Why do so many good folks get the impression that the modern progressive movement is linked directly back to bigger than life eugenicist Theodore Roosevelt? While the guy was and is real popular and did do a few reformer things right– like conservation and a few token work laws– the guy was far from being a champion of all Americans as well as being no civil rights leader. For instance, Howard Zinn makes the comment that all progressive administrations from Roosevelt to Wilson looked at lynching at that time in America and did nothing. Come to think of it, of all Progressive Era administrations Taft’s was the least KKK influenced, least Big Business, and didn’t put much sweat into eugenic programs. As a result, Taft was pounced on in re-election. All most Americans remember about Taft was that he was fat. Granted, although these progressive Era administrations did see intense social and political change, there were other things overly overlooked.
Now, on the other hand, I’d like to introduce into this progressive era post another observation; that modern progressivism does not stem from any past administrations of the Progressive Era, even Taft’s. It does better sprouting, however, from an even greater nemesis of Roosevelt– in the day. Who was that; you might ask? Forget Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson. You may disagree, but I think today’s progressive movement can be better traced back to the Fighting Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Former member of the U.S. Senate.
“The essence of the Progressive movement, as I see it, lies in its purpose to uphold the fundamental principles of representative government. It expresses the hopes and desires of millions of common men and women who are willing to fight for their ideals, to take defeat if necessary, and still go on fighting.”—Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., founder of the Progressive Magazine; still published today.