“Unreasonable Men really had an impact on my thinking, and I unabashedly used it to develop my sense of how to build momentum for reform.” —Stan Greenberg, polling adviser to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, author of America Ascendant
“As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, Unreasonable Men, it was ‘the greatest period of political change in American history.’...Unreasonable Men invites comparison with another book on the same era, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit...If I had to choose between them, I would go with Unreasonable Men.” —The Washington Post
“exceptionally modern...lively, passionate and cinematic...the book almost reads like a political thriller” —LSE Review of Books
“a mighty and relevant insight into the cyclical nature of history” —Publishers Weekly
“A must read.” —Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo
“Wolraich has tapped into an historical goldmine.” —Thomas Edsall, New Republic, New York Times, professor of journalism at Columbia University
“engaging...meticulously researched” —National Memo
“fascinating, thoroughly readable” —Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive magazine
“shrewd and vividly written” —Michael Kazin, Dissent magazine, professor of history at Georgetown University
“Wolraich’s engaging narrative recaptures the excitement and suspense of the nation’s turn from conservatism to progressivism.” —Nancy C. Unger, Fighting Bob La Follette, professor of history at Santa Clara University
“an engaging survey of a movement's progress from radical extremism to conventional wisdom” —Kirkus Reviews
“a good, hopeful read for these politically slow early summer days” —AlterNet
The Republican Party stood at the brink of a civil war. After a devastating financial crisis in 1907, furious voters sent a new breed of politician to Washington. These young Republican firebrands led by “Fighting Bob” La Follette of Wisconsin vowed to overthrow the party leaders and purge Wall Street’s corrupting influence from Washington. Their opponents called them “radicals,” “demagogues,” and “fanatics.” They called themselves Progressives.
President Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of La Follette’s confrontational methods. Fearful of splitting the party, he compromised with “Uncle Joe” Cannon, the powerful Speaker of the House, and Nelson Aldrich, the master of the Senate, to pass modest reforms. But as La Follette’s crusade gathered momentum, the country polarized, and the middle ground melted away. Three years after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt embraced La Follette’s militant tactics and went to war against the Republican establishment, bringing him face to face with his handpicked successor, William Taft. Their epic battle shattered the Republican Party and permanently realigned the electorate, dividing the country into two camps: Progressive and Conservative.
Unreasonable Men takes us into the heart of the epic power struggle that created the progressive movement and defined modern American politics. Recounting the fateful clash between the pragmatic Roosevelt and the radical La Follette, Wolraich’s riveting narrative reveals how a few Republican insurgents broke the conservative chokehold on Congress and initiated the greatest period of political change in America’s history.