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USA - 1896-1932 - Fourth Party System

The Progressive Era, as the period in history at the turn of the 20th century has come to be known, was a time of tremendous social, economic, and political changes, and the presidential election of 1912 typified the reform spirit of the period. Beginning in the late 1800s with the challenge to the "spoils system" of machine politics, progressivism gathered momentum between 1900 and 1916, as the desire for reform permeated the minds of the American people. Reformers themselves were a diverse group, frequently with different views, but always the same general purpose-- to reform America. Among them were politicians, labor leaders, religious leaders, and teachers, men and women who believed the federal government needed to address the ills of a modern industrialized society.

The great Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis said in the late nineteenth century, when America faced a similar degree of inequality as it did a century later -- an era characterized by urban squalor as well as robber barons whose lackeys literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of friendly legislators -- "we may have a democracy, or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”

Liberty Party

Liberty Party was a minor political party in the United States in the 1930s, based on the economic theories of W.H. "Coin" Harvey (1851–1936) (found mainly in his book, The Book). Harvey was initially its 1932 presidential candidate, and they held their convention at his resort, Monte Ne. However, the Liberty Party ended up merging with the Jobless Party, and Harvey ran for president as an independent. He came in 5th, receiving about 53,000 votes. Ward B. Hiner was the candidate for Governor of Indiana in 1932. They ran on a platform of "meeting the needs of humankind and the end of usury and taxes".

National Progressive Republican League

Senator Robert La Follette had vied for the Republican nomination in 1908. La Follette was arguably the most fervent reformer in the country with an impressive record of achievements in Wisconsin, among them pure food acts, child labor and compulsory education laws, and workmen's compensation insurance. His own larger reform platform, which eventually would be called the "Wisconsin idea," included the dictum of direct election of U. S. senators. As the highest profile Republican other than Theodore Roosevelt, LaFollette believed himself to be the natural choice for the party's nomination in 1912, and progressive Republicans supported him, including Roosevelt.

In January 1911 at La Follette's home in Wisconsin, a de facto Republican nominating committee reorganized as the National Progressive Republican League outlined their new platform, which called for 1) the direct election of U.S. senators, 2) direct primaries, 3) the direct election of convention delegates, and 4) a constitutional amendment for initiative, referendum, and recall at the federal level. If Roosevelt would not seek a third term, then La Follette was their obvious choice for leader. However, by late in that year, the members abandoned La Follette as their candidate when the immensely popular Roosevelt finally threw his hat back in the ring. "Fighting Bob's" success had shown that the party was viable, but Roosevelt's notoriety and national appeal made his chances of winning much greater.

Progressive Party - 1912

The first Progressive Party was formed in 1912, when former president Theodore Roosevelt, at odds with his old friend, President William Howard Taft, for various personal and political reasons, threw his "hat into the ring" (Feb. 24, 1912). Since the regular Republicans controlled the national convention at Chicago (June) and renominated Taft, the Roosevelt supporters organized the new Progressive party (the Bull Moose party) and nominated, also at Chicago (August), Roosevelt for President and Hiram W. Johnson for Vice President. The Progressive platform called for the direct election of U.S. Senators, the initiative, referendum, and recall, woman suffrage, reduction of the tariff, and many social reforms.

Among the choices for president in 1912 were three major candidates, each of whom laid claim to successful reform measures. The reform candidates were Robert M. La Follette (later replaced by William Howard Taft), Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. y. Each man had a history of challenging the status quo and enacting change while in office. Yet, they opposed each other during a campaign year that captivated the American people and challenged the two-party system. In their opposition they brought to the forefront of American politics those problems that needed rapt attention, and they succeeded in addressing many of them, regardless of party affiliations.With reform-minded candidates as the top contenders, it was only a matter of time before the varied goals of the groups within the Progressive Party, from labor issues to conservation measures, would be addressed through legislation.

As a result of the split in Republican ranks, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, won, but Roosevelt, who received 88 electoral votes and over 4 million popular votes, fared better than Taft. The party maintained its organization until 1916, when, after Roosevelt declined another nomination, most Progressives supported the Republican presidential candidate, Charles Evans Hughes.

Progressive Party - 1948

 De LeonA second and un-related Progressive Party ran Henry Wallace as a presidential candidate in 1948. Known for visionary social liberalism, he helped organize a new Progressive Party in 1948 and ran unsuccessfully as its presidential candidate that year. Henry Agard Wallace, the 33rd vice president of the United States, was unable to adapt to Washington politics. Wallace lost his bid for renomination as vice president in 1944 to Harry Truman, and instead was appointed secretary of commerce. When Truman subsequently became president following Roosevelt's death, Wallace was forced to resign his cabinet post in September 1946 after he openly criticized Truman's foreign policy.

Many forces occupied America's sociopolitical terrain to the left of New Dealers who dominated U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's administration of the 1930s. Some fastened themselves temporarily to the New Dealers' coattails. Ideologically motivated, others touted their special panaceas for ending the Great Depression that had begun in 1929, and certain of the mainstream Democratic Party's expatriates added to this cacophony by pursuing their own agendas.

Comprised principally of the Democratic Party's out-of-power people, another group wanted to restore Roosevelt's reforming to its 1933-34 height, change the federal government's thrust to the leftward in certain particulars, and impose New Deal-style reform programs in states where the Democratic Party's conservative wing had gained the upper hand. Self-defined New Deal Leftists often labeled themselves as "progressives," in part because they traced their political identities to the Bull Moosers' Progressive movement in 1912, judged themselves as Roosevelt's only truly committed followers.

America’s second “Red Scare” began during Truman’s administration, and may in fact have been precipitated by the president to forestall attacks from the increasingly volatile right wing of both political parties. In March of 1947, Truman had inaugurated a loyalty program that subjected all federal workers to investigation as to their beliefs. The program was designed to enhance Truman’s respectability among the growing number of American anti-Communists, but it set off an anti-Communist hysteria that led to a number of notorious espionage trials and accelerated the rise to national prominence of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Wallace's Progressive party was supported by the Communist Party of America, which made it difficult for anyone to then label Truman "soft on communism." But support for his candidacy from the Communist Party worked against Wallace in the campaign and destroyed any possibility of a victory.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:29:13 ZULU