The Irregular's Return

"The cataclysm was just about what I expected it would be," Roosevelt told his son Archie shortly after the 1914 elections. Ticket-leading Progressive candidates in every state but California (where Roosevelt's recent running mate, Hiram Johnson, proved the single exception) went down to defeat. The future looked bleaker than ever: "I should suppose that the Progressive party now would probably disband." From one perspective this was a shame. The Progressives were good men with high ideals. They were simply too far ahead of the rest of the country. From another perspective, though, Roosevelt shed no tears. "It will be, from the selfish standpoint, a great relief to me personally when and if they do disband." The 1912 presidential campaign had been exhausting and fruitless, and he didn't want to be pressured to repeat it.

The evident demise of the Progressives set Roosevelt once more to thinking about leaving politics for good. "The people are tired of all reformers, and especially of myself," he told a California Progressive. To William White he declared, "As far as making political speeches or taking part in any more party activities is concerned, my duty for the time being is to obey the directions of the New Bedford whaling captain when he told his mate that all he wanted from him was 'silence; and damn little of that!'" Looking back, Roosevelt said that on the night of the 1912 election he had judged the odds against the Progressives gaining a permanent foothold to be immense. They hadn't gotten any better. "When we failed to establish ourselves at the very outset as the second party, it became overwhelmingly probable that


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T.R.: The Last Romantic
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