How and why did the presidency change during the Progressive Era?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The presidency did change to some degree during the Progressive Era.  In general, it became somewhat more powerful with presidents taking the lead more than they had in past times.  The major reason for this was that many people had a desire for change during this time.

After the Civil War, presidents were not very important.  There was a relatively pervasive attitude that held that presidents should not be at the forefront of the government.  That role was reserved more for Congress.  With the coming of the Progressive Era, this started to change.  People saw presidents more as the leaders of the country.

One reason for this was that the country had been fairly evenly divided in the late 1800s.  Neither party really had a strong hold on public opinion.  Therefore, it was not really possible for any president to come into office and strongly push for a given agenda.  This changed in the Progressive Era as well.  Now, there was something of a groundswell of support for reform and a president could come in and act more vigorously.

With people showing a real desire for reform, the president could take a stronger role in government.  It helped that the first progressive president was someone with a strong personality like that of Theodore Roosevelt.  But the real cause of the change was that there was now a real mandate for change that presidents could pursue.

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