A. Plan of Investigation
To what extent did the Progressive ideals change the political process? To answer this question, this investigation will focus on the Progressive Era, also known as the time period between 1890 and 1920 when the United States went through political, social and economic reform. This investigation will focus mainly on the political aspect of these reforms. The plan for the reforms of the Progressive campaign first appeared in 1890 when Americans emphasized the ideal that the state should have a larger responsibility along with desiring a government with more regulations. To investigate these changes and the ideals that led to them, a careful examination will be done of the interpretations of the Progressive movement along with amendments, regulations and reforms that were established during that time period.
B. Summary of Evidence
In the 1880s is when the first origins of the Progressive Era can be traced; however, in 1890 is when the actual form of the Progressive campaign took place (Mowry 4). By 1890, the cities in the United States were growing rapidly. There were more than 22 million people living in towns and cities comprised of more than 2,500 people. With the growth of the urban population, arose growth in perception of urban problems that would become a pivotal force in the essence of the Progressive ideals (Gould 3). The problems caused the people to believe that there should be a change executed by the government.
Republican politician, La Follette defines Progressivism with this statement “The will of the people should be the law of the land. Constitutions, statues, and all the complex details of government are but instruments to carry out the will of the people, and when they fail….they must be changed to carry out and express the well formulated judgment and the will of the people. For over all and above all, and greater than all, and expressing the supreme sovereignty of all, are the people” (Levine xii). Progressive Era activists sought to change the government’s structure and processes in the hopes of gaining a more representative democracy (Flehinger 12). Progressive reformers advocated for secret ballots, voter registration and nonpartisan elections in order to weaken the control of political parties (McGrath).
The processes of initiative, referendum and recall also took place during the Progressive Era. A variety of states adopted these reforms based on the idea that the people should have a direct access to the government and the operations of the government (Ansolabehere). Initiative was based on the idea that voters deserve the ability to propose laws, therefore if voters wanted to adopt a law all they needed to do was gather enough signatures (Utter 15). Once the voters had gotten enough signatures for their petition, that law would be added to a ballot of the people to vote on. Referendum caused the electorates to give their opinion on controversial issues when asked (Wright). Recall was the...