Unreasonable Men (Hardcover)

Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

By Michael Wolraich

St. Martin's Press, 9780230342231, 320pp.

Publication Date: July 22, 2014

List Price: 39.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


"As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, Unreasonable Men, it was 'the greatest period of political change in American history.'" -Washington Post, 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Republican Party stood at the brink of an internal civil war. After a devastating financial crisis, 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," and "fanatics." They called themselves Progressives.

President Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of La Follette's confrontational methods. Fearful of splitting the party, he compromised with the conservative House Speaker, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, 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.

About the Author

Michael Wolraich is a political journalist and historian, author of Blowing Smoke, and co-founder of the political blog dagblog.com. His writing has appeared at The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, CNN, Reuters, Talking Points Memo, and Pando Daily. He has also appeared on C-SPAN’s BookTV, The John Batchelor Show, Culture Shocks, and various radio shows across the country. He lives in New York City.

Praise For Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

“As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, Unreasonable Men, it was ‘the greatest period of political change in American history.'” —Washington Post, 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction

“In a timely history of the birth of progressivism, political journalist Michael Wolraich explores the spectacular power struggle that shattered the Republican Party and split the country between the ideological factions that now define modern politics: progressive and conservative.” —The Daily Beast

“Wolraich probes this historic moment in light of an American political reawakening to the idea of the interests of the citizens as separate from, and potentially victim to, the interests of corporations and capital holders; it is a mighty and relevant insight into the cyclical nature of history.” —Publisher's Weekly

“Wolraich presents an engaging survey of a movement's progress from radical extremism to conventional wisdom.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Unreasonable Men offers a good, hopeful read for these politically slow early summer days.” —Alternet

“In Unreasonable Men, Michael Wolraich has tapped into an historical goldmine: that turn of the century period when insurgent Republicans drove the progressive movement in America. With impressive documentation, Wolraich expands our understanding of the very different and decidedly more conservative Republican Party of today.” —Thomas B. Edsall, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

“This is a fascinating, thoroughly readable account of the rise of Progressivism in America, with a detailed portrait of the rivalry between the two giants of that movement, Teddy Roosevelt and Fighting Bob La Follette. It's a great addition to the history of the period, and it sheds some crucial light on our current moment.” —Matthew Rothschild, senior editor at The Progressive

“Unreasonable Men is a shrewd and vividly written account of a conflict that defined the politics of the Progressive Era. It is also a timely story: the same argument between foes and defenders of corporate power which raged a century ago can be heard in our partisan battles today.” —Michael Kazin, Professor of History at Georgetown University, editor of Dissent and author of American Dreamers: How the Left Shaped a Nation

“Unreasonable Men recounts the nation's dramatic transformation as political focus shifted from promoting the interests of the wealthiest Americans to protecting its everyday citizens. Wolraich's engaging narrative recaptures the excitement and suspense of the nation's turn from conservatism to progressivism. For a nation facing a similar crisis over the role of government today, this book offers inspiration and illustrates the power of fearless leaders committed to real change for the betterment of all.” —Nancy C. Unger, Professor of History at Santa Clara University and author of Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer

“Michael Wolraich has that special ability to be immersed in the present and bring its insights to the past while still accepting, understanding it on its own terms. Here he brings to life the century old battle where progressive reformism emerged paradoxically out of a civil war within the GOP. A must read.” —Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher of Talking Points Memo, Polk Award winner