The Progressive Era - Liberal or Conservative
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, presumably around the 1890's, it became known as the Progressive Era, a time of change, reform, and adaptation. As Vernon L. Parrignton put it, it was a "democratic renaissance" (Vernon L. Parrington in The Progressive Movement: Liberal or Conservative). So what was Progressivism? Well, its main goals were to curb corporate power, to end business monopolies, and to wipe out political corruption. They also wanted to democratize electoral procedures, protect working people, and bridge the gap between social classes. They called for reforms such as the referendum, initiative, and the recall. They wanted the Americanization of the immigrant and the regulation of child and woman labor. But many historians argue what the main idea was behind the Progressive Movement; whether it was to help democratize the nation, or was just a cover up for a group of well-to-do-middle-class people who wanted to climb back up the social ladder and reassert its declining position of leadership. Although it had its many failures, and there were many reasons to believe it as a conservative movement, the Progressive Movement was in fact a liberal movement.
The term liberal is used to describe someone or something that is not strict, that has a loose interpretation of things, and is not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes or views. People who are liberal favor proposals for reform, are open to new ideas for progress and are tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others (Dictionary.com: Liberal). So with that being said, the question is was the Progressive Movement liberal. According to many historians such as Vernon L. Parrington and John D. Hicks believe it was.
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