"Theodore Roosevelt was not a true Progressive reformer, but rather a politician that responded to the political climate of the age." Assess the validity of the following statement, using background...
"Theodore Roosevelt was not a true Progressive reformer, but rather a politician that responded to the political climate of the age."
Assess the validity of the following statement, using background knowledge.
I do not agree with this statement. I would argue that TR was a strongly principled man whose principles drove him to push for progressive reforms. That is not to say that all his actions were progressive, but it is to say that his progressivism was the result of principle as opposed to opportunism.
First of all, it is not as if TR had to be progressive in order to be popular. Progressivism was not the only strain of political thought in the country at the time. TR was a leader in this respect, not someone who simply went along with what was already popular.
Second, we can see from TR's life that he was driven by principle. We know that he thought that it was, for example, important for the white race to maintain its dominance over the world. He wanted, therefore, to perfect the white race so it would remain strong. This attitude (one can argue) drove his desire to use the government to help people perfect themselves. His pushing of national parks, for example, was driven by his desire to allow people to get out into nature and challenge themselves physically so that they could become stronger mentally and physically.
I would argue, then, that TR was motivated by principle. He believed in allowing regular (white) people to have more control over the country (and indeed the world). This pushed him to advocate for progressive reforms.
There might be some level of truth to the statement. I think that it is difficult to gauge a political leader's personal commitment as opposed to the construction of their own political reality. Yet, outside of this, I would probably suggest that regardless of Roosevelt's own personal feelings, the passage of Progressivist legislation reflects a commitment to the movement. The pursuit of "trust- busting" legislation, as well as the passage of legislation that limited business abuses and protected consumers' rights, such as the Pure Food and Drug Act are Progressvist in nature. At the same time, Roosevelt's attempts to integrate minorities such as the Japanese through "the Gentleman's Act" represent the Progressivist goals of including more people. While it could be argued that his association with Jacob Riis was more for public perception, he did embrace much of what Muckrakers like Riis and Upton Sinclair had to say. Certainly, Roosevelt's use of the military might not have been consistent with Progressivist aims, the facts are that the actions and legislation credited with Roosevelt represents more of an embrace of Progressivism than his predecessors and even his successors, to a great extent.