The Elections of 1912 and 1916


Woodrow Wilson (435 Electoral Votes)
Theodore Roosevelt (88 Electoral Votes)
William Howard Taft (8 Electoral Votes)

Woodrow Wilson (277 Electoral Votes)
Charles Evans Hughes (254 Electoral Votes)

The crucial factor in the election of 1912 was the rupture between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.  The break came over antitrust policy, when Taft’s attorney general filed suit to break up a trust that the “trust-buster” Roosevelt had personally approved during his second term.  Roosevelt tried to wrest the Republican nomination away from Taft, and entered the general election as a third party candidate when the party bosses stayed with Taft.  The Democratic nominee, New Jersey governor and former Princeton president Woodrow Wilson, benefited from the Republican split to win an easy electoral victory with only a plurality of the popular vote.  Internationally, Wilson advocated democracy and national self-determination, although his numerous interventions in Latin America were often designed to secure good financial order, which meant repayment of loans to American banks.  At home he pursued a reform agenda of lower tariffs, stronger antitrust legislation, greater regulation of business, and creation of the Federal Reserve to stabilize the banking system and regulate the currency.  But he was also a white supremacist who imposed segregation on the District of Columbia and in federal offices throughout the country.  He praised D. W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation, which portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes of the Reconstruction era, as “history written with lightning.”  World War I dominated his second term after he won a close reelection campaign in 1916 against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, ironically on the theme that “He Kept Us Out of War.”  At the end of his presidency, Wilson undertook a strenuous effort to marshal public opinion against the Republican Senate in support of U.S. membership in the new League of Nations.  He suffered a stroke during a speaking tour and never fully recovered.

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