Theodore Rex, Edmund Morris’ second book in his trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt, deals with his presidency. I am struck by two things about this work.
First, Roosevelt came to office after an anarchist assassinated William McKinley. This effort paid off in placing a man in the White House who employed the executive branch with as much power (if not more) since Abraham Lincoln. The presidents between Lincoln and Roosevelt were either corrupt or eclipsed by the people in American with the real power, the so-called captains of industry. Roosevelt was the first president to view government as a kind of referee, balancing the competing interests of groups for the benefit of all. In order to do this, the executive must have real power.
Second, American, despite being over 120 year old, was a young republic. We were just flexing our muscles on the world stage, and there was a sense of optimism. Things were just getting started for us, and so many set-backs of American in the modern age were not even on the horizon. If you were young, white, and hardworking, Roosevelt’s America held great promise.