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It’s Teddy Time

- October 2, 2012

Congratulations to the Washington Nationals, who yesterday clinched their first division title since beginning to play in Washington, D.C.

As political scientists, though, there is some unfinished business that should concern us greatly.  I refer, of course, to the Presidents’ Race, a staple of Nationals’ home games in which the four Presidents from Mount Rushmore engage in a foot race from center field to the first base line.  The races are unpredictable, involving everything from motor scooters, sharks, and the Secret Service to the players themselves.  But there is one constant: Teddy Roosevelt has lost each of these 524 races.  A highly helpful primer on this critical issue is in the two-minute video here.

A war hero, conservationist, hawk, hunter, and avid reader, Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most recent Presidents to be claimed by both sides of the aisle. Last night’s game featured a pep talk for Teddy from none other than GOP 2008 Presidential nominee John McCain.  So I confess I am a bit surprised by the silence with which political scientists have responded to what could only be called a systematic campaign of defamation.  A generation of DC-area children are growing up with the wrong impression of our 26th President.  As if to toy with fans of Teddy (not to mention the Nationals), the Nationals have gone so far as to name this three-game homestand “Teddy in 2012.”

As political scientists, one of our responsibilities is to safeguard the teaching of American politics and political history.  Each night, when Teddy takes on the role of the hapless clown, truth suffers.  100 years ago this month, Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee and then finished the speech he was giving. It’s high time that he finished the Presidents’ race–in first place, just like the Nationals.