The first “Progressive” era began as a local movement in the 1890s, largely in response to the corruption of the political machines, and the monopolistic excesses of the “gilded age”. By the 1920s, Progressivism had come to dominate state and national politics, bringing with it the national income tax, direct election of Senators, and Prohibition, with the 16th 17th and 18th amendments, respectively.
Great believers in the perfectibility of the public sphere, Progressives dismissed old methods as wasteful and inefficient, leaning instead toward the advice of academics and “experts”. A never ending quest for that “one best way” to get things done.
Progressive politicians covered both sides of the political aisle, with leaders such as Wisconsin Senator Robert M. LaFollette Sr. and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and Woodrow Wilson, and the attorney, politician and orator William Jennings Bryan (he of the famous…
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