The First Modern Clash over Federal Power
Wilson versus Hughes in the Presidential Election of 1916
Lewis L. Gould
Fully examined for the first time in this engrossing book by one of America’s preeminent presidential scholars, the election that pitted Woodrow Wilson against Charles Evan Hughes emerges as a clear template for the partisan differences of the modern era. The 1916 election dramatically enacted the two parties’ fast-evolving philosophies about the role and reach of federal power. Lewis Gould reveals how, even more than in the celebrated election of 1912, the parties divided along class-based lines in 1916, with the Wilson campaign in many respects anticipating the New Deal while the Republicans adopted the small government, anti-union, and anti-regulation positions they have embraced ever since. The Republicans dismissed Wilson’s 1912 win as a fluke, the result of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Progressive” apostasy splitting the party. But in US Supreme Court Justice Hughes, whose electoral prowess had been proven in two successful runs for governor of New York, the Republicans had anointed a flawed campaigner whose missteps in California sealed his fate very late in the election. Wilson’s strong performance as the head of a united Democratic government (for the first time since 1894), along with Americans’ uncertainty about the outbreak of war in Europe, led to victory.
Along with the ins and outs of the race itself, Gould’s book explores the election’s broader meaning—as, for the first time, the popular election of the Senate coincided with a presidential election, and the women’s suffrage movement gathered steam. The year 1916 also marked the restoration of a two-party competition for president and, as we see in this enlightening book, the beginning of the two-party battle for the hearts and minds of Americans that continues to this day.
“Gould convincingly argues that it was in 1916, not 1912, that the ideological difference between the Republican and Democratic parties gelled decisively into something close to its modern form.”
—Journal of American History
“A short, well-written, and enjoyable account of the oft-overlooked presidential campaign of 1916. . . . Gould has created an engaging narrative that a general audience should find entertaining and informative. Moreover, he provides a wealth of details and nuance that should render this book useful to experts interested in presidential politics, Wilson, Roosevelt, Hughes, or the American experience during World War I.”
—H-Net ReviewsSee all reviews...
“Lew Gould’s newest study is the perfect culmination of an illustrious scholarly career. True to form, he has written a rich, tight, compelling analysis of political dynamics. Through one election, Gould dissects a whole era—its complex personalities, contemporary dilemmas and enduring relevance. This book is a gem.”
—Joanne Reitano, author of The Tariff Question in the Gilded Age: The Great Debate of 1888
“Lewis Gould does it again. Telling the story of the 1916 presidential election in gripping fashion, he shows how the campaign not only kept Woodrow Wilson in office but also shaped the path of American politics and democracy for decades to come. Vintage Gould—fresh, insightful, and deeply-researched. ”
—Michael E. McGerr, author of The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865–1928
“The foremost interpreter of Progressive Era politics, Lewis Gould splendidly details the drama of one of the closest presidential elections in history. With meticulous attention to context, he demonstrates how campaign arguments between Democrats and Republicans regarding the role of government presaged ideological divisions in the ensuing century. In his acute depictions of the personalities and maneuvers of the key players—President Wilson, challenger Charles Evans Hughes, spoiler TR—Gould’s focus on their foibles as well as their strengths does much to explain the outcome. This is political history at its best.”
—Charles Calhoun, co-author of The Gilded Age: Perspectives on the Origins of Modern America
“Few living historians know as much about the presidency during the Theodore Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson eras as Lew Gould. With this sprightly and absorbing book, he takes us back to an understudied election that proved pivotal for the future of democracy, the Democratic and Republican parties, the Executive Branch, and war and peace. Highly recommended!”
—Laura Kalman, author of Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974–1980
“In this elegantly written, deeply researched study, the latest of his many contributions to American political history, Lewis L. Gould makes a compelling case for the historical significance of the generally unheralded 1916 presidential election between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes. All the big issues and personalities are here, including the ever-present Theodore Roosevelt, but Gould also delivers what feels like an insider’s account of electoral strategies, campaign techniques, and miscues on both sides. He has given us as excellent an account as we have ever had of an American presidential election.”
—Richard L. McCormick, author of The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the Progressive EraSee fewer reviews...