Imagine a Democratic Party platform that begins with the following lines:
The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice. We dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by by history to maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their Constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation, the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice. No republic can endure without it.
This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.
It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.
Now imagine that this platform declares its mission to reverse the perverse politics of moneyed interests, monopolies and wealthy elites: To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, must now be the first task of statesmanship.
Wouldn’t you like to see a Democratic Party devoted to that principle?
How about a party devoted to:
- Strict limits and disclosure requirements on political campaign contributions
- The regulation of lobbyists
- Greater transparency requirements for Congressional proceedings
- A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies.
- Social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled
- Protections for workers rights
- A higher minimum wage
- Wage and hour protections
- Federal protections against stock market and investment fraud
- Support for family farms and incentives for small, local agriculture operations
- Improved workers’ compensation for work-related injuries
- Protecting and enhancing the inheritance tax paid by the wealthiest Americans
- Equal rights and equal pay for women
- Election reforms to prevent fraud, hacking and attempts to disenfranchise voters
- Recall elections
- Direct democracy (laws proposed by petition and enacted by popular vote)
- International Arms Control measures
- Environmental protection
- National Parks protection and expansion
If any of that sounds like a good idea to you, then maybe it’s time we considered the platform of Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. Because with just a few edits to put TR’s principles in modern context, those issues are what the Progressive Party — the most successful third party in American history — ran on in 1912.
Roosevelt, you’ll remember, served eight years as President and leader of the Republican Party, from 1901 to 1909. He was virtually assured of winning re-election in 1908, but stepped aside on principle, only to see his Republican successor descend almost instantly into corruption. Disgusted, TR challenged Taft for the 1912 Republican nomination — but despite his greater popularity, party bosses shut him out. Undeterred, Roosevelt and his defiant supporters formed a new party, the Progressive Party.
On Oct. 14, 1912, an assassin shot Roosevelt at point-blank range. The bullet passed through his glasses case and a fifty-page copy of the speech he was about to deliver before penetrating the muscles of his chest. The former president waved off medical attention, took the stage, and announced to the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” He spoke for 90 minutes — all the while bleeding into his shirt. Doctors later decided it would be safer to leave the slug where it was, and TR carried it with him for the rest of his life.
Roosevelt didn’t win in 1912. Democrat Woodrow Wilson did. But Teddy damn sure beat that fat bastard Taft, becoming the only third-party candidate to ever finish ahead of one of the two major parties.
Today’s Repubicans make William Howard Taft look principled by comparison, and the corruption of the early 20th century is nothing compares to our 21st century gilded age. Progressive politics — once championed by Republicans like Roosevelt — are now the values of the center left.
Why not run on them?