The Most Consequential Elections in History: Woodrow Wilson and the Election of 1912

Wilson was one of the most brilliant and cerebral presidents.

President Woodrow Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson

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"For a time, Wilson fantasized that voters would regard the 1920 election as a referendum on the League and therefore provide the Democrats with a substantial victory," writes historian Alvin Felzenberg. But Republican Warren Harding, pledging a return to "business as usual" and an end to Wilsonian crusades, won a huge landslide in the presidential election over Democrat James Cox, crushing the ailing Wilson's hopes. Historians generally see Wilson as a noble-minded idealist whose refusal to compromise doomed him to fail in pursuing the biggest objective of his presidency and as a leader whose high-minded exertions defined the limits of altruism in American politics.

More from our Most Consequential Elections series:
George Washington and the Election of 1788
Thomas Jefferson and the Election of 1800
Andrew Jackson and the Election of 1828
Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1860
Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1864
Theodore Roosevelt and the Election of 1904
Franklin Roosevelt and the Election of 1932
Lyndon Johnson and the Election of 1964
Ronald Reagan and the Election of 1980