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Theodore Roosevelt Progressivism Vs. Woodrow Wilson Progressivism

1572 words - 6 pages

Derek Sekuler

Wilsonian Progressivism vs. TR Progressivism

As the United States burst into the 20th century on the back of victory in war with Spain, American society was still full of impurities and `natural' injustices that divided the nation and angered many. While other world powers such as Britain, France, and Germany had begun to pass social legislation meant to benefit the common good, wild untamed, capitalists oppressed labor and business competition in America. Corrupt politicians took orders from the moneyed interests and thus legislative help for the working class was hard to come by. If this rapacious cycle wasn't stopped soon, the social atmosphere of the United States could have become extremely volatile. Fortunately, a new reform movement began to captivate the nation early on in the first decade of the new century. The Progressive Movement of the early 1900s was similar to the Populist movement of the 188-s and 1890s, only it was larger and had much more of an effect on American life and politics. Muckraking journalists, reform-minded politicians, women, socialists, and more (particularly the urban-middle class) were all classified as Progressives; those who wished to use the government as an instrument of social betterment. In general, they were not seeking revolution, but simply looking to clean up business and government while giving the lower classes the help that they deserved. After having success in city and state governments, Progressivism reached the White House in 1901 when Theodore Roosevelt assumed the office left vacant by the late President McKinley. Roosevelt attacked big business and sought to protect the common man with his "Square Deal." When Woodrow Wilson won the election of 1912, a different type of Progressivism sat in the Oval Office in the form of the President's "New Freedom." Although both men believed they embodied the spirit of Progressivism, their platforms had significant differences. Only through careful consideration of both Presidents' policies can we see who the `greater' Progressive truly was.

Surprisingly, Roosevelt was not always a fan of Progressivism. He initially viewed laborers and the working class as people who complained before attempting to work hard for their own gains. Only after serving as the New York City Police Commissioner and as the Governor of New York did he see that these people did attempt to make something of themselves- but they were constantly put down by the rapacious moneyed interests who could dominate all aspects of their lives. Roosevelt sought to defend the "public interest" from corruption while at the same time, avoid spoon-feeding the American people. In essence, he wanted to rid the country of its unjust obstacles and give everybody a fair shot to make something of their life. As President, Roosevelt's Progressive platform was dubbed the "Square Deal" for capital, labor, and the public...

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