Jean Yarbrough really cares about Theodore Roosevelt, but she really wishes she didn’t have to. Teddy is everywhere these days, claimed by players all over the political spectrum, his popularity given gravitas by his being carved into the pantheon of great presidents. The problem for Yarbrough is that the ubiquitous Roosevelt has a baneful influence on the American political tradition. He never really understood what the founders intended, and thus fell victim to the Zeitgeist of his time. In his days Social Darwinism, Hegelianism, populism, corporatism, and imperialism came together to produce a noxious progressive stew. Roosevelt stirred the pot.

Yarbrough comes from the shrinking academic circle of political theorists who take ideas seriously, rather than dismissing them as artifacts used by racial, gender, or class elites to maintain existing power structures. For this she is to be commended, and...


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