Saturday, September 29, 2012

Theodore Roosevelt: Progressive Crusader

Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th President, famously declared that the country ought to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Good advice, especially in light of recent events. However, “when it came to the decibel level, [TR] did not always follow his own advice,” quips Jean Yarbrough in the latest “Makers of American Political Thought” paper from The Heritage Foundation.
And the volume of his rhetoric wasn’t the only place TR stumbled. Yarbrough, a professor of Social Sciences at Bowdoin College and the author of Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition, explains that TR was also the nation’s first “progressive” leader. “As President, he pushed executive powers to new limits, arguing that the rise of industrial capitalism had rendered limited government obsolete.”
For example, TR styled himself the “steward of the people.” This belief “unmoored presidential power from the Constitution and made it directly accountable to the people,” Yarbrough writes. “It is not uncommon today for progressives to give short shrift to constitutional questions or to cite phrases such as ‘We the people’ and ‘the general welfare’ rather than specific constitutional provisions to justify their proposals.”

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