My Great Grandpa Voted for Teddy Roosevelt

Roosevelt and Reed Smoot in Ogden, Utah

Unlike politicians today, Theodore Roosevelt told the American people what he thought.  Here are a few of my favorite Theodore Roosevelt quotes:

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people--Theodore Roosevelt.

When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.’--Theodore Roosevelt.

It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize--Theodore Roosevelt.

Teddy, as he was affectionately known, wouldn't be welcome in today’s Republican Party.  (Just take a look at the title of a book from a Fox New analyst).  Roosevelt’s legacy is busting monopolies, championing laws that favored the middle class and poor, and supporting Progressive politicians.  He broke the Gilded Age in half and we haven’t had a politician like him since.

I know for sure that two of my great-grandfathers voted for TR.  I once found an old article from my great-grandpa Fred Houghton.  He told the reporter for the Box Elder News Journal that showed the exuberance of my recently immigrated ancestor, “Today I went to the courthouse and became an American citizen.  Tomorrow, I plan on voting for Roosevelt!”

Utahns and Mormons loved Teddy Roosevelt.  It’s a long story and you can read more about it in this book or this article.  The short version is that Utah elected an Apostle named Reed Smoot to the American Senate in 1903.  The Senate put Smoot, along with the rest of the Church, on trial.  It lasted for many years until eventually Theodore Roosevelt intervened.  With the promise that Utah would “vote Republican” Smoot gained the crucial support he needed that would give Utah its most influential Progressive leader in the beginning of the 20th Century.

Unlike Hayes and other Gilded Age Presidents, Roosevelt took a risk on the Mormon people and they returned in kind, voting for Roosevelt and the Republican Party. Smoot went onto become a leader in the Senate and was no shrinking violet.  Senator Smoot was no Mike Lee or Brother Cliven Bundy either. When it came to land conservation, he defended many of the policies of Roosevelt for three decades.  According to the Utah State Division of History, here are a few things Senator Smoot helped do:

  • Gave the president and Forest Service power to protect forest lands,
  • Establish the National Park Service,
  • Create Zion and Bryce national parks,
  • Require people who profited from mining or generating electricity on public lands to pay a fee (called royalties) to the government.

(For more information on the politics of Reed Smoot, please check out this great article.)

How did a state and people that voted so overwhelmingly for Theodore Roosevelt, Reed Smoot, and other Progressive leaders, turn into a state that supports politicians like Mike Lee and Jason Chafetz?  It’s never made sense to me.  I think it’s fair to say that part of the reason why Utah is so Republican goes back to the promise that Joseph F. Smith made to Roosevelt.  But times have changed.  Recently, our schools have lagged.  Our environment has turned into a disaster.   Our state politicians have sold out to the lobbyists and billionaires.  It’s time we return to leaders who championed the causes and ideals of Roosevelt and Reed Smoot.

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  • Karena Diaz
    commented 2020-06-23 19:06:15 -0700
    By the way, you using the title of one book about one mans opinion as evidence TR wouldn’t be a Republican, even though the vast majority of Republicans love him even today, then you might want to look in the mirror. Here are thousands of people in your party planing to tear down another Lincoln statue, purchased by freed slaves (Republicans).

    I guess Lincoln would still be a Republican. Look how much the democrats still hate him.
  • Karena Diaz
    commented 2020-06-22 22:00:05 -0700
    Your point of view is so skewed and irrational. If you have any free time and are open minded enough to engage in a debate about which party TR would belong to today, you can reach out to me. Also, TR himself debunked the “promise” you and other Democrats claim and claimed at the time he made with Joseph F. Smith (SL Tribune as corrupt as ever even around 1910). I have studied this in great detail and have spoken to unbiased college professors, and am sure that TR would definitely not want himself associated with the modern so called “progressives.” Look up his position on abortion. Look up what tax rates he proposed (hint, combined state and Federal lower than 10%). Look up the reforms he made to labor laws and ask yourself honestly if you think Republicans today would want 8 year olds working in coal mines, and all the other things he (and we) fought against. Look up what he said about liberals and conservatives. Look up what he said about socialism. Look up how many monopolies he busted to fight not capitalism, but crony capitalism. Any policy difference between TR and the modern Republican Party as far as economics and social safety nets are concerned can mainly be chalked up to the lack of economic understanding people generally had before the 1920s and 1930s, and quite frankly the majority of people on your side of the aisle (and some populist republicans) still don’t understand.

    Maybe you should worry more about brainless millennial lackeys tearing down statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, and taking down statues of Theodore Roosevelt. You guys can take down Democrat statues like the Confederates, FDR who incarcerated thousands of Japanese and denied a lot of help to black Americans during the Great Depression, Woodrow Wilson who was a KKK supporter and showed “The birth of a nation” in the White House, and LBJ who They’re only exist a couple thousand recordings of him and first-hand testimonies of him saying racially insensitive things and talking about using black Americans, not giving them enough to improve their situation but giving them enough so that they’ll keep voting Democrat. It’s fine to have a blog that is a left-wing thing tank for Mormons, but you’re being intellectually dishonest by not representing all arguments fairly.

    And just anticipating the classic “parties switched in 68” argument, why did all of the racist senators except for one stay in the Democrat party? Why did the south continue to vote congressional a Democrat until the 90s? If the parties switched in 68, does that make FDR, Truman, Woodrow Wilson, and John F Kennedy Republicans? People only bring up the “party switching“ argument when it suits them, but widely ignores what that means before the 60s. It’s just a democrat way to try and distance themselves from the Civil War Democrat party. If we’re being honest here, neither party truly descends from the Democrat Civil War party. But Democrats nowadays our way to partisan to agree to that kind of statement. It is also important to note that the south was in favor of protectionist tariffs and stomping on states rights when northern states refuse to return escaped slaves and wouldn’t let Southerners have slaves when they went on trips to the north. This unholy alliance between academia and the modern Democrat party can try to paint history however they’d like, and will successfully brainwash some people, but the truth is it’s always been the right thing to be a Republican.

    And by the way the “great recession“ that you said made you switch parties, that was largely caused by the housing crisis, was brought on by democratic policies from the 90s that didn’t allow banks to make loans based on likelihood of being able to pay back those loans. The Democratic Party strong-armed banks into making crappy loans to “not discriminate against the poor” with the mutual understanding being that the federal reserve would bail them out, which is exactly what George Bush and Barack Obama did.

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