324: 1912 by James Chace

by Gerard


324.9730912: Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs—The Election That Changed the Country. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. 284 pp. ISBN 0-7432-0394-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Science
  • 320: Political science, politics, and government
  • 324: The political process
  • 324.9: History and geographical treatment of elections
  • 324.973: Campaigns in the United States
  • 324.9730912: U.S. Presidential election of 1912

In 1912, the political landscape of the United States was fracturing at the party level. President William Taft, the conservative republican incumbent, had only ever wanted to be on the Supreme Court, but was hand-picked by his progressive predecessor Theodore Roosevelt for the nation’s top office. Two years before, a political disagreement between the two led to internal strife in the GOP. The split led Roosevelt to run from his own party, the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party. Meanwhile, the Democratic Convention saw New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson emerge as the candidate after 46 ballots. Lastly, the Socialist candidate Eugene Debs joined the fray. James Chace’s 1912 is a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Chace’s comprehensive account of the election of 1912 between the title characters is interesting in its own right. While the stage contains many, many more characters (each of which get their own mini-biographies in the book), these four are the ones that everyone remembers (although Debs may be a bit of a stretch). Interestingly enough, Wilson managed to win the Electoral College without a majority of the popular vote. The book is not as exciting as one would hope, and the story is communicated with only a modicum of elegance (which is probably as much as can be conveyed in a book about an election). Political scholars should explore this account, but I found it to be slightly wanting in some areas. A middling-well book.