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Morning ☕️ with Teddy Roosevelt
1912 Straight Talk that Echoed Loudly Last Week
A month ago, I shared a 1912 speech from Teddy Roosevelt that explained the origins of the initiative process that Ohio Republicans tried to destroy through Issue 1.
In the wake of last week, those words read a little differently than when I first shared them. In an uncanny way, they capture almost exactly what happened in Ohio. And still guide us now.
Take a look. You will enjoy them:
“The great fundamental issue now before before our people can be stated briefly. It is, Are the American people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves, to control themselves? I believe they are. My opponents do not.
I believe in the right of the people to rule. I believe that the majority of the plain people of the United States will, day in and day out, make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller class or body of men, no matter what their training, will make in trying to govern them.
I believe, again, that the American people are, as a whole, capable of self-control and of learning by their mistakes. Our opponents pay lip-loyalty to this doctrine; but they show their real beliefs by the way in which they champion every device to make the nominal rule of the people a sham.
I have scant patience with this talk of the tyranny of the majority. Wherever there is tyranny of the majority, I shall protest against it with all my heart and soul. But we are today suffering from the tyranny of minorities. It is a small minority that is grabbing our coal-deposits, our water-powers, and our harbor fronts. A small minority is battening on the sale of adulterated foods and drugs. It is a small minority that lies behind monopolies and trusts….
The only tyrannies from which men, women, and children are suffering in real life are the tyrannies of minorities….
No sane man who has been familiar with the government of this country for the last twenty years will complain that we have had too much of the rule of the majority. The trouble has been a far different one that, at many times and in many localities, there have held public office in the States and in the nation men who have, in fact, served not the whole people, but some special class or special interest. I am not thinking only of those special interests which by grosser methods, by bribery and crime, have stolen from the people.
I am thinking as much of their respectable allies and figureheads, who have ruled and legislated and decided as if in some way the vested rights of privilege had a first mortgage on the whole United States, while the rights of all the people were merely an unsecured debt.
Am I overstating the case? Have our political leaders always, or generally, recognized their duty to the people as anything more than a duty to disperse the mob, see that the ashes are taken away, and distribute patronage? Have our leaders always, or generally, worked for the benefit of human beings, to increase the prosperity of all the people, to give each some opportunity of living decently and bringing up his children well? The questions need no answer….
Now there has sprung up a feeling deep in the hearts of the people—not of the bosses and professional politicians, not of the beneficiaries of special privilege—a pervading belief of thinking men that when the majority of the people do in fact, as well as theory, rule, then the servants of the people will come more quickly to answer and obey, not the commands of the special interests, but those of the whole people….”
It was in this spirit that Roosevelt and fellow reformers in 1913 created, with the support of 57% of Ohio voters, the very initiative process that Ohio Republicans in the statehouse tried to destroy through Issue 1.
And it was that same spirit in the people of Ohio today that led an exact same 57% to defeat Issue 1 on Tuesday.
But…let’s make sure this is just the beginning. Roosevelt’s words need to propel us forward. Especially when those who lost Tuesday have already made it clear they have no intention of changing how they operate.
Yes, “a feeling deep in the hearts of the people” sprung up. But we are not yet seeing “the servants of the people  come more quickly to answer and obey, not the commands of the special interests, but those of the whole people.”
That will only happen if we keep going. Keep pushing. Keep uniting. Keep demanding change—unrigging a broken state government— until our majority will is respected and reflected in the government tasked to represent us.
We must do all this.
And last week showed we can do this.