This Is a Blog: Teddy and His Willies (sittin’ in a tree…)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teddy and His Willies (sittin’ in a tree…)

Part 7 of 12: McKinley to Taft

Harrison’s lack of leadership left the federal government in such disarray, the American people did something they’ve never done before, re-elect a former president. Cleveland’s still-unrepeated non-consecutive second term marked a major turning point in American politics. There was no more room for regressives like Harrison. Instead, two guys named William, in the tradition of Adams/Jefferson and Jackson/Clay, changed the course of American history together, by wholly opposing each other. William McKinley led the charge in the Republican Party for a more Progressive political platform, while William Jennings Bryan led the Democrats to solidify their position as the reformers to the very nature of the federal government. As for Cleveland, I’d imagine the changing shape of government wasn’t nearly as important to him as his smoking hot, 20-something wife Frances.

William McKinley, Jr. (Governor, Republican) 1897-1901 (re-elected, assassinated) VP: Garret Hobart (died), Theodore Roosevelt; FL: wife Ida

The Williams went head-to-head in 1896. Both wanted change, but McKinley’s pragmatic Progressivism won out over Bryan’s bat-shit crazy calls for massive and immediate government overhaul. The world was expanding around us and we couldn’t be isolated forever. Despite Bryan’s passionate opposition, the US scooped up Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and The Philippines as colonies. To kick the Spanish out of our neighborhood in Cuba, McKinley finally took the young, mostly insane Teddy Roosevelt off his leash. When his VP died, the party forced McKinley to give the job to TR, hoping a useless position like VP would keep TR’s scary ass in check. Then McKinley got shot.

Theodore Roosevelt (VP, Republican) 1901-1909 (inherited then elected) VP: Charles Fairbanks; FL: wife Edith

The source of TR’s brilliance is that he beat the Democrats by assuming their political platform. The line between Progressive Republican and Democrat was so thin at this time that TR just took Bryan’s policies for his own, but he replaced extremism in policy with extremism in action. Like Jackson before him, TR used the federal government like a baseball bat to kick the crap out of anyone and anything threatening the American people. So strong was the force of TR that he could take any idea, no matter which party came up with it, and personally drive it into practice.

Side Note: TR was the fifth VP to take over for a dead president, but he was the first to win a subsequent term. He could even have won a third or fourth term, except he promised not to. God, who would want to be president for four terms?

William Howard Taft (Sec. of War, Republican) 1909-1913 (just 1 term) VP: James Sherman (died); FL: wife Helen

Roosevelt forced Taft (yes, another William) to run in his place. Taft didn’t really want to be president. He hated being president. He was pretty bad at being president. He was so miserable while president; he gained like 80 pounds during his term. Kind of makes you feel bad for the guy Taft beat to become president. You guess it, William Jennings Bryan.

Next Up – Wilson to Hoover: Smart People Ruin Everything. Ruiners

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