Aug. 7, 2005
Poem: "The Bachelor" by Leslie Monsour, from The Alarming Beauty of the Sky © Red Hen Press. Reprinted with permission.
No family pictures on the wall, no books,
A drafting desk, a travel magazine;
No children, one divorce, a satellite dish
A cold, efficient exercise machine,
And in the corner with the firewood, stacks
Of videos. The fridge comes with "lite" beer
And non-fat milk for the granola stored
In jars. I've looked, but there's no sugar here.
Platoons of running shoes camp by the door;
His Boston fern, neglected, pays the price;
His one unfriendly cat purposefully saunters
Across the threshold, searching hard for mice.
As he begins to age, and his gray beard
Inaugurates the thinning of his hair,
He'll pale with each sensation in his chest,
Each flutter, every pain and numbness there
No cardiologist, nor any chart
Will ever find the trouble with his heart.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the journalist Jane Kramer, born in Providence, Rhode Island (1938). She's known for the many long pieces she's written for the New Yorker magazine about teenagers in Morocco and cowboys in Texas and Allen Ginsberg and Europe. Her most recent book, Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militia Man came out a couple of years ago.
It was on this day in 1912 that Teddy Roosevelt was nominated by the Progressive Party to run for President, an election that went on to define the Republican Party for the rest of the 20th Century.
Republicans had dominated politics ever since the Civil War. A Republican had been in the White House for 44 of the previous 52 years. They were the party of civil rights and, under the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party became the party of environmental conservation, antitrust laws, and consumer protection.
Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in history, the youngest too. He was 42 when he took office. He was the first president to ride in an automobile and in an airplane, and the first to visit a foreign country while in office. He was a naturalist. He was an author of history. He published almost 50 books.
After he'd served two terms, he announced that he would not seek a third term. He handpicked his successor, William Howard Taft, and then went off on an African safari. But when he got back, Teddy Roosevelt found that Taft had moved away from progressive principles and aligned himself with the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Teddy Roosevelt ran against Taft in the primaries, won the primary in Taft's home state of Ohio, but eventually it was party insiders who picked the nominee, and they gave it to Taft. And so Roosevelt called for the creation of a new progressive party and accepted its nomination on this day in 1912. It was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party because Roosevelt said, "I am as strong as a bull moose, and you can use me to the limit."
He was in a three-way race with Taft and Woodrow Wilson, campaigning on a platform that called for income taxes, inheritance taxes, the eight-hour workday, and voting rights for women. He drew huge crowds wherever he went. In Milwaukee, October 14, 1912, on the way to give his speech, he was shot by a man six feet away, the bullet deflected by the speech in his pocket, along with a metal eyeglasses case. Roosevelt went on to give the speech, but Woodrow Wilson won the election. Despite Roosevelt making the best showing of any third party candidate in American history. He came in second.
And one of the results of his Progressive Party campaign was splitting the Republican Party between conservatives and progressives, and the progressives have never been in charge since.
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