stylistic. Wolraich divides each chapter into days, headed by the date and followed by chatty descriptions of the characters and actions and even the weather. I felt as if I was looking at the storyboards for a made-for-TV docudrama. History suffering from attention deficit disorder.

Still, this was a timely read and left me wanting to learn more about Robert 'Fighting Bob' LaFollette and the Progressive movement that rocked the Republican party in the first t
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Unreasonable Men covers the rise of progressive politics at the turn of the century from the end of Teddy Roosevelt's tenure as President, during Taft's tenure and through the election of Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt often butted heads with the likes of "Fighting Bob" La Follotte who led the progressive movement. This was an era of a decisive split among Republicans that certainly echo's today's political environment. So much can be compared to the 2016 election season.

Wolraich does a wonderful jo
Kressel Housman
This book is about the birth of the Progressive Movement a little over a century ago, but I kept seeing parallels to today the whole way through. The two main subjects, Senator Bob La Follette and President Teddy Roosevelt, compare to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on many levels. In personality, Hillary is nothing like the exuberant TR, but much to my surprise, the trustbuster who had the guts to tell off Czar Nicholas was actually a self-proclaimed pragmatist prone to compromise to “get th ...more
Bryan Alexander
A very useful book for my research into the Progressive Era. Unreasonable Men focuses on the rise of the progressive movement as it emerged from state and federal elected officials, most notably the fracturing of the Republican party.

Wolraich does a good job of following key players. Teddy Roosevelt looms large, but Robert La Follette is equally compelling as an effective insurgent. "Uncle" Joe Cannon is their foil, the book's leading conservative, or "stand patter". Presidents Taft and Wilson c
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Michael Woolraich has packed a lot of themes into this book about Roosevelt and Progressivism. He shows how events of a hundred years ago are quite similar to politics today.

The big theme is the growth of Progressive Republican politicians in the first two decades of the 20th century. As Roosevelt was running for re-election in 1904, Progressives were considered radical in much the same way the Tea Party is today. By the time Roosevelt decided to run as a third-party candidate in 1912, the Progr
Grady McCallie
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You can tell you're reading a good narrative history when, despite knowing in broad terms how the story turns out, you find your heart pounding as you read. Author Michael Wolraich draws that kind of tension out of a story of political campaigns and legislative maneuvering between Progressive Republicans (Sen. Bob La Follette and, ultimately, former President Teddy Roosevelt) and Standpatter Republicans (above all, Sen. Nelson Aldritch), between 1904 and 1913. Wolraich provides enough context an ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Audrey Mckay
I really enjoyed this, it’s just as much the retelling of La Follette’s political career and that of the Legislative Branch during these years than Teddy’s Bull Moose Party - but if you enjoy congressional bickering, consequences and getting into the weeds the of House and Senate this will be a fun read.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This is essentially a history of progressives and conservatives in conflict from 1904 to 1912. It is framed in a popular style--each section opens with a narrative vignette before it gets to policy disputes. And mixed in with the policy is a whole lot about personalities.

And the personalities are gigantic. The "B-team" are progressives like Beveridge and Dolliver, journalists like Lincoln Steffens, and leaders of the conservative wing like Aldrich and Cannon get a fair share of time. But the big
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A Superb, Often Compelling, History of the rise of Progressive Politics in the Age of Theodore Roosevelt

Political journalist Michael Wolraich's "Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics" is an important political history of the United States during the first decade of the 20th Century and the importance of Theodore Roosevelt in shaping its subsequent course, especially from the perspective of progressive politics. In many respects, the secon
John Daly
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So this is book number 5 of 40 for the year.

I have a good friend who works in marketing for a publishing house and I think he would appreciate my first comment about reading Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics which is that in the narrative Theodore Roosevelt is really a supporting actor in the events of the book but his name being a trigger point for a purchase leads to his picture on the cover. This is not to say that the book is not
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1nonfiction
Michael Wolraich’s Unreasonable Men is a fast and enjoyable read that chronicles the events in US political history between 1904 and 1913 that launched the progressive movement.

Highly relevant to today’s political environment, the author touches on early 20th century public anxieties over issues including corporate greed, income inequality, Wall Street manipulation, and environmental degradation. Voters had a sense that political and economic frameworks were manipulated to benefit a few powerfu
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
A timely book on the birth of national progressive politics told from an Eastern slant and an eagle's perspective. It's told in timeline fashion with occasional flashbacks to explain bits of history like tariffs. It works well for this subject, you can see the radical changes that ten years made, not unlike other revolutions, what was unthinkable at the beginning was considered the norm at the end. Direct elections of senators, women's suffrage, anti-trust, rail and corporate legislation, partia ...more
Jordan Stivers
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The 20th century begins and the American people are infuriated with their government after the Panic of 1907. The ruling Republican party, with President Teddy Roosevelt at the helm, cannot stem the tide of national outrage as a new group of progressive politicians come to Washington led by "Fighting Bob" La Follette. This is where Wolraich starts us off in his fascinating, well-researched tale of a country demanding change and the men who step up to answer (or try to stop) the call. In some way ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First, I have to confess that I received a copy from the publisher to participate in the History Book Club group read. However, I read the whole book on my kindle. Receiving a copy of the book has no bearing on my review.

This is an era in history with which I had almost no familiarity before we read the book. It's amazing how much changed during this time period! This book is particularly timely as we are leading into the 2016 election. It's amazing how many similarities between candidates, plat
Helga Cohen
This book was during a dynamic period of time during the birth of the Progressive movement. William La Follette started this movement with his group of insurgents. Theodore Roosevelt was a dynamic person and president during it's beginnings and involved with it after he left the presidency. Taft became President through the help of Roosevelt and this book has alot about him and his policies. His only progressive move was trust-busting. Other than that, he was conservative and aligned with them t ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
An excellent book on the beginnings of the Progressive Party. I find myself amazed on how much I still do not understand about American history. I also noted how many of the topics seem to still be out there for discussion amongst the politicians of today. The book describes how much of our laws and constitutional amendments came into being. I also was very interested to find out that JP Morgan bailed out the Federal Government when we ran out of money. Wish he could do that again by the way. I ...more
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book along with the History Book Club here on Goodreads. Wolraich has meticulously researched this important window of our country's history. It is a well written book, however, some parts were tedious reading. Covering the presidential terms of Theodore Roosevelt and Taft and briefly touching on Wilson's term, this book explains how many of today's laws, freedoms and political parties evolved.
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
My, how things have...not changed at all.
Bryan Craig
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
This is a great read to see a change in a political party. Well written
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Theodore Roosevelt that I thought I knew was the trust-busting, Bull Moose rebel – a liberal reformer with the interests of the people foremost on his mind. In Unreasonable Men, Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics, my mythical Teddy (a myth I believe others have shared) is forcibly upended.

Wolraich gives us Roosevelt as a wary aristocrat. He is sharp and largely fair-minded, yes, but he is undeniably part of the elite and is unapologetically wary of
Aug 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Unreasonable Men is largely the story of three individuals: President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, "Fighting Bob" La Follette, and two playing the role of supporting cast: Joe Cannon and Nelson Aldrich. These five men were the figures that influenced and in some cases decided the politics over the course of an almost twenty year period.

The Cast:

Theodore Roosevelt : President of the United States after the death of President McKinley, Roosevelt wins reelection in 1904. Roos
(Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to take part in an online discussion with the History Book Club group on Goodreads. However, the views expressed below are mine and do not reflect those of the author, the publisher, Goodreads, or the History Book Club.)

A lot has been written about the Progressive era in American history, which typically spans the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. However, non of them have been as holist
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unreasonable Men was a very interesting look into the political structure of the United States during the years prior to World War 1. A great deal of the focus of the book was that of Theodore Roosevelt as President and his approach to achieving legislation he found important. In the early portion of the book, Roosevelt had to deal with a very strong faction of "Stand patters". It was quite challenging to get any legislation through without first having the blessing of the powers in this faction ...more
I greatly enjoyed this book. I had heard about it on NPR or read something about it in the paper so when I had the opportunity to receive a copy for free via the History Book Club and the folks at St. Martins Press, I jumped at it. I am very glad I did.

This book is about a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. It was a time when the word “progressive” was evolving. The author depicts with great clarity and wit the workings of congress in that time, fist fights and all. We are also treated to
William Walker
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A quick and mostly enjoyable read. The book is focused on the period beginning the the election of Robert LaFollette to the Senate and ending with the 1912 election of Wilson. I can't say that it provides much of an answer to the question of why Roosevelt ran in 1912, knowing that if he supported Taft, Taft would win, and if he supported LaFollette, LeFollette would probably win and if he ran as a third party condidate, he would lose and Wilson would win. (The answer may lie in the quip that if ...more
Mary Ellen
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the History Book Club on Goodreads.

Unreasonable Men is a well researched, wild ride through a tumultuous period in American politics that saw the rise of the Progressive movement, the split of the Republican Party, the destruction of a close friendship and, briefly, a burst of legislation that placed more power in the hands of ordinary Americans.

The book gives a "top down" view of the period, focusing on Presidents (Teddy Roosevelt,
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wolraich writes a delightfully readable account of Roosevelt and the progressive Republicans that begins with Roosevelt's re-election bid and ends at the end of Garfield's term. Wolraich tells the grand narrative by elegantly providing vignettes into the coalitions and conflicts between politicians such as Teddy Roosevelt, Bob La Follette, Nelson Aldrich, William Taft, and the inimitable Uncle Joe Cannon.

Combining an academic's research with wit and clarity, Wolraich breaths life into the politi
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