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Progressivism in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century. It was middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large corporations, pollution and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice.[1] While the modern progressive movement may be characterized as largely secular in nature, by comparison, the historical progressive movement was to a significant extent rooted in and energized by religion.[2]

Historian Alonzo Hamby defined American progressivism as the "political movement that addresses ideas, impulses, and issues stemming from modernization of American society. Emerging at the end of the nineteenth century, it established much of the tone of American politics throughout the first half of the century."[3]

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  • ✪ The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27
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Transcription

Episode 27: Progressive Era Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse U.S. history, and today we’re gonna talk about Progressives. No Stan Progressives. Yes. You know, like these guys who used to want to bomb the means of production, but also less radical Progressives. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Are we talking about, like, tumblr progressive where it’s half discussions of misogyny and half high-contrast images of pizza? Because if so, I can get behind that. Me from the past, your anachronism is showing. Your Internet was green letters on a black screen. But no, The Progressive Era was not like tumblr, however I will argue that it did indirectly make tumblr and therefore JLaw gifsets possible, so that’s something. So some of the solutions that progressives came up with to deal with issues of inequality and injustice don’t seem terribly progressive today, and also it kinda overlapped with the gilded age, and progressive implies, like, progress, presumably progress toward freedom and justice, which is hard to argue about an era that involved one of the great restrictions on freedom in American history, prohibition. So maybe we shouldn’t call it the Progressive Era at all. I g--Stan, whatever, roll the intro. Intro So, if the Gilded Age was the period when American industrial capitalism came into its own, and people like Mark Twain began to criticize its associated problems, then the Progressive era was the age in which people actually tried to solve those problems through individual and group action. As the economy changed, Progressives also had to respond to a rapidly changing political system. The population of the U.S. was growing and its economic power was becoming ever more concentrated. And sometimes, Progressives responded to this by opening up political participation and sometimes by trying to restrict the vote. The thing is, broad participatory democracy doesn’t always result in effective government--he said, sounding like the Chinese national Communist Party. And that tension between wanting to have government for, of, and by the people and wanting to have government that’s, like, good at governing kind of defined the Progressive era. And also our era. But progressives were most concerned with the social problems that revolved around industrial capitalist society. And most of these problems weren’t new by 1900, but some of the responses were. Companies and, later, corporations had a problem that had been around at least since the 1880s: they needed to keep costs down and profits high in a competitive market. And one of the best ways to do this was to keep wages low, hours long, and conditions appalling: your basic house-elf situation. Just kidding, house elves didn’t get wages. Also, by the end of the 19th century, people started to feel like these large, monopolistic industrial combinations, the so-called trusts, were exerting too much power over people’s lives. The 1890s saw federal attempts to deal with these trusts, such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but overall, the Federal Government wasn’t where most progressive changes were made. For instance, there was muckraking, a form of journalism in which reporters would find some muck and rake it. Mass circulation magazines realized they could make money by publishing exposés of industrial and political abuse, so they did. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? I bet it involves muck. The rules here are simple. I guess the author of the Mystery Document. I’m either correct or I get shocked. “Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing a truck in the pickle-rooms, and all the joints in his fingers might be eaten by the acid, one by one. Of the butchers and floormen, the beef-boners and trimmers, and all those who used knives, you could scarcely find a person who had the use of his thumb; time and time again the base of it had been slashed, till it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man pressed the knife to hold it. ... They would have no nails – they had worn them off pulling hides.” Wow. Well now I am hyper-aware of and grateful for my thumbs. They are just in excellent shape. I am so glad, Stan, that I am not a beef-boner at one of the meat-packing factories written about in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. No shock for me! Oh Stan, I can only imagine how long and hard you’ve worked to get the phrase “beef-boner” into this show. And you finally did it. Congratulations. By the way, just a little bit of trivia: The Jungle was the first book I ever read that made me vomit. So that’s a review. I don’t know if it’s positive, but there you go. Anyway, at the time, readers of The Jungle were more outraged by descriptions of rotten meat than by the treatment of meatpacking workers: The Jungle led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. That’s pretty cool for Upton Sinclair, although my books have also led to some federal legislation, such as the HAOPT, which officially declared Hazel and Augustus the nation’s OTP. So, to be fair, writers had been describing the harshness of industrial capitalism for decades, so muckraking wasn’t really that new, but the use of photography for documentation was. Lewis Hine, for instance, photographed child laborers in factories and mines, bringing Americans face to face with the more than 2 million children under the age of 15 working for wages. And Hine’s photos helped bring about laws that limited child labor. But even more important than the writing and photographs and magazines when it came to improving conditions for workers was Twitter … what’s that? There was no twitter? Still? What is this 1812? Alright, so apparently still without Twitter, workers had to organize into unions to get corporations to reduce hours and raise their pay. Also some employers started to realize on their own that one way to mitigate some of the problems of industrialization was to pay workers better, like in 1914, Henry Ford paid his workers an average of $5 per day, unheard of at the time. . Whereas today I pay Stan and Danica 3x that and still they whine. Ford’s reasoning was that better-paid workers would be better able to afford the Model Ts that they were making. And indeed, Ford’s annual output rose from 34,000 cars to 730,000 between 1910 and 1916, and the price of a Model T dropped from $700 to $316. Still, Henry Ford definitely forgot to be awesome sometimes; he was anti-Semitic, he used spies in his factories, and he named his child Edsel. Also like most employers at the turn of the century, he was virulently anti-union. So, while the AFL was organizing the most privileged industrial workers, another union grew up to advocate for rights for a larger swath of the workforce, especially the immigrants who dominated unskilled labor: The International Workers of the World. They were also known as the Wobblies, and they were founded in 1905 to advocate for “every wage-worker, no matter what his religion, fatherland or trade,” and not, as the name Wobblies suggests, just those fans of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey. The Wobblies were radical socialists; ultimately they wanted to see capitalism and the state disappear in revolution. Now, most progressives didn’t go that far, but some, following the ideas of Henry George, worried that economic progress could produce a dangerous unequal distribution of wealth that could only be cured by … taxes. But, more Progressives were influenced by Simon W. Patten who prophesied that industrialization would bring about a new civilization where everyone would benefit from the abundance and all the leisure time that all these new labor-saving devices could bring. This optimism was partly spurred by the birth of a mass consumption society. I mean, Americans by 1915 could purchase all kinds of new-fangled devices, like washing machines, or vacuum cleaners, automobiles, record players. It’s worth underscoring that all this happened in a couple generations: I mean, in 1850, almost everyone listened to music and washed their clothes in nearly the same way that people did 10,000 years ago. And then BOOM. And for many progressives, this consumer culture, to quote our old friend Eric Foner, “became the foundation for a new understanding of freedom as access to the cornucopia of goods made available by modern capitalism.” And this idea was encouraged by new advertising that connected goods with freedom, using “liberty” as a brand name or affixing the Statue of Liberty to a product. By the way, Crash Course is made exclusively in the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth ever. (Libertage.) That’s a lie, of course, but you’re allowed to lie in advertising. But in spite of this optimism, most progressives were concerned that industrial capitalism, with its exploitation of labor and concentration of wealth, was limiting, rather than increasing freedom, but depending on how you defined “freedom,” of course. Industrialization created what they referred to as “the labor problem” as mechanization diminished opportunities for skilled workers and the supervised routine of the factory floor destroyed autonomy. The scientific workplace management advocated by efficiency expert Frederick W. Taylor required rigid rules and supervision in order to heighten worker productivity. So if you’ve ever had a job with a defined number of bathroom breaks, that’s why. Also “Taylorism” found its way into classrooms; and anyone who’s had to sit in rows for 45 minute periods punctuated by factory-style bells knows that this atmosphere is not particularly conducive to a sense of freedom. Now this is a little bit confusing because while responding to worker exploitation was part of the Progressive movement, so was Taylorism itself because it was an application of research, observation, and expertise in response to the vexing problem of how to increase productivity. And this use of scientific experts is another hallmark of the Progressive era, one that usually found its expression in politics. American Progressives, like their counterparts in the Green Sections of Not-America, sought government solutions to social problems. Germany, which is somewhere over here, pioneered “social legislation” with its minimum wage, unemployment insurance and old age pension laws, but the idea that government action could address the problems and insecurities that characterized the modern industrial world, also became prominent in the United States. And the notion that an activist government could enhance rather than threaten people’s freedom was something new in America. Now, Progressives pushing for social legislation tended to have more success at the state and local level, especially in cities, which established public control over gas and water and raised taxes to pay for transportation and public schools. Whereas federally the biggest success was, like, Prohibition, which, you know, not that successful. But anyway, if all that local collectivist investment sounds like Socialism, it kind of is. I mean, by 1912 the Socialist Party had 150,000 members and had elected scores of local officials like Milwaukee mayor Emil Seidel. Some urban progressives even pushed to get rid of traditional democratic forms altogether. A number of cities were run by commissions of experts or city managers, who would be chosen on the basis of some demonstrated expertise or credential rather than their ability to hand out turkeys at Christmas or find jobs for your nephew’s sister’s cousin. Progressive editor Walter Lippman argued for applying modern scientific expertise to solve social problems in his 1914 book Drift and Mastery, writing that scientifically trained experts “could be trusted more fully than ordinary citizens to solve America’s deep social problems.” This tension between government by experts and increased popular democratic participation is one of the major contradictions of the Progressive era. The 17th amendment allowed for senators to be elected directly by the people rather than by state legislatures, and many states adopted primaries to nominate candidates, again taking power away from political parties and putting it in the hands of voters. And some states, particularly western ones like California adopted aspects of even more direct democracy, the initiative, which allowed voters to put issues on the ballot, and the referendum, which allows them to vote on laws directly. And lest you think that more democracy is always good, I present you with California. But many Progressives wanted actual policy made by experts who knew what was best for the people, not the people themselves. And despite primaries in direct elections of senators it’s hard to argue that the Progressive Era was a good moment for democratic participation, since many Progressives were only in favor of voting insofar as it was done by white, middle class, Protestant voters. Alright. Let’s Go to the Thought Bubble. Progressives limited immigrants’ participation in the political process through literacy tests and laws requiring people to register to vote. Voter registration was supposedly intended to limit fraud and the power of political machines. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar, but it actually just suppressed voting generally. Voting gradually declined from 80% of male Americans voting in the 1890s to the point where today only about 50% of eligible Americans vote in presidential elections. But an even bigger blow to democracy during the Progressive era came with the Jim Crow laws passed by legislatures in southern states, which legally segregated the South. First, there was the deliberate disenfranchisement of African Americans. The 15th amendment made it illegal to deny the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude but said nothing about the ability to read, so many Southern states instituted literacy requirements. Other states added poll taxes, requiring people to pay to vote, which effectively disenfranchised large numbers of African American people, who were disproportionately poor. The Supreme Court didn’t help: In 1896, it made one of its most famous bad decisions, Plessy v. Ferguson, ruling that segregation in public accommodations, in Homer Plessy’s case a railroad car, did not violate the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection clause. As long as black railroad cars were equal to white ones, it was A-OK to have duplicate sets of everything. Now, creating two sets of equal quality of everything would get really expensive, so Southern states didn’t actually do it. Black schools, public restrooms, public transportation opportunities--the list goes on and on--would definitely be separate, and definitely not equal. Thanks, ThoughtBubble. Now, of course, as we’ve seen Progressive ideas inspired a variety of responses, both for Taylorism and against it, both for government by experts and for direct democracy. Similarly, in the Progressive era, just as the Jim Crow laws were being passed, there were many attempts to improve the lives of African Americans. The towering figure in this movement to “uplift” black southerners was Booker T. Washington, a former slave who became the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a center for vocational education. And Washington urged southern black people to emphasize skills that could make them successful in the contemporary economy. The idea was that they would earn the respect of white people by demonstrating their usefulness and everyone would come to respect each other through the recognition of mutual dependence while continuing to live in separate social spheres. But Washington’s accommodationist stance was not shared by all African Americans. WEB DuBois advocated for full civil and political rights for black people and helped to found the NAACP, which urged African Americans to fight for their rights through “persistent, manly agitation.” So I wanted to talk about the Progressive Era today not only because it shows up on a lot of tests, but because Progressives tried to tackle many of the issues that we face today, particularly concerning immigration and economic justice, and they used some of the same methods that we use today: organization, journalistic exposure, and political activism. Now, we may use tumblr or tea party forums, but the same concerns motivate us to work together. And just as today, many of their efforts were not successful because of the inherent difficulty in trying to mobilize very different interests in a pluralistic nation. In some ways their platforms would have been better suited to an America that was less diverse and complex. But it was that very diversity and complexity that gave rise and still gives rise to the urge toward progress in the first place. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Rojas, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. Every week there’s a new caption for the libertage. You can suggest captions in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course. If you like it, and if you’re watching the credits you probably do, make sure you’re subscribed. And as we say in my hometown don’t forget to be awesome...That was more dramatic than it sounded. Progressive Era -

Contents

Progressive Era

Historians debate the exact contours, but generally date the "Progressive Era" from the 1890s to either World War I or the onset of the Great Depression, in response to the perceived excesses of the Gilded Age.[4]

Many of the core principles of the Progressive Movement focused on the need for efficiency in all areas of society. Purification to eliminate waste and corruption was a powerful element,[5] as well as the Progressives' support of worker compensation, improved child labor laws, minimum wage legislation, a support for a maximum hours that workers could work for, graduated income tax and allowed women the right to vote.[4]

According to historian William Leuchtenburg:

The Progressives believed in the Hamiltonian concept of positive government, of a national government directing the destinies of the nation at home and abroad. They had little but contempt for the strict construction of the Constitution by conservative judges, who would restrict the power of the national government to act against social evils and to extend the blessings of democracy to less favored lands. The real enemy was particularism, state rights, limited government.[6]

Purifying the electorate

Progressives repeatedly warned that illegal voting was corrupting the political system. They especially identified big-city bosses, working with saloon keepers and precinct workers, as the culprits who stuffed the ballot boxes. The solution to purifying the vote included prohibition (designed to close down the saloons), voter registration requirements (designed to end multiple voting), and literacy tests (designed to minimize the number of ignorant voters).[7]

All of the Southern states (and Oklahoma) used devices to disenfranchise black voters during the Progressive Era.[8][9] Typically the progressive elements in those states pushed for disenfranchisement, often fighting against the conservatism of the Black Belt whites.[10] A major reason given was that whites routinely purchased black votes to control elections, and it was easier to disenfranchise blacks than to go after powerful white men.[11]

In the North, Progressives such as William U'Ren and Robert La Follette argued that the average citizen should have more control over his government. The Oregon System of "Initiative, Referendum, and Recall" was exported to many states, including Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin.[12] Many progressives, such as George M. Forbes, president of Rochester's Board of Education, hoped to make government in the U.S. more responsive to the direct voice of the American people when he said:

[W]e are now intensely occupied in forging the tools of democracy, the direct primary, the initiative, the referendum, the recall, the short ballot, commission government. But in our enthusiasm we do not seem to be aware that these tools will be worthless unless they are used by those who are aflame with the sense of brotherhood ... The idea [of the social centers movement is] to establish in each community an institution having a direct and vital relation to the welfare of the neighborhood, ward, or district, and also to the city as a whole[13]

Philip J. Ethington seconds this high view of direct democracy saying:

initiatives, referendums, and recalls, along with direct primaries and the direct election of US Senators, were the core achievements of 'direct democracy' by the Progressive generation during the first two decades of the twentieth century.[14]

Women marching for the right to vote, 1912
Women marching for the right to vote, 1912

Progressives fought for women's suffrage to purify the elections using supposedly purer female voters.[15] Progressives in the South supported the elimination of supposedly corrupt black voters from the election booth. Historian Michael Perman says that in both Texas and Georgia, "disfranchisement was the weapon as well as the rallying cry in the fight for reform"; and in Virginia, "the drive for disfranchisement had been initiated by men who saw themselves as reformers, even progressives."[16]

While the ultimate significance of the progressive movement on today's politics is still up for debate, Alonzo L. Hamby asks:

What were the central themes that emerged from the cacophony [of progressivism]? Democracy or elitism? Social justice or social control? Small entrepreneurship or concentrated capitalism? And what was the impact of American foreign policy? Were the progressives isolationists or interventionists? Imperialists or advocates of national self-determination? And whatever they were, what was their motivation? Moralistic utopianism? Muddled relativistic pragmatism? Hegemonic capitalism? Not surprisingly many battered scholars began to shout 'no mas!' In 1970, Peter Filene declared that the term 'progressivism' had become meaningless.[17]

Municipal administration

The Progressives typically concentrated on city and state government, looking for waste and better ways to provide services as the cities grew rapidly. These changes led to a more structured system, power that had been centralized within the legislature would now be more locally focused. The changes were made to the system to effectively make legal processes, market transactions, bureaucratic administration, and democracy easier to manage, thus putting them under the classification of "Municipal Administration". There was also a change in authority for this system; it was believed that the authority that was not properly organized had now given authority to professionals, experts, and bureaucrats for these services. These changes led to a more solid type of municipal administration compared to the old system that was underdeveloped and poorly constructed.[18][19][20][21][22]

The Progressives mobilized concerned middle class voters, as well as newspapers and magazines, to identify problems and concentrate reform sentiment on specific problems. Many Protestants focused on the saloon as the power base for corruption, as well as violence and family disruption, so they tried to get rid of the entire saloon system through prohibition. Others (like Jane Addams in Chicago) promoted Settlement Houses.[23] Early municipal reformers included Hazen S. Pingree (mayor of Detroit in the 1890s)[24] and Tom L. Johnson in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1901, Johnson won election as mayor of Cleveland on a platform of just taxation, home rule for Ohio cities, and a 3-cent streetcar fare.[25] Columbia University President Seth Low was elected mayor of New York City in 1901 on a reform ticket.[26]

Efficiency

Many progressives such as Louis Brandeis hoped to make American governments better able to serve the people's needs by making governmental operations and services more efficient and rational. Rather than making legal arguments against ten-hour workdays for women, he used "scientific principles" and data produced by social scientists documenting the high costs of long working hours for both individuals and society.[27] The progressives' quest for efficiency was sometimes at odds with the progressives' quest for democracy. Taking power out of the hands of elected officials and placing that power in the hands of professional administrators reduced the voice of the politicians and in turn reduced the voice of the people. Centralized decision-making by trained experts and reduced power for local wards made government less corrupt but more distant and isolated from the people it served. Progressives who emphasized the need for efficiency typically argued that trained independent experts could make better decisions than the local politicians. Thus Walter Lippmann in his influential Drift and Mastery (1914), stressing the "scientific spirit" and "discipline of democracy," called for a strong central government guided by experts rather than public opinion.[28]

One example of progressive reform was the rise of the city manager system, in which paid, professional engineers ran the day-to-day affairs of city governments under guidelines established by elected city councils. Many cities created municipal "reference bureaus" which did expert surveys of government departments looking for waste and inefficiency. After in-depth surveys, local and even state governments were reorganized to reduce the number of officials and to eliminate overlapping areas of authority between departments. City governments were reorganized to reduce the power of local ward bosses and to increase the powers of the city council. Governments at every level began developing budgets to help them plan their expenditures (rather than spending money haphazardly as needs arose and revenue became available). Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois showed a "passion for efficiency" as he streamlined state government.[29]

Movements to eliminate governmental corruption

Corruption represented a source of waste and inefficiency in the government. William U'Ren in Oregon, and Robert M. La Follette Sr. in Wisconsin, and others worked to clean up state and local governments by passing laws to weaken the power of machine politicians and political bosses. In Wisconsin, La Follette pushed through an open primary system that stripped party bosses of the power to pick party candidates.[30] The Oregon System, which included a "Corrupt Practices Act", a public referendum, and a state-funded voter's pamphlet among other reforms was exported to other states in the northwest and Midwest. Its high point was in 1912, after which they detoured into a disastrous third party status.[31]

Education

Early progressive thinkers such as John Dewey and Lester Ward placed a universal and comprehensive system of education at the top of the progressive agenda, reasoning that if a democracy were to be successful, its leaders, the general public, needed a good education.[32] Progressives worked hard to expand and improve public and private education at all levels. Modernization of society, they believed, necessitated the compulsory education of all children, even if the parents objected. Progressives turned to educational researchers to evaluate the reform agenda by measuring numerous aspects of education, later leading to standardized testing. Many educational reforms and innovations generated during this period continued to influence debates and initiatives in American education for the remainder of the 20th century. One of the most apparent legacies of the Progressive Era left to American education was the perennial drive to reform schools and curricula, often as the product of energetic grass-roots movements in the city.[33]

Since progressivism was and continues to be 'in the eyes of the beholder,' progressive education encompasses very diverse and sometimes conflicting directions in educational policy. Such enduring legacies of the Progressive Era continue to interest historians. Progressive Era reformers stressed 'object teaching,' meeting the needs of particular constituencies within the school district, equal educational opportunity for boys and girls, and avoiding corporal punishment.[34]

Gamson (2003) examines the implementation of progressive reforms in three city school districts—Seattle, Washington, Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado—during 1900–28. Historians of educational reform during the Progressive Era tend to highlight the fact that many progressive policies and reforms were very different and, at times, even contradictory. At the school district level, contradictory reform policies were often especially apparent, though there is little evidence of confusion among progressive school leaders in Seattle, Oakland, and Denver. District leaders in these cities, including Frank B. Cooper in Seattle and Fred M. Hunter in Oakland, often employed a seemingly contradictory set of reforms: local progressive educators consciously sought to operate independently of national progressive movements; they preferred reforms that were easy to implement; and they were encouraged to mix and blend diverse reforms that had been shown to work in other cities.[35]

The reformers emphasized professionalization and bureaucratization. The old system whereby ward politicians selected school employees was dropped in the case of teachers and replaced by a merit system requiring a college-level education in a normal school (teacher's college).[36] The rapid growth in size and complexity the large urban school systems facilitated stable employment for women teachers and provided senior teachers greater opportunities to mentor younger teachers. By 1900 in Providence, Rhode Island, most women remained as teachers for at least 17.5 years, indicating teaching had become a significant and desirable career path for women.[37]

Regulation of large corporations and monopolies

"The Bosses of the Senate", a cartoon by Joseph Keppler depicting corporate interests–from steel, copper, oil, iron, sugar, tin, and coal to paper bags, envelopes, and salt–as giant money bags looming over the tiny senators at their desks in the Chamber of the United States Senate.[38]
"The Bosses of the Senate", a cartoon by Joseph Keppler depicting corporate interests–from steel, copper, oil, iron, sugar, tin, and coal to paper bags, envelopes, and salt–as giant money bags looming over the tiny senators at their desks in the Chamber of the United States Senate.[38]

Many progressives hoped that by regulating large corporations they could liberate human energies from the restrictions imposed by industrial capitalism. Yet the progressive movement was split over which of the following solutions should be used to regulate corporations.

Trust busting

Pro-labor progressives such as Samuel Gompers argued that industrial monopolies were unnatural economic institutions which suppressed the competition which was necessary for progress and improvement.[39][40] United States antitrust law is the body of laws that prohibits anti-competitive behavior (monopoly) and unfair business practices. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft supported trust-busting. During their presidencies, the otherwise-conservative Taft brought down 90 trusts in four years while Roosevelt took down 44 in 7 1/2 years in office.[41]

Regulation

Progressives such as Benjamin Parke De Witt argued that in a modern economy, large corporations and even monopolies were both inevitable and desirable.[42] With their massive resources and economies of scale, large corporations offered the U.S. advantages which smaller companies could not offer. Yet, these large corporations might abuse their great power. The federal government should allow these companies to exist but regulate them for the public interest. President Theodore Roosevelt generally supported this idea and was later to incorporate it as part of his "New Nationalism".

Social work

Progressives set up training programs to ensure that welfare and charity work would be undertaken by trained professionals rather than warm-hearted amateurs.[43]

Jane Addams of Chicago's Hull House typified the leadership of residential, community centers operated by social workers and volunteers and located in inner city slums. The purpose of the settlement houses was to raise the standard of living of urbanites by providing adult education and cultural enrichment programs.[44]

Anti-prostitution

During this era of massive reformation among all social aspects, elimination of prostitution was vital for the progressives, especially the women.[45]

Enactment of child labor laws

A poster highlighting the situation of child labor in the US in the early 20th century
A poster highlighting the situation of child labor in the US in the early 20th century

Child labor laws were designed to prevent the overuse of children in the newly emerging industries. The goal of these laws was to give working class children the opportunity to go to school and mature more institutionally, thereby liberating the potential of humanity and encouraging the advancement of humanity. Factory owners generally did not want this progression because of lost workers. They used Charles Dickens as a symbol that the working conditions spark imagination. This initiative failed, with child labor laws being enacted anyway.[46][47][48]

Support for the goals of organized labor

Labor unions grew steadily until 1916, then expanded fast during the war. In 1919 a wave of major strikes alienated the middle class; the strikes were lost, which alienated the workers. In the 1920s the unions were in the doldrums; in 1924 they supported La Follette's Progressive party, but he only carried his base in Wisconsin. The American Federation of Labor under Samuel Gompers after 1907 began supporting the Democrats, who promised more favorable judges. The Republicans appointed pro-business judges. Theodore Roosevelt and his third party also supported such goals as the eight-hour work day, improved safety and health conditions in factories, workers' compensation laws, and minimum wage laws for women.[49]

Prohibition

Most progressives, especially in rural areas, adopted the cause of prohibition.[50] They saw the saloon as political corruption incarnate, and bewailed the damage done to women and children. They believed the consumption of alcohol limited mankind's potential for advancement.[51] Progressives achieved success first with state laws then with the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919. The golden day did not dawn; enforcement was lax, especially in the cities where the law had very limited popular support and where notorious criminal gangs, such as the Chicago gang of Al Capone made a crime spree based on illegal sales of liquor in speakeasies. The "experiment" (as President Hoover called it) also cost the treasury large sums of taxes and the 18th amendment was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1933.[52]

Eugenics

Some Progressives sponsored eugenics as a solution to excessively large or under-performing families, hoping that birth control would enable parents to focus their resources on fewer, better children.[53] Progressive leaders like Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann indicated their classically liberal concern over the danger posed to the individual by the practice of Eugenics.[54]

Conservation

During the term of the progressive President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909), and influenced by the ideas of 'philosopher-scientists' such as George Perkins Marsh, John Wesley Powell, John Muir, Lester Frank Ward and W. J. McGee,[55] the largest government-funded conservation-related projects in U.S. history were undertaken:

National parks and wildlife refuges

On March 14, 1903, President Roosevelt created the first National Bird Preserve, (the beginning of the Wildlife Refuge system), on Pelican Island, Florida. In all, by 1909, the Roosevelt administration had created an unprecedented 42 million acres (170,000 km²) of United States National Forests, 53 National Wildlife Refuges and 18 areas of "special interest", such as the Grand Canyon.

Reclamation

In addition, Roosevelt approved the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, which gave subsidies for irrigation in 13 (eventually 20) western states. Another conservation-oriented bill was the Antiquities Act of 1906 that protected large areas of land by allowing the President to declare areas meriting protection to be national monuments. The Inland Waterways Commission was appointed by Roosevelt on March 14, 1907 to study the river systems of the United States, including the development of water power, flood control, and land reclamation.[56]

National politics

In the early 20th century, politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties, Lincoln–Roosevelt League Republicans (in California) and Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 Progressive ("Bull Moose") Party all pursued environmental, political, and economic reforms. Chief among these aims was the pursuit of trust busting, the breaking up very large monopolies, and support for labor unions, public health programs, decreased corruption in politics, and environmental conservation.[57]

The Progressive Movement enlisted support from both major parties (and from minor parties as well). One leader, Democrat William Jennings Bryan, had won both the Democratic Party and the Populist Party nominations in 1896. At the time, the great majority of other major leaders had been opposed to Populism. When Roosevelt left the Republican Party in 1912, he took with him many of the intellectual leaders of progressivism, but very few political leaders.[58] The Republican Party then became notably more committed to business-oriented and efficiency-oriented progressivism, typified by Taft and Herbert Hoover.[59]

Culture

The foundation of the progressive tendency was indirectly linked to the unique philosophy of pragmatism, which was primarily developed by John Dewey and William James.[60][61]

Equally significant to progressive-era reform were the crusading journalists, known as muckrakers. These journalists publicized, to middle class readers, economic privilege, political corruption, and social injustice. Their articles appeared in McClure's Magazine and other reform periodicals. Some muckrakers focused on corporate abuses. Ida Tarbell, for instance, exposed the activities of the Standard Oil Company. In The Shame of the Cities (1904), Lincoln Steffens dissected corruption in city government. In Following the Color Line (1908), Ray Stannard Baker criticized race relations. Other muckrakers assailed the Senate, railroad companies, insurance companies, and fraud in patent medicine.[62]

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed Americans to the horrors of the Chicago meatpacking plants
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed Americans to the horrors of the Chicago meatpacking plants

Novelists, too, criticized corporate injustices. Theodore Dreiser drew harsh portraits of a type of ruthless businessman in The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914). In The Jungle (1906), Socialist Upton Sinclair repelled readers with descriptions of Chicago's meatpacking plants, and his work led to support for remedial food safety legislation.

Leading intellectuals also shaped the progressive mentality. In Dynamic Sociology (1883) Lester Frank Ward laid out the philosophical foundations of the Progressive movement and attacked the laissez-faire policies advocated by Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner.[63] In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Thorstein Veblen attacked the "conspicuous consumption" of the wealthy. Educator John Dewey emphasized a child-centered philosophy of pedagogy, known as progressive education, which affected schoolrooms for three generations.[64]

Progressivism in the 21st century

Progressivism in the 21st century U.S. is significantly different from the historical progressivism of the 19th-20th centuries. According to Princeton economics professor Thomas C. Leonard, "At a glance, there is not much here for 21st-century progressives to claim kinship with. Today’s progressives emphasize racial equality and minority rights, decry U.S. imperialism, shun biological ideas in social science, and have little use for piety or proselytizing." However, both historical progressivism and the modern movement shares the notion that the free markets lead to economic inequalities that must be ameliorated[65]. Many modern progressives have used the term "new progressivism" to make this distinction.

Mitigating income inequality

Income inequality in the United States has been on the rise since 1970, as the wealthy continue to hold more and more wealth and income.[66] For example, 95% of income gains from 2009 to 2013 went to the top 1% of wage earners in the United States.[67] Progressives have recognized that lower union rates, weak policy, globalization, and other drivers have caused the gap in income.[68][69][70] The rise of income inequality has led Progressives to draft legislation including, but not limited to, reforming Wall Street, reforming the tax code, reforming campaign finance, closing loopholes, and keeping domestic work.[71]

Wall Street reform

Progressives began to demand stronger Wall Street regulation after they perceived deregulation and relaxed enforcement as leading to the financial crisis of 2008. Passing the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory act in 2010 provided increased oversight on financial institutions and the creation of new regulatory agencies, but many Progressives argue its broad framework allows for financial institutions to continue to take advantage of consumers and the government.[72] Bernie Sanders, among others, has advocated to reimplement Glass-Steagall for its stricter regulation and to break up the banks because of financial institutions' market share being concentrated in fewer corporations than progressives would like.[73][74]

Health care reform

In 2009, the Congressional Progressive Caucus outlined five key healthcare principles they intended to pass into law. The CPC mandated a nationwide public option, affordable health insurance, insurance market regulations, an employer insurance provision mandate, and comprehensive services for children.[75] In March 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was intended to increase the affordability and efficiency of the United States healthcare system. Although considered a success by progressives, many argued that it didn't go far enough in achieving healthcare reform, as exemplified with the Democrats' failure in achieving a national public option.[76] In recent decades, Single-payer healthcare has become an important goal in healthcare reform for progressives. In the 2016 Democratic Primary, progressive and democratic socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raised the issue of a single-payer healthcare system, citing his belief that millions of Americans are still paying too much for health insurance, and arguing that millions more don't receive the care they need.[77] In 2016, an effort was made to implement a single-payer healthcare system in the state of Colorado, known as ColoradoCare (Amendment 69). Senator Bernie Sanders held rallies in Colorado in support of the Amendment leading up to the vote.[78] Despite high-profile support, Amendment 69 failed to pass, with just 21.23% of voting Colorado residents voting in favor, and 78.77% against.[79]

Minimum wage

Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.54 (in 2014 dollars).[80] Progressives believe that stagnating wages perpetuate income inequality and that raising the minimum wage is a necessary step to combat inequality.[70] If the minimum wage grew at the rate of productivity growth in the United States, it would be $21.72 an hour, nearly three times as much as the current $7.25 an hour.[81] Popular progressives, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison, have endorsed a federally mandated wage increase to $15 an hour.[82] The movement has already seen success with its implementation in California with the passing of bill to raise the minimum wage $1 every year until reaching $15 an hour in 2021.[83] New York workers are lobbying for similar legislation as many continue to rally for a minimum wage increase as part of the Fight for $15 movement.[84]

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is an international activist group that fights against police brutality and systemic racism.[85] Black Lives Matter has organized protests against the deaths of African-Americans by police actions and crimes. These include protests against the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Korryn Gaines.

Environmental justice

Modern progressives advocate for strong environmental protections and measures to reduce or eliminate pollution. One reason for this is the strong link between economic injustice and adverse environmental conditions: groups that are economically marginalized tend to be disproportionately affected by the harms of pollution and environmental degradation.[86]

Definition

With the rise in popularity of self-proclaimed progressives such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the term began to carry greater cultural currency, particularly in the 2016 Democratic primaries. While answering a question from CNN moderator Anderson Cooper regarding her willingness to shift positions during an October 2015 debate, Hillary Clinton referred to herself as a "progressive who likes to get things done", drawing the ire of a number of Sanders supporters and other critics from her left.[87] Questions about the precise meaning of the term have persisted within the Democratic Party and without since the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, with some candidates using it to indicate their affiliation with the left flank of the party. As such, "progressive" and "progressivism" are essentially contested concepts, with different groups and individuals defining the terms in different (and sometimes contradictory) ways towards different (and sometimes contradictory) ends.

Other progressive parties

Following the first progressive movement of the early 20th century, two later short-lived parties have also identified as "progressive".

Progressive Party, 1924

In 1924, Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette ran for president on the "Progressive party" ticket. La Follette won the support of labor unions, Germans and Socialists by his crusade. He carried only Wisconsin and the party vanished outside Wisconsin.[88]

There, it remained a force until the 1940s.

Progressive Party, 1948

A third party was initiated in 1948 by former Vice President Henry A. Wallace as a vehicle for his campaign for president. He saw the two parties as reactionary and war-mongering, and attracted support from left-wing voters who opposed the Cold War policies that had become a national consensus. Most liberals, New Dealers, and especially the CIO unions, denounced the party because it was increasingly controlled by Communists. It faded away after winning 2% of the vote in 1948.[89]

See also

References

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  3. ^ Alonzo L. Hamby, "Progressivism: A Century of Change and Rebirth", in Progressivism and the New Democracy, ed. Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M. Mileur (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), (p.?) 40 also notes that "a plethora of scholarship in the last half of the 1950s left the old consensus [about progressives] in shreds while producing a plethora of alternative views that defy rational synthesis."
  4. ^ a b Nugent, Walter (2010). Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-531106-8. Progressivism emerged as a response to the excesses of the Gilded age ... [Progressives] fought for worker's [sic] compensation, child labor laws, minimum wage and maximum hours legislation; they enacted anti-trust laws, improved living conditions in urban slums, instituted the graduated income tax, won woman the right to vote, and the groundwork for Roosevelt's New Deal.
  5. ^ Link argues that the majority of progressive wanted to purify politics. Link (1954); The "progressives strove to purify politics," concludes Vincent P. De Santis, The shaping of modern America, 1877–1920 (1999) p. 171. In the South, "purification" meant taking the vote away from blacks according to Jimmie Franklin, "Blacks and the Progressive Movement: Emergence of a New Synthesis," Organization of American Historians Jimmie Franklin, Blacks and the Progressive Movement: Emergence of a New Synthesis Archived 2010-01-13 at the Wayback Machine, Organization of American Historians.
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Further reading

Overviews

  • Buenker, John D., John C. Burnham, and Robert M. Crunden. Progressivism (1986) short overview
  • Buenker, John D. and Joseph Buenker, eds. Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. (2005) 1290 pp. in three volumes. 900 articles by 200 scholars
  • Buenker, John D. ed. Dictionary of the Progressive Era (1980), short articles by scholars
  • Chambers, John Whiteclay, II. The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era, 1890–1920 (2000), textbook excerpt and text search
  • Crunden, Robert M. Ministers of Reform: The Progressives' Achievement in American Civilization, 1889–1920 (1982) excerpt and text search
  • Dawley, Alan. Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Diner, Steven J. A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Flanagan, Maureen. America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s–1920s (2007).
  • Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Who Were the Progressives? (2002)
  • Gould, Lewis L. America in the Progressive Era, 1890–1914 (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Gould, Lewis L. ed., The Progressive Era (1974), essays by scholars
  • Hays, Samuel P. The Response to Industrialism, 1885–1914 (1957), old but influential short survey
  • Hofstadter, Richard The Age of Reform (1954), Pulitzer Prize, but now sadly outdated
  • Jensen, Richard. "Democracy, Republicanism and Efficiency: The Values of American Politics, 1885–1930," in Byron Shafer and Anthony Badger, eds, Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000 (U of Kansas Press, 2001) pp. 149–80; online version
  • Johnston, Robert D. "Re-Democratizing the Progressive Era: The Politics of Progressive Era Political Historiography," Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2002) 1#1 pp. 68–92
  • Kennedy, David M. ed., Progressivism: The Critical Issues (1971), readings
  • Kloppenberg, James T. Uncertain victory: social democracy and progressivism in European and American thought, 1870–1920 1986 online at ACLS e-books
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. "Progressivism and Imperialism: The Progressive Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898–1916," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 3. (Dec., 1952), pp. 483–504. JSTOR
  • Lears, T. J. Jackson. Rebirth of a Nation: The Remaking of Modern America, 1877-1920 (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Link, Arthur S. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era: 1913–1917 (1954), standard scholarly survey
  • Link, Arthur S. Wilson: The Road to the White House (1947), first volume of standard biography (to 1917); Wilson: The New Freedom (1956); Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality: 1914–1915 (1960); Wilson: Confusions and Crises: 1915–1916 (1964); Wilson: Campaigns for Progressivism and Peace: 1916–1917 (1965), the last volume of standard biography. all 5 volumes are online free (if you have an account) at ACLS e-books
  • Mann, Arthur. ed., The Progressive Era (1975), readings from scholars
  • Lasch, Christopher. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics (1991) excerpt and text search
  • McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870–1920 (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Mowry, George. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900–1912. (1954) general survey of era
  • Noggle, Burl. "The Twenties: A New Historiographical Frontier," The Journal of American History, Vol. 53, No. 2. (Sep., 1966), pp. 299–314. in JSTOR
  • Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Perry, Elisabeth Israels and Karen Manners Smith, eds. The Gilded Age & Progressive Era: A Student Companion (2006)
  • Piott, Steven. American Reformers 1870–1920 (2006). 240 pp. biographies of 12 leaders online review
  • Rodgers, Daniel T. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (2000). stresses links with Europe online edition
  • Schutz, Aaron. Social Class, Social Action, and Education: The Failure of Progressive Democracy. (2010) introduction
  • Stromquist, Shelton. Reinventing "the People": The Progressive Movement, the Class Problem and the Origins of Modern Liberalism (2006) excerpt and text search
  • Thelen, David P. "Social Tensions and the Origins of Progressivism," Journal of American History 56 (1969), 323–341 JSTOR
  • Wiebe, Robert. The Search For Order, 1877–1920 (1967) highly influential interpretation
  • Young, Jeremy C. The Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940 (2017) excerpt and text search

National politics

  • Blum, John Morton The Republican Roosevelt. (1954). Series of essays that examine how TR did politics
  • Brands, H.W. Theodore Roosevelt (2001), biography online edition
  • Buenker, John D. and Joseph Buenker, eds. Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Sharpe Reference, 2005. xxxii + 1256 pp. in three volumes. ISBN 0-7656-8051-3. 900 articles by 200 scholars
  • Buenker, John D., ed. Dictionary of the Progressive Era (1980)
  • Cocks, Catherine, Peter C. Holloran and Alan Lessoff. Historical Dictionary of the Progressive Era (2009)
  • Clements, Kendrick A. The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson (1992) excerpt and text search
  • Coletta, Paolo. The Presidency of William Howard Taft (1990) excerpt and text search
  • Cooper, John Milton The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. (1983), influential dual biography excerpt and text search
  • Edwards, Barry C. "Putting Hoover on the Map: Was the 31st President a Progressive?." Congress & the Presidency 41#1 (2014) pp 49–83 online
  • Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1991) excerpt and text search
  • Harrison, Robert. Congress, Progressive Reform, and the New American State (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition (1948), ch. 8–10 on Bryan, Roosevelt and Wilson. excerpt and text search
  • Link, Arthur Stanley. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910–1917 (1972), standard history
  • Morris, Edmund Theodore Rex. (2001), very well written biography of Theodore Roosevelt covers 1901–1909 excerpt and text search
  • Mowry, George E. Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. (2001) standard history of 1912 movement
  • Sanders, Elizabeth. Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers and the American State, 1877–1917 (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Walworth, Arthur (1958). Woodrow Wilson, Volume I, Volume II. Longmans, Green.; 904pp; full scale scholarly biography; winner of Pulitzer Prize; online free 2nd ed. 1965

External links

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