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Chapter Twenty-Five. The New Nationalism and Progressive Issues: The Break with Taft and the 1912 Campaign

Claire Delahaye


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The 1912 election is acknowledged to have been one of the major elections in American history. First, as Arthur Link and Richard McCormick have pointed out, the 1912 election was in many regards the first modern presidential contest in American history, even more so than the 1896 one: “The use of direct primaries, the challenge to traditional party loyalties, the candidates’ issue orientation, and the prevalence of interest-group political activists all make the election of 1912 look more like that of 1980 than 1896” ( Link and McCormick 1983 , 43–44). The usage of tools from the new media age, such as mass magazines, motion pictures and recordings, added to the innovativeness and the modernity of this peculiar election. What's more, the unfolding of the campaign seemed to have been made of the kind of drama written to captivate audiences. Stories of betrayal, sudden twists and unexpected turns, filled with colorful characters and charismatic candidates, gave the election a sensationalist appeal that did not, however, diminish the essential political scope of the debates. The future orientation of American political, social and economic order was being debated in an election that saw the apex of progressivism in politics. In a context of large-scale industrial capitalism, what could the political answers to industrial excesses be? Thus Americans discussed national issues with passion, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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