Progressive Beliefs

What were four common beliefs held by the Progressives?


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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Progressivism has its roots in European philosophies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, and Marx believed that governmental action could help solve societal problems such as poverty, illiteracy, and economic inequality.

Early in the 20th century the Progressive party made some inroads in American politics under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. They supported causes such as environmental conservation, improved labor laws, and also supported labor unions. It is interesting to note that at this point in American political history, these positions were more closely identified with the Republican party than the Democratic party.

As the 20th century unfolded economic conditions changed and Progressives came to be more aligned with liberal views. The Great Depression threw many of the nation’s citizens into financially desperate circumstances, and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal put the government at the forefront of efforts to help pull the nation out of the crisis. In this sense, liberal and progressive ideas were closely linked.

In modern day politics it is often hard to see a difference between Progressives and Democrats. They often vote together on major issues. Some of the current issues attracting Progressive interest include the attempt to raise the minimum wage, the legalization of marijuana use, and the reform of drug sentencing rules.

CNN recently published the following quotation from Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:

"In some areas, like ending two wars, (Obama's) presidency has represented a return to some sanity. But on the core issue of corporate power and a government that fights for the little guy, this administration so far has had a lot of missed opportunities."

This shows that Progressives are not entirely beholden to the Democratic party--they have their own ideas and agendas. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were many beliefs held by the Progressives.  Among them were:

  • The basic system of capitalism and democracy was a good one.  Progressives were out to fix the system, not to destroy it.
  • That the people were capable of effecting the reforms that were needed for the system to be fixed.
  • It was important to maintain social cohesion and to have a communitarian view of the world.  The Progressives did not embrace the sort of individualism that drove the views of the Social Darwinists and those like them.  They felt, instead, that society should work for the benefit of all.
  • They believed in the power of scientific thinking to change the world.  They felt that science and rationality could determine what society should be like and how to achieve that ideal society.