Are populism, progressivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society related as one continued reform or are there sharp differences?These four movements represented important reform movements of the...

Are populism, progressivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society related as one continued reform or are there sharp differences?

These four movements represented important reform movements of the past century. Do you view the movements as representing one continuous pattern of reform, or do you find sharp differences between the movements? Compare the movements in the terms of causes, membership goals, and achievements.

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Populism was a movement that started in the late 1800s and one of its chief goals was to help the disadvantaged by making credit easier to get. One of the key goals of the populist movement was the coinage of silver. Populists managed to get several candidates elected at the state level and some congressmen, but it never elected a president.  

Progressivism was a movement with a moralistic side, in terms that its goal was to uplift the poor into the middle class via reform. Progressives achieved women's suffrage and child labor laws. The movement also passed Prohibition, which ultimately was a failure. Progressivism also led to consumer reforms, such as the Food and Drug Act. Several candidates such as Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson had progressive elements in their platforms.

The New Deal took up many progressive ideas in that its goal was to help the poor achieve middle-class status. The New Deal provided old-age pensions and it created public works projects. The New Deal was the first time in American history that the federal government was a part of the everyday lives of Americans in peacetime. The New Deal was largely the brainchild of Franklin Roosevelt and his Brain Trust.

The Great Society was enacted by Lyndon Johnson, a disciple of Franklin Roosevelt. It created medical care for the poor and elderly and increased aid to women and children. It also created government housing.

The New Deal and Great Society were largely government-started programs, but populism and progressivism had their starts at the local level. These movements demonstrate how American political thought has shifted from a "hands off" approach to handling poverty to a more active role in trying to uplift people. Populism and Progressivism failed as conditions in the country improved and leaders were worried about a rise in people becoming dependent on the government. The New Deal and Great Society failed because people were worried that America would become too much like communist countries. Many things in American political debate are like a pendulum; sometimes the country moves to the political left and then there is a correction to the right. While these movements did not happen one after another, they do demonstrate how society and government has attempted to help the growing population of poor people in this country.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first two, populism and progressivism, started mainly as grass roots movements among the people, with reform of government, the economy and society as their goals.  They were based largely on class struggle, the rich vs the poor, and targeted corruption in government and exploitation in business.  While populism largely failed, progressivism became more successful once it was adopted by Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson.

The New Deal and the Great Society were government initiatives and responses to poverty and inequality in society.  The main difference was that the New Deal responded to a crisis - the Great Depression, while the Great Society took place during a time of relative wealth in our country.  The New Deal tried to establish a safety net for the most vulnerable Americans, and the Great Society attempted to expand it.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Long question.  I'll give you a bit...

Progressivism is different than all of these. Cause: giving the middle class more power and getting the poor to behave more like the middle class.  Way more moralistic than any of the others.

Populism and New Deal are somewhat related.  Both are trying to get government to act more on behalf of the little guy to some extent.  But populism is a bottom-up movement, New Deal is all FDR's idea, very top-down.

Great Society is more like the New Deal in that it's top-down.

You could argue Populism, New Deal, Geat Society are relatively continuous -- government helping the poor/vulnerable.  Progressives have a bit of that but they're really different because of the moral aspect.