Desertion And Decline For Progressivism Essay, Research Paper
Desertion and Decline for Progressivism
The decade of the 1920s discouraged the progressive movement. It was a period that had an extraordinary reaction against idealism and reform. The goal was to restore a place of special privilege benefiting big business, industry, and finance. Traditions and ideals were forgotten, nationalism was prominent with a fear of communism, suppression of civil liberties, and a revival of nativism. Because of this, progressives withdrew from the political scene, becoming disorganized and lacking leaders, their movement now broken with their dreams of America crushed.
Progressivism was a broad based urban reform movement that attempted to control the evils of industrialization without destroying the benefits. It strived to insure the survival of democracy by the enlargement of government power to offset the power of private large corporations. Special interest groups or classes in search of greater political status and economic security did most of the progressive campaigns. The progressive movements were constituted mostly of the middle class. There was diversity within the movement, however there was always a sharing of common ideals and goals.
After the Wilsonian coalition had been wrecked because of the election of 1920, the progressive elements were divided and unable to agree on a program or to control the national government. Progressivism was “on the downgrade if not in decay ” after 1918. The progressive coalition of 1916 was inherently unstable. It was so distorted by inner tensions that it couldn’t survive; destruction came inevitably from 1917 to 1920.
In the 1920s, the progressive movement was destroyed with a little hope of a potential movement. The progressives were having problems for a few reasons. First, the progressives could never create or gain control of a political organization in which to carry them into national office. Most all of the third party movement in the U.S. were doomed to failure except in times of large national disorder, which the 1920s were not. Secondly, the tensions that had originally wrecked the coalition of 1916 remained as grew in intensity and number. The lower and lower middle classes in the cities often opposed their only potential allies in the rural areas. Also, the relationship between the farm groups and organized labor all but ceased to exist in the 1920s. A third reason for the decline of progressivism in the 1920s is that the progressive groups could not agree on a program that would provide the basis for a revived coalition. Many progressive groups were fighting each other more fiercely than natural opponents, making it impossible to reach an agreement. A more psychological reason for the progressive problems was a substantial “paralysis of the progressive mind.” This paralysis resulted from the fact that an “organized body of political thought found itself at a crossroads in the 1920s.” It did not know which was to turn or which direction to head in. Fourthly, the lack of any effective leadership prevented the progressive movement from succeeding in the 1920s.
Despite the internal problems that the progressive movement had, there were also external issues that hindered the movement in the ’20s. The main external cause was the fact that during the 1920s there was an increasing level of economic prosperity, materialism, and general contentment. Another problem was the middle classes that constituted part of the progressive movement abandoned progressivism. They had found a “new economic and social status” because of the new technologies and financial revolution of the 1920s. This meant that the middle classes now had no interest in rebellion or reform because they did not want to endanger their new leadership or control. Another external factor working against progressivism was the cession from the group of many of the intellectual leadership. A large body of these intellectuals turned against the ideas that they had once promoted. “The spark plugs had been removed from the engine of reform.”
The progressive movement first encountered problems after the Wilsonian coalition was wrecked by the election in 1920. The progressives’ problems continued by conflicts within themselves as well as a lack of national leadership. Progressivism suffered a major decline also because of the desertion from the middle classes and the intellectuals, who had turned to the technological and economical changes of the country. Although the 1920s were a period of great prosperity for many people, for the progressive movement it was a time of desertion and decline.