The Presidential Election of 1912 Exhibit

This collection of primary source documents is intended to help readers identify and think about some of the key ideas and issues surrounding the U.S. Presidential election of 1912. The 1912 election was a significant event in American history for a number of reasons, representing the high-water mark of the so-called Progressive Era in American electoral politics. This pivotal moment is explained by Jason Jividen in his opening essay, in which he establishes the situation leading into the election year, contextualizes the ideas and personalities in play and conflict, and explains what happened. The exhibit also includes key facts and statistics from the election itself, including an electoral map, and vote counts and popular vote shares in each state. We also included important demographic statistics to help the reader understand the differences and similarities between America then and now.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Primary Sources

1912 Republican Convention: TR Starts the Bull Moose Party

This four-minute video provides students with an introduction to the election of 1912 and the emergence of the progressive Bull Moose party, named for Theodore Roosevelt’s saying after an assassination attempt that he was “fit as a bull moose” to become president again. Focusing on Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to challenge President William Taft for the 1912 Republican Party nomination, the video shows students how the newly created system of direct primaries affected the race, and how Roosevelt’s failure to wrest the nomination from Taft resulted in the formation of the short-lived Bull Moose party. The video is useful for lessons focused on the election of 1912, or for lessons focused on the political reforms of the progressive era.

Election of 1860: Slavery Splits the Democrats

This four-minute video explores the causes and consequences of the Democratic Party’s division into two parties following the Democratic national convention of 1860. After rejecting Stephen A. Douglas’s failed attempt to reconcile the Northern and Southern factions of the party with his doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” the Southern delegates walked out of the convention. That decision led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and 50 years of Republican dominance in national politics. A concise summary of the unusual events that allowed Abraham Lincoln to win the election of 1860, the video fits into any sequence of lessons on the factors leading to secession and the Civil War.

From Watergate to Campaign Finance Reform

This 12-minute video is useful for any lesson that introduces students to the Watergate scandal, and any lesson focused on the constitutional and political challenges that complicate the regulation of campaign contributions. After clarifying the connection between the Watergate break-in and subsequent campaign finance scandal, the video documents how campaign finance regulations created in the wake of Watergate would eventually be manipulated by donors seeking to convert money into political influence. The video helps students make the connection between the history of Watergate and current controversies surrounding campaign finance, and to see how, after decades of attempted reforms, the United States is once again experiencing the same unregulated flow of campaign cash that helped give rise to the issues in the 1970s.

Gerrymandering

The process of redistricting, or redrawing congressional and state legislative boundaries, often becomes politicized. Drawing district lines to create partisan advantages and disadvantages is a tactic known as gerrymandering. Examine interactive resources to explore how changing district lines can affect the balance of partisan power, and evaluate criteria for drawing district lines.

Contrasting U.S. Founding Principles & Totalitarianism

Why are the founding principles essential for a free society? This civics and government lesson plan was developed to facilitate instruction and discussion concerning the United States’ founding principles versus totalitarian systems of government. Students will contrast a totalitarian system of government with the founding principles of the United States as established in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Grades 6-12
Foundations of Democracy
Modules (Teaching Unit)

Just Vote: Youth Registration Campaign

This lesson supports young people as they design, create, and implement their own voter preregistration campaigns. Students will consider some reflection questions, learn more about voting as they consider what to include in their campaigns, study examples of past voter registration campaigns, and apply what they’ve learned to create campaigns that engage current and future voters to participate in the democratic process. First, help students reflect on the role of voting in the democratic process, using questions that connect to their prior knowledge about voting. Then, through the series of worksheets that follow, have students learn relevant vocabulary, analyze challenges voters face today, examine past successful voting campaigns, and create their new campaigns. After students launch their campaigns, consider creating a way for the class to track their success as a group.