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Progressive Party (United States)

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The United States Progressive Party refers to three distinct political parties in 20th-century United States politics. Later, the term also came to refer to the recent alliance of state-level progressive parties.

Contents

The first Progressive Party

The first was formed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Roosevelt ran against President Taft for the Republican nomination, spurred by bitter resentment of the policies of Taft, who had been Roosevelt's hand-picked successor. After Roosevelt was defeated in the primary, reporters suggested that he was no longer fit for the office. Retorting that he was "fit as a bull moose" (giving the party a nickname), Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket in the 1912 Presidential election, with California Governor Hiram Johnson as his vice-presidential running mate.

Roosevelt had the satisfaction of defeating Taft in the popular vote, and by a large margin of 88-8 in the electoral vote, but the split engendered in the Republican vote allowed Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency. The party, which in reality consisted of little more than Roosevelt's presidential campaign, soon folded and Roosevelt returned to the Republican Party after the Republicans nominated the more progressively-minded Charles Evans Hughes for president in 1916.

The second Progressive Party

The second was formed under the leadership of Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. of Wisconsin, another erstwhile Republican, in 1924. La Follette's politics ran toward the socialist end of the spectrum; he favored public ownership of railroads, etc. The 1924 Progressive Party presidential campaign, which featured La Follette running with Governor Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, was the result of a farmer/labor coalition and was endorsed by the Socialist Party of America and the American Federation of Labor.

La Follette's run for the presidency under this ticket garnered 17% of the popular vote, but carried only one state (his native Wisconsin). The Republican ticket, headed by incumbent president Calvin Coolidge, won the election. La Follette continued to serve in the Senate as a Republican until his death the following year, and was succeeded by his son, Robert M. La Follette, Jr., who also served as a Republican; another son, Philip, later served as governor of Wisconsin as a Progressive, the highest office to which any U.S. Progressive has ever been elected while running as such. The Progressive party also had members of the House and Senate from Wisconsin during the 1930s and 40s.

The third Progressive Party

In 1948, another Progressive Party (known in some states as the Independent Progressive Party) was formed with an eye toward electing former Vice President Henry A. Wallace as President. Wallace was also supported by several other small parties, such as the American Labor Party (ALP) of New York. The Communist Party USA did not field a presidential candidate, and instead endorsed Wallace for President; given the tenor of U.S. politics, this endorsement was to hinder Wallace far more that it would help him. Wallace was yet another former Republican, who had nevertheless supported Alfred E. Smith in 1928 and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and then served under Roosevelt as Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President, and Secretary of Commerce under both Roosevelt and his successor Truman. When Wallace refused to expel Communists working in the party during the 1948 election, his campaign was severely criticized by both the Truman and Dewey camps. Running as a peace candidate in the nascent Cold War era, he garnered no electoral votes and less than 3% of the popular vote. Nearly half of these votes were obtained in New York state, where Wallace ran on the ALP ballot line.

In 1952, the party ran Charlotta Bass for Vice President, making her the first African-American woman to run for national office; their presidential candidate was lawyer Vincent Hallinan. This campaign attracted little media attention and few votes; it was not even on the ballot in many states. Wallace had at this point made a concerted effort to distance himself from Communism, even writing a book entitled Why I Was Wrong. The Progressive Party disbanded in 1955, as the Cold War began to dominate the political spectrum in the United States, and any party which had not taken a stridently anti-Communist position was deemed to be unviable.

Current and minor progressive parties

Statewide Progressive Parties are currently active in Vermont and Washington. The Vermont Progressive Party has enjoyed some consistent success in the state legislature since the 1990s. These parties use the bull moose as a mascot.

See also

External links

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