This paper is to discuss the Populist and Progressive parties. It will mostly to give a brief overview of their work. This time period was one that held politics as a vivid interest to the America people. Politics served as a recreation activity like television, going to the movies, viewing a baseball game, or maybe out to dinner these days might take place. This time period held an eighty percent elgible voters turning out to the poles versus a rate of only fifty percent of today’s voters. People took to politians as some might take to a rock movies star today. Seeing past their indigressions and looking onto them with an almost starry eyed expression. Politics to late twentieth century Americans were very much a hobby for most.
The Populist Party was a third party movement. It was a party made by the people for the people. It’s name populist is Latin for people. It’s members were made up of farmers and laborers. One of their visions was for a man to live in a world where wealth belonged to him who created it.
One of the populist’s key members was a woman from Kansas named Mary Elizabeth Lease. She had a family with five children and she took in laundry. While cleaning laundry she read up on notes about the law. She was the first woman admitted into the bar of Kansas ever. It was said that she could get a crowd worked up over nothing. She spoke of how America fought for liberty from England and won, how slavery of the clack man was fought for but now America was going backwards in an almost a new type of slavery. That America was one where the laborers slaved while the aristocrats, high society enjoyed the good life.
The party wanted to close the gap between social classes. Populist wanted to live in a world where the power pendulum to sway evenly among the classes. This was a time before middle class. There was only the rich (well to do) or the poor.
The Populist Party was for many things one of them being a shorter work day, eight hours verses ten. This would bring about more jobs for others to have. Lead to more time for individuals to enjoy some recreation not just on a Sunday. It was also better on the economy for there to be less supply than the demand called for. Any industry would not want masses of their product out there where it grew to be worthless as common as a dandelion. So come to be the party was successful in the eight hour work day in the end.
The Populist Party also achieved a graduated income tax, direct election of senators, secret ballots, sub-treasury plan, and regulation of railroads, banks and utilities.
The Progressive Party stood for mostly the same causes it was for the common man. They stood for the end of abuses of power of the rich like the reformers and populists before them. They too wanted to see a more wealth evenly distributed just as the Populist Party. Progressive Party leaders also wanted to help insure that everyone got a fair shake at the table of success. That the belief that if one worked hard and was of good moral character he would indeed succeed. Party members knew that this was not typically the case though. Only the CEO’s of the big factories had that working in their favor. The Progressive Party wanted more predictability in the world. Just as corporations in America managed their companies with economic efficiency, they felt that there was much room for improvement in this area. Party members felt this may lend a hand to the realization of closer party classes.
The party nominated Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 presidential election, where he got twenty seven percent of the popular vote. Though he did not win he did receive more votes than the then president William Taft the republican candidate. In today’s presidential elections this would be a major upset with the country being dominated by the two major parties. The party had another unsuccessful run for the 1924 presidential election against Calvin Coolidge (standing president) for the republican ticket John Davis, the democrat and Robert LaFollette for the progressive party. LaFollette received four point eight million popular votes but a small number of only thirteen electoral votes.
The progressive era also had many women to make head lines just as the Populist Party did. But one in particular made an impression well into today. Her name was Margaret Sanger she believed in contraception for a woman to have the right when to become a mother. Agree or disagree her crusade lead to the formation of Planned Parenthood which affects many Americans still today.
In closing I believe that these parties were more alike in that they were both for the common man. Both worked towards a middle class which today we perceive as the common man not the poor.