1904–TR Keeping Cool–Amberly Ellis
After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the presidency, and eventually become the first “accidental” president to win a second term for the presidency on his own accord.
Now a candidate for his second term, Roosevelt was in a position that especially required him to prove that he was capable of gathering his own support in order win the presidential election that year. Although he eventually entered into the presidency, The Republican Party had no intentions of ever selecting Roosevelt to be president. Republican leaders had nominated him to run for vive president with William McKinley in 1900 as an effort to remove him from the troubles that he was causing them in his governorship of New York, where he has been elected in 1898. When McKinley died, the 41-year-old Roosevelt would become the youngest man to ever assume the presidency.
Roosevelt’s ascendance into the presidency did not come without disdain. Upon his entrance to the presidency, Republican politician Marc Hanna was reported to say “ I told William McKinley that it was a mistake to nominate that wild man at Philadelphia…I asked him that if he realized what would happen if he should die. Now look, that damned cowboy is president of the United States.”
Although cowboy may have been only one of the many ways to describe the multi faceted and charismatic president, Roosevelt did indeed bring a new energy to the presidency. His experience in both the military and pioneering in the West brought a sense of coolness and personality that very few presidents since his presidency have been able to embody.
In 1904 Roosevelt would run for reelection. Although Roosevelt was popularly perceived as the more charismatic candidate among his competition, the Democratic opposition promoted themselves as the “sane and safe choice,” and they attacked the Roosevelt administration for being “spasmodic, erratic, sensational, spectacular, and arbitrary.” Roosevelt picked Senator Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, a conservative Republican for his running mate. Roosevelt would later be questioned for this decision considering the fact that he views as very liberal and charismatic, contrary to his reserved and conservative running mate.
The Democratic picked two conservatives, Judge Alton B. Parker, from New York, and eighty-one-year-old Henry G. Davis. Davis, a wealthy ex-senator from Virginia was the oldest man to ever run for the vice-presidency.
The race was predicted to be close, considering that there was not a huge divide in the way that the Republican and Democratic candidates stood on the major issued of time. Personality was the major difference between the two. Both Roosevelt and Parker were for the gold standard, and although the Democrats were more outspoken against the issue of imperialism, both parties did not support it. They also both were for the rights of labor unions to be treated as citizens and the fair treatment and eventual liberation of Filipinos from American control.
1904 would also be the first year that the Socialist party would run in an election. The Socialist Party of America at the time was a coalition of parties that was based on industrial cities with strong ties to ethnic communities that often worked in labor during the time period, such as the German and the Finish. The party elected Eugene Victor Debs for the presidency and Benjamin Hanford was elected for the Vice Presidency.
During the election campaign Roosevelt would ask voters to support his square deal policies. “Square Deal” referred to domestic programs that focused on three ideas. These ideas were the conversation of natural resources, control of corporations and consumer protection. His opposition would challenge Roosevelt on his anti trust policies and for accepting contributions from big business.
On August 6, 1904, Harpers Weekly magazine would feature a cartoon about the 1904 campaign titled “Keeping Cool.” Harpers Weekly was an American was political magazine that was based in New York City. It was published by the Harper Brothers and discussed many different subjects. Until the mid 1800s newspapers were primarily text, but in the late 1850’s Harpers pioneered a new process that enabled the inclusion of illustrations with text. This development arrived around the time of the Civil War and quickly changed the way that the American people saw the war that was taking places in their very own backyards. This inclusion of illustration in the magazine made Harpers Weekly very popular. It ran from 1857 to 1916 and featured domestic news, fiction, essays and humor.
In “Keeping Cool,” the cartoonist William Allen Rogers would challenge the compatibility of the 1904 Republican ticket. In the cartoon, the pair is depicted as incompatible. Prior to Roosevelt’s nomination for Republican candidate, many Republicans felt him to be too liberal for the ticker. Some of these attitudes are even depicted in the cartoon. In the cartoon the artists shows Fairbanks, frozen in a block of ice. He is cramped and closed in the block of ice, while Roosevelt looking vey cowboyish in his Rough Riders uniform is sitting on top of the ice shivering from the cold. The warmness and charisma of Theodore Roosevelt clad in his uniform is a start contrast to the cold and conservative Fairbanks.
By November 8, 1904 Roosevelt and Fairbanks would live by a landslide. Roosevelt would win 56.45 of the popular vote and receive more than 2 ½ million popular votes. No president before that time had won by such a margin. Roosevelt would prove to maintain such popularity throughout his presidency and even was said to regret his decision to promise not to run again after his reelection into office. After winning the election, Roosevelt would state, “ I am no longer a political accident.”
In time the implications of his policies and presidency would prove that there was definitely no mistake about that “damned cowboy” becoming president. He most certainly proved to be a man of the people.