Riots, Guns, Bribes: Teddy Roosevelt’s Contested Convention

Some are expecting a free-for-all at the Republican National Convention this July in Cleveland. Honestly, that may seem unusual to younger people, but party nominations used to be much more public fights. Even in my lifetime, there have been political conventions in which we had no idea who the eventual nominee would be as they began. Yes, little kids watched the conventions because 1) we wanted to find out what happened and 2) there wasn’t anything else on TV. But even those were tame compared to the 1912 Republican convention. Former president Teddy Roosevelt challenged incumbent president Howard Taft for the nomination. Two presidents fighting for a nomination? No party would allow that to happen today.

When Donald Trump told CNN, “I think you’d have riots,” if the Republican Party’s leaders denied him the nomination, people were understandably disturbed. But on the eve of the 1912 convention, Roosevelt told his nephew that his supporters were prepared to “use roughhouse tactics” to “terrorize” the party’s leaders if they denied him the nomination. His delegates included men who were used to barroom brawls, including several who had been with his Rough Rider brigade in the Spanish American War. When the proceedings started, Roosevelt’s managers flooded the Chicago Convention Center bleachers with rugged supporters who were prepared to use their voices and even their fists to fight for their demand that Roosevelt be selected.

The plans for taking over the convention were even messier than what really happened. You know that Roosevelt went on to run on the Bull Moose ticket and both he and Taft lost to Woodrow Wilson. But you might not know about the extremely contentious 1912 Republican National Convention, which you can learn about at the Atlantic. -via Digg

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