Conservatives have always had a soft spot for the indomitable Teddy Roosevelt. Yet for all his love of country and fighting spirit, TR broke with the Founders’ republicanism and embraced Progressivism.
In Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition, Jean Yarbrough provides a searching examination of TR’s political thought, especially in relation to the ideas of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln – the statesmen TR claimed most to admire.
Yarbrough sets out not only to explore Roosevelt’s vision for America but also to consider what his political ideas have meant for republican self-government. She praises TR for efforts to promote republican greatness, but faults him for departing from the political principles of the more nationalistic Founders he esteemed. With the benefit of hindsight, she argues that the progressive policies he came to embrace have over time undermined the very qualities Roosevelt regarded as essential to civic life. In particular, the social welfare policies he championed have eroded industry and self-reliance; the expansion of the regulatory state has multiplied the special interests seeking access to political power; and the bureaucratic experts in whom he reposed such confidence have all too often turned out to be neither disinterested nor effective.