Progressive Republican Presidents and More

While President Taft stated that he was a Progressive, Teddy Roosevelt responded with:

“A well-meaning man may vaguely think of himself as a Progressive without having even the faintest conception of what a Progressive is.”

So what is a Progressive?  Is it a liberal? Not really. Is it a Democrat? Much of the time, no. What the heck is it then?  Wiki says that,
“Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes through the state. Progressivism is often viewed by its advocates to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.” .
Wiki’s  definition seems a bit lacking.  I need more.  The Vermont Progressive Party says,
“We fight for our core principles of social justice and economic equity.”
Nice, I like that; now I know what Progressives do.  But still, what is a Progressive?Let’s see what the Progressive Magazine says. They’ve been around since 1909..

The Progressive Magazine

Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin (June 14, 1855 – June 18, 1925) considered the founder of the Progressive movement, also founded The Progressive Magazine:

“It champions peace, social and economic justice, civil rights, civil liberties, human rights, a preserved environment, and a reinvigorated democracy. Its bedrock values are nonviolence and freedom of speech.”

Ah, Progressive-ism, so perhaps we’re getting somewhere. I like it so far.

“The Progressive has a storied history. On January 9, 1909, Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin founded La Follette’s Weekly to be “a magazine of progress, social, intellectual, institutional.” The goal, he wrote, was “winning back for the people the complete power over government —national, state, and municipal—which has been lost to them.” He attacked private greed in the form of corporate monopolies that hoarded power. He championed the public interest, campaigning for social and economic justice. And he urged the United States not to entangle itself in foreign wars.”

So, one can conclude that a Progressive embraces pluralism– standing in opposition to one single approach or method of interpretation.   They promote social justice, pacifism, environmentalism, and human rights, the democratic process, direct voter control, and they’re all for  consumer rights.

I guess, simply put, a Progressive is someone who sides with the “plain people” over “Wall Street.”

Hey, what’s this? Wait a gosh darn minute….La Follette was a stinkin’ Republican!  Holy Smoke!  If La Follette, a GOP Senator, creator of The Progressive Magazine–a magazine that has featured articles by Howard Dean, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Janeane Garofalo, Danny Glover, Amy Goodman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Seymour Hersh, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Barack Obama, Michael Pollan, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Joseph Stiglitz, Helen Thomas, Alice Walker, and Elizabeth Warren then…. Holy Mole!  Run!  La Follette was a Republican!  What the heck is going on here?  

Move along. Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing’s going on, as it turns out, except only that perhaps the Republican Party has not stuck to its Progressive roots. Something has changed over the years. Something that Roosevelt called a crisis for the Party:

   “The Republican party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and with out Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the pubic to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled”. – Teddy

I have to think about that last bit of what Roosevelt said in 1912,

” …the party that represents the great interests within and with out Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the pubic to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled.” 

Thanks, Teddy “Trustbuster” Roosevelt, I guess simply put a Progressive is someone who sides with the “plain people” over “Wall Street.”

Here’s a short list of Republican from the past–office holders that might fit the Definition of Progressive:

The Progressive Abraham Lincoln,   February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) 16th President of the United States, Moderate Republican, served from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln set up the Freedman’s Bureau for the freed slaves and lobbied for theThirteenth Amendment, which would permanently abolish slavery in the whole nation. He prevented British recognition of theConfederacy by skillfully handling the Trent affair late in 1861. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoted the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery.

Radical Republicans:  Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792 – August 11, 1868), of Pennsylvania, was a Republican leader and one of the most powerful members of the United States House of Representatives. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expand the rights of African Americans through such laws as the Fourteenth AmendmentFifteenth Amendment, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. These laws enabled the first African American Congressman and Senators to be elected to Congress,


Charles Sumner (January 6, 1811-March 11, 1874) was a senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator. Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction, working to punish the ex-Confederates and guarantee equal rights to the Freedmen.worked to expand the rights of African-Americans through such laws as the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. These laws enabled the first African-American Congressman and Senators to be elected to Congress, including such distinguished men as Hiram Revels of Mississippi, Robert Smalls,

Teddy Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) 26th President of the United States (1901–1909).   He was a leader of the Republican Party and founder of the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party of 1912.  Nick-named, Trust Buster;   In May 1902, supported the United Mine Workers.   Developed a philosophy that became known as the Square Deal, which expanded the government’s regulatory powers over private industry through such acts as the Elkins Act of 1903 and the Hepburn Act of 1906 to control rates on railroads. Championed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 to regulate the food industry, and the Antiquities Act of 1906 which gave the government the power to restrict the use of government-owned land.  Roosevelt felt that the growth of corporations and big business was inevitable and that a strong federal government with strong regulatory powers was necessary to act as a referee between socially useful corporations and predatory corporations.

“Fighting Bob” la Follette (June 14, 1855 – June 18, 1925), was an American Republican (and later a Progressive) politician. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the Governor of Wisconsin, and was also a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906 to 1925). He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in 1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote.  fought for direct primaries to give more power to the people. He fought for more stringent railroad regulation and wanted higher taxes on corporations. He is considered to be the Father of the Progressive movement.  The Progressive Magazine was founded by Robert LaFollette in 1909.  LaFollette then went on to say that the “battle” against the corporate takeover of government “will be the longest and hardest ever fought for Democracy.
Albert Baird Cummins  (February 15, 1850 – July 30, 1926) was the 18th Governor of Iowa, US Senator, and two-time presidential candidate. who fought for direct primaries to give more power to the people, fought for more stringent railroad regulation, and wanted higher taxes on corporations.
I’m going to be adding to this list. If you know of any others, let me know.  This is not a completed list by any means. I will stick them in.  There are more and I am researching as far as I can today.  Once again, know of any Progressive Republican Politicians let me know.  Even live ones.
They started it.
See also:

Who is a Progressive? by Theodore Roosevelt

This entry was posted in Terry Gresham and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Progressive Republican Presidents and More

  1. Pingback: Conservatism Today « okieprogressive

  2. Pingback: Legendary Figures in Republican History « okieprogressive

  3. okieprogressive says:

    Reblogged this on okieprogressive and commented:

    Yep, Republicans have come a long way to get where they’ve gotten today.

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