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The Progressive Presidents

The Progressive Presidents

It is widely known that the presidential elections in 1912 can be labeled as the most progressive in the whole history of US. Three frontrunners: Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson were struggling to win, and, after all, Woodrow Wilson has become a president. Analyzing these elections, it is necessary to regard in more details the policy of two of the candidates, who supported the Progressivism philosophy – Roosevelt and Wilson. Though both Roosevelt and Wilson were progressive, their theoretical views on some points differed. However, these issues have not made any of the presidents more or less successful than another one. Therefore, it is essential to review the complex views and ideas of the pre-election campaigns of the two presidents and emphasize the differences in their policies.

To analyze the political position and views of these two presidents properly, it is necessary to regard the aspects of the Progressivism on several levels: business, property rights, social justice. The progressive views of Theodor Roosevelt were expressed in his speech “The New Nationalism” (1910). Some of his progressive beliefs are described in the “Platform of the Progressive Party” (1912) as he has founded the Bull Moose Party. The progressive ideas of Woodrow Wilson can be traced through “The New Freedom” (1912). The main points of Roosevelt’s plan included: suffrage for women, social welfare, strict regulations for the big business and encouraging the small one, aggressive Progressivism (Roosevelt, 1910). Wilson’s main points in his “New Freedom” included favoring the development of small enterprise, individual competition increase, enforcement of antimonopoly laws, “free market” in the economy.

Wilson in the “New Freedom” emphasized that he was disposed against the big business and monopolies. He considered them as disruptive for the national economy and small business. Consequently, he was for the abolishment of the monopolies. He marked out that the huge monopoly corporations becomes an obstruction for the small companies and competition on the market. Therefore, such a situation can lead to the process of economic inefficiency and stagnation in the capitalistic society. If the little man or the small businessman can get stolen his business, individuality, and afterwards his sense of worth and being, the ideals of democracy and equality will be roughly violated and corrupted. Consequently, according to Wilson, the monopolies are inadmissible in the democratic society, which he tended to create. That is why removing the large obstruction of big business, which was “clogging the arteries of economic progress”, was regarded as the urgent step on the way to progress (Wilson, 1913). He stated that such change would become essential for the industrious entrepreneurs, and would help to revive the spirit of America. Roosevelt’s thoughts and the big business and the monopolies were very similar to Wilson’s ones. He pointed out that the existence of big business not only exploits the little man, but also suppresses his advancement and development through society. Roosevelt stated that corporations and those persons, who run them, should bear high level of responsibility for the legality of behavior and exposure of economic status of the business to the public. His aim was to enforce existing antimonopoly laws instead of creating new ones. Roosevelt also stressed that there should exist very strict laws and regulations maintained by the government, which would control the big business and the national welfare (Roosevelt, 1912). Moreover, such policies should become helpful to prevent corruption.

Both candidates considered the industrialization problems and monopolistic big business to be an obstacle to the happiness and welfare of the Americans. However, they disagreed about the origin of these issues and the best methods to get rid of them. Roosevelt saw the advantage in increased efficiency, which can be possibly brought on by monopolies, but stated that their power abuse needed to be strictly legislated. To Wilson’s mind, all big business is absolutely unproductive and must be abolished. Though both plans “New Freedom” and “New Nationalism” favored the development and rise of the little man, the means to achieve it were not the same as well. Roosevelt proposed to the little man a broad social welfare, and Wilson opposed his idea, stating that the little man must be involved into competition without the strong support from the government. Both presidents favored a kind of free market as progressive for the economy: However, Wilson suggested the pure market while Roosevelt was persuaded that those, who had losses, should get a possibility for another chance.

Roosevelt was a progressive and successful president and reformer. Regarding the time of his presidency, the problems that he addressed were reformed and fought. According to numerous statistics, most of the Americans including the Afro-Americans favored the ruling of Theodor Roosevelt. According to his words he was for “equality of opportunity for all citizens” (Roosevelt, 1910). In his speeches, he also stated that he was violently against corruption and special privileges for the government members including himself as a president. It is important to pay attention to Roosevelt’s square deal, which touched numerous social problems and tended to create a moral approach to their decision. In his “New Nationalism”, Roosevelt distinguished between his views on what are good and bad trusts. According to his views, only those labor organizations, which are based on merits, deserve respect, not simply those, which represent workers (Roosevelt, 1910). The square deal also suggested the tighter control of the big business; in particular, he has put his forces to decrease power for the railroads. He pointed out that the reason was that no organizations are allowed to use their power to regulate politics in any way and misrepresent the common will. Roosevelt also stressed the importance of getting free the politics of such manipulations. The measures, which were taken, were prohibiting political cooperation from corporations and of the Australian ballot implementation.

Woodrow Wilson considered himself as a highly democratic president, who should be close to people, who should be guided by the interests of the American society carefully and attentively. His ideas and program of progressive reform were successful not only in theory, but afterwards asserted his international leadership in creating a new world order. In 1917, Wilson proclaimed the entrance of US into World War I, which was named as a campaign aimed to make the surrounding world “safe for democracy”. Woodrow Wilson was a successful progressive president. The reforms, which were announced at the pre-election campaign, were all discussed in his first inaugural address. Among such reforms, which had to be undertaken, one can find banking reorganization, reforming tariffs. He also regarded the progressive laws as those, which should be adjusted to “the facts of the case” (Wilson, 1912). Therefore, he tried to change the American legal and political structures as he regarded such changes as the improvements. For instance, creation of the Federal Trade Commission for regulating big business was one of such improving steps. Another important belief of Wilson was the general principle of equality, of averting “the strong from crushing the weak” (Wilson, 1912). The same policy was followed when implementing the new rules for big business, which legitimates the rights of individuals.

To sum it up, both Wilson and Roosevelt as progressive presidents had quite efficient and interesting ideas about the best ways of governing the country. Though their approaches were far from being the same, some similarities can be traces. The common features, which can be emphasized, are the society welfare orientation, being against the big business, supporting the idea of equal rights for all white members of the society, supporting the capitalistic views of the national development. The main similarity between Roosevelt and Wilson can be defined as their idealistic aim to improve the welfare and life of the Americans. Both Roosevelt and Wilson had many successful endeavors as president and a great amount of Americans supported their policies. Roosevelt, with his “New Nationalism”, and Wilson with his “New Freedom” are both extremely successful American figures of the Progressive Era.

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