The Progressive Party is a political party in the United States that was active in three American elections in the first half of the 1900s. Nicknamed the Bull Moose Party, the Progressive Party was established in 1912 as a division within the Republican Party. Robert La Follette, senator from Wisconsin, led an opposition group against the re-election of Republican President William Taft.
After he was not able to secure the nomination at the Republican convention, La Follette and his progressive group rallied around Theodore Roosevelt and gave him the presidential nomination for the new Progressive Party. Theodore Roosevelt lost the presidential election in 1912 and the party faded away, only to resurface a gain in 1924 and 1948.
In 1924, a group of Republicans were unhappy with incumbent presidential nominee Calvin Coolidge. La Follette once again led this group of progressives. He was chosen as the party’s presidential nominee and ran against Coolidge and Democratic nominee John Davis from South Carolina. The outcome of the 1924 election kept Coolidge in the White House.
The Progressive Party surfaced again in 1948 and nominated Henry Wallace, who served in the cabinets of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Wallace ran against Truman, in opposition to many of the Democrats’ policies, such as support of the New Deal. The 1948 presidential election was between Truman, Wallace, Republican nominee Thomas Dewey and Strom Thurmond of the Dixiecrat Party. Truman overwhelmingly won re-election.
Although the Progressive Party never won a presidential election, many of its ideas have been very influential in the history of the United States. The platform of the Progressive Party was based on the principle that public welfare was the first priority. Its followers wished to end corporate and political corruption and maintain a government that was, “of the people, for the people and by the people.” The party platform outlined a variety of goals intended to increase the public well-being.
Goals included legislation that safeguarded the work environment and kept it free from accidents and diseases. Additionally, the party’s goals consisted of disallowing employees from being overworked by promoting an eight-hour work day, establishing safety and health standards for certain occupations and prohibiting child labor. Ending monopolistic business practices that harmed consumers was also a primary focus. The Progressive Party supported labor unions, the public education system and the creation of social insurance, which has been divided into different categories such as health insurance and homeowners’ insurance over the years.