In 1912 former president Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his friend and presidential successor William Howard Taft for the Republican Party nomination. To overcome the power of the incumbent, TR seized on the idea of presidential primaries, telling party bosses to "Let the people rule." Lawyer and professor Geoffrey Cowan—himself a major figure in campaign reform after the 1968 Democratic National Convention—gives us the rowdy cheers and jeers from supporters and detractors as he chronicles TR's fight to win popular support. Thwarted by the bosses, TR founded a progressive third party, which soon engaged in its own seamy backroom deals and cynical political moves like blocking black delegates from the Deep South.
"Cowan has brought to life a fascinating part of TR's story usually left out of the history books. He tells it with verve and suspense, warts and all, his insights deepened by his own impressive background as a democracy activist."—Adam Hochschild
"A lively, relevant primer in the sausage-making of candidate selection.... Few historians have given this shameful chapter in the Progressive Party the attention that it deserves, and Cowan's documentation, drawn mostly from newspaper accounts from the summer of 1912, is compelling."—Los Angeles Times
"A suspenseful narrative, replete with larger-than-life personalities, and a must-read backstory for anyone concerned with the history and fate of a democracy that, at its best, aims to 'Let the People Rule'."—Henry Louis Gates Jr.