Was Progressivism an inspirational movement to further the nation’s democratic ideals, or was it an attempt at social control by self-important, moralist busybodies?

One could argue that Progressivism was both an inspirational movement to further the nation’s democratic ideals and an attempt at social control by self-important, moralist busybodies. On the one hand, Progressivism led to a cleaning up of the corrupt political system. But on the other, it sought to impose a way of life on immigrants, whom Progressivism saw as needing to change.

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There can be little doubt that Progressivism was generally a force for good that achieved much-needed progress in many areas of American public life. From tackling corruption in municipal and state politics to improving food safety standards, Progressives undoubtedly made life better for millions of Americans, then and in the decades to follow.

At the same time, Progressivism was more than just a political movement; it was something of a moral crusade. Progressives took themselves very seriously—a little too seriously, in their opponents’ eyes—seeing themselves as pioneers in a great conflict against the evils of the age.

The air of sanctimony and self-righteousness that often surrounded the Progressive movement was hard to shake off and gave its opponents much ammunition. Progressives were regularly dismissed as...

(The entire section contains 385 words.)

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