This is my 2nd short political science essay.
American Progressivism is a reformative movement for a better society, using federal and local government levels to reduce unethical business practices and corruption
(Demsky, 2023). The so-called Progressive Era in US History began at the end of the 19th century, in the 1890s, when rapid industrialization, urbanization, immigration, child labor, lack of women’s rights, and growing violence against Blacks in the South and Hispanics in the West introduced tremendous new problems into the society
(Corbett et al., 2022, p. 564). It was ignited by muckrakers, the investigative journalists who showed the public the current evils of society like corrupt politicians and poor working and living conditions of workers and immigrants
(Corbett et al., 2022, p 550). Many groups of activists joined in to search for a solution, prominently among them women and African Americans in movements like Atlanta Compromise and Niagara who advocated not only for their own rights but for a better societal organization for all. Many citizens, especially the educated middle class, felt that society is moving in a dangerous direction and thought they needed to do something to improve the lives of others. The Progressive Era practically ended after the start of World War I and winded down in the 1920s. In California, the Progressive movement flourished from 1900 to 1917 and focused on making government more responsive to the concerns of the people
(Anagnoson et al., 2021, p. 32).
The main political figure associated with Progressivism that comes to my mind is U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who came to the presidency unexpectedly
(Corbett et al., 2022). He embraced progressive views and used his leadership to introduce progressive changes. There are many historical examples of following the Progressive mindset for developing new public policies by politicians. To name a few, the significant reforms by Teddy Roosevelt in support of his Square Deal like fighting monopolies, protecting consumers, and preserving nature, were in the spirit of the existing progressive tendencies. Roosevelt established the Bureau of Corporations specifically to investigate trusts, and had some success with it, starting with breaking the Northern Securities Trust Company that controlled large midwestern railroads and continued in his second term with policies like inspecting factories, requiring food labels, and establishing natural forests. Aside from that, three major innovative improvements to the functioning of democratic government in California were introduced by 1911 with recalls of political office holders, following Oregon’s reform in 1910, plus initiative, and referendum - all grassroots processes. California also adopted nonpartisanship that disallowed party labeling of candidates, primary elections, voting for individual candidates and not parties via black ballots, and civic service merit basis for government employees' elections
(Anagnoson et al., 2021, p. 37-38). Additionally, direct votes for senators were introduced in the Seventeenth Amendment that allowed more direct democracy, the commission system for many local governments that reduced corruption, etc.
(Corbett et al., 2022, p. 566-557). Later, also the leaders of opposing parties like President Woodrow Willson promised to protect people from bad businesses with a smaller government
(Corbett et al., 2022, p. 584).
Some modern examples of following the Progressive mindset by the political leaders in the United States and in California specifically could be advocacy for a universal healthcare system, minimal livable wages, more corporate regulation, and lesser concentration of capital, as well as for climate preservation, a similar environmental cause to Roosevelt’s era. In 2006, one of the great progressive environmental initiatives in California to use a quarter less oil failed because the oil industry suppressed it with money on lawyers in suits against its supporters and on advertisements to scare voters with higher oil prices. On the national level, a 15% minimum corporate tax in the Inflation Reduction Act that targets the largest tax-avoiding companies was signed into law in 2022 despite corporate lobbyist efforts against it. Such measures will bring money for social good, prevent the usage of loopholes in the tax law, and even the playing field for smaller businesses that pay their share of taxes.
Anagnoson, J. T., Bonetto, G. M., Emrey, J., Koch, N. S., & Michelson, M. R. (2021). Governing California in the twenty-first century: The political dynamics of the Golden State (6th ed.). W.W. Norton and Company.
Corbett, P. S., Precht, J., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T. J., Vickery, P. S., and Waskiewicz, S. (2022). U.S. History. OpenStax, Rice University.
Demsky, J. (2023, February 16). “American Institutions and History.” Political Science Course.