Theodore Roosevelt is my all-time most favorite President. Sure, there are others I adore – Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower, Washington, – but Teddy Roosevelt stands out. Which reminds me; he was never called Teddy by his family. Being rich, genteel, Dutch-descended, New York Old Money kinda people, they called him Teedie. He actively dislike the name “Teddy”. The Teddy Bear, which is named for the him, should be the Teedie Bear.
Roosevelt became William McKinley’s Vice President in 1901. When McKinley was assassinated by a mentally unstable anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, Roosevelt took office. By that time Roosevelt was already well known as a historical scholar, had been running the Naval Department, and had headed a Calvary unit nicknamed Roosevelt’s Rough Riders with such courage and skill that he had become a national war hero. He was an icon of idealized American masculinity during his life. Even today, he is revered as one of the most manly men to have ever manned up to the Presidency.
His heroics and courage, while admirable and laudable, are not why he is my favorite President. I adore him because he saved the USA from a pratfall into communism. How did he do that? He vociferously fought for labor over capitalist entitlement and exploitation.
Teddy Roosevelt “attempted to move the GOP toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. In November 1904 he was reelected in a landslide against conservative Democrat Alton Brooks Parker. Roosevelt called his domestic policies a “Square Deal“, promising a fair deal to the average citizen while breaking up monopolistic corporations, holding down railroad rates, and guaranteeing pure food and drugs. He was the first president to speak out on conservation, and he greatly expanded the system of national parks and national forests.”
How did this save America from communism? In the late 1800’s the Socialist Labor Party of America was on the rise, and the intense resentment of the working poor towards the mega-rich was intensifying. This is exactly what was happening in Russia (as well as other countries) too. America, under “Trust-Buster” Roosevelt, saw massive reforms addressing inequality. Roosevelt took on Wall Street and the Robber Barons and brought them to heel, no longer allowing them to feast on the working class. The autocrats of Russia saw nothing wrong with the current system and decided to crack down on all those winey peasants. Thus, in Russia the “have-nots” got so fed up that they rose up and destroyed the “haves” in a bloody coupe, and then destroyed their economy by centralizing power in communist fashion. (Spoiler: Communism does not work.)
Like America other countries escaped this fate by instituting a modified form of some socialist principles, including workers rights and the distribution of wealth. Therefore, the working poor never became angry enough for a full-scale revolution. Today, many European nations have injected a bit of socialism into their capitalism – creating things like a social safety net and workers rights. America, in contrast, has steadily retreated to a “purer” form of capitalism since the 1980s. As a result, countries like France are faring much better in terms of job growth and the EU in general is has a better economy even with a lower GNP. The USA has also fallen to 16th place on the quality of life index, despite its continued high standard of living.
We need Teedie Roosevelt back.