Greenfield reviews new book on Progressive Party

In the Wall Street Journal, CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reviews the new book “Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy” by Sidney Milkis.

Greenfield writews that of all the presidential campaigns in U.S. history, he would have most liked to cover “the Roosevelt-Wilson-Taft-Debs fight” of 1912. That year, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party “suffered from the dominance of middle-class and affluent ­reformers — forerunners of today’s ‘limousine ­liberals’ –who were only weakly connected to ­organized labor, immigrants or blacks. Still, Roosevelt won 27% of the vote and carried six states. No third party has done nearly so well since.” Most of the rest of the review is devoted to the impact of the Progressive Party and figures like Hiram Johnson and Robert La Follette on policy.

15 thoughts on “Greenfield reviews new book on Progressive Party

  1. Robert Milnes

    Needless to say, I’ll have to read this book. We’ll see how my take on the political theory that the progressive party split into the GP & LP & TR was a left libertarian stacks up.

  2. Obama Been Lyin'

    Milnes, you can find the information for free in Wikipedia, or any number of other places. The Libertarian Party had nothing to do with the Progressive Party, and the Greens had no direct relationship either. And Theodore Roosevelt was about as far from a left libertarian as you can possibly be.

  3. Robert Milnes

    What has happened is American politics has come full circle in about 100 years. That which has taken 100 years of democrat & republican reactionary centrist duopoly could have been accomplished in the first few years of Progressive Party administration. We are just getting around to healthcare which it was addressing. All those court cases would’ve been legislated instead long before they wound up in court. Who knows what an advanced society we would have now instead of the same old problems. But the progressive party was extremely split, literally & figuratively. Roosevelt didn’t realize how split. So, we need to try The Strategy & win one for Teddy. (& I do NOT mean Ted Kennedy. That one was Obama).

  4. Robert Milnes

    Of course the Libertarians had nothing to do with the Progressive Party. & neither did the GP. Libertarians insist they are so unique as to be above & beyond left & right. The GP was founded overseas. Since there was no leftist party except shriveled up socialists in America, it got a foothold. & I repeat- there is no other explaination for TR other than he was a left libertarian. He was a fairly typical republican until later in his career.

  5. Obama Been Lyin'

    TR was an unapologetic imperialist, racist, big government warmonger. How is that left libertarian?

  6. richard winger

    Theodore Roosevelt, as president, appointed a Black postmistress to a town in Mississippi. He also invited George Washington Carver to lunch in the White House. But, he did some racist things also. He had a mixed record. But he was definitely less racist that Woodrow Wilson, who admired the movie “Birth of a Nation” which was pro-Ku Klux Klan.

  7. Robert Milnes

    TR lived most of his life over 100 years ago. Things have changed somewhat. He seems to have gradually grown into left libertarianism/progressivism during his presidency resulting in splitting from the RP to found the progressive party in 1912. He didn’t have the www to go to & consult about left libertarianism.

  8. Robert Milnes

    It must have been quite disconcerting to him to have his masculine image & powerful mind gradually starting to find merit in progressive democrat pinko ideas.

  9. W is a 911 terrorist and Obama Been Lyin'

    “He seems to have gradually grown into left libertarianism/progressivism during his presidency resulting in splitting from the RP to found the progressive party in 1912. He didn’t have the www to go to & consult about left libertarianism.”

    He didn’t need the WWW. the writings of individualist anarchists circulated at the time in paper form.

    What specific TR policies do you think were in any way libertarian?

  10. Robert Milnes

    W is a 911 terrorist and Obama been lyin’, agreed. & thank you for asking this question. We have to keep in mind that this happened 100 + years ago. The few and far between writings by anarchists at the time are highly inefficient methods of communication. Even for a president with total recall. He may have begun a personal venture into anarchism but he could hardly say so publicly. Anarchists were being rounded up & deported at the time. & an anarchist was convicted of assassinating McKinley. Evidently the left leaning tendencies of the left anarchist are enough to get one into the more populist progressive ideology. We could ask left libertarians of today whether populist progressivism has any appeal to them. I see no other explaination of how a militarist, jingoist, racist, imperialist republican can subsequently found the progressive party. Something changed INSIDE TR. The only link from republicanism to progressivism is left libertarianism, probably anarchistic.

  11. paulie

    Progressivism had the meaning of pro-big government on all fronts back then. Many progressives were into eugenics and prohibition. The KKK was an ally of turn-of-the-last-century progressives. A militarist, jingoist, racist, imperialist republican (or Democrat, such as Woodrow Wilson, who was all of the above – albeit with an internationalist flair) could easily be considered a progressive in those days.

    There’s no more reason to suppose that TR was a secret anarchist/left-libertarian than there is to suppose he was a secret Zoroastrian.

  12. Robert Milnes

    But you did not see Wilson or Taft abandon their party & join the Progressive Party. To try to discredit progressivism by associating it with present day attitudes about eugenics, prohibition and KKK is unreliable. Prohibition is now discredited because of the 18th & 21st amendments. It is now considered a rightist issue & party. It was quickly understood to be counterproductive by the progressives. & here is the best hope for the decriminalization of controlled substances. Eugenics is also considered rightist, but due mostly to its adoption & flawed practice by the Third Reich, not on its objective scientific & possible social engineering merits. That in its heyday the KKK may have supported eugenics for its own agenda does not necessarily make eugenics racist and/or rightist. Dismissing the argument that TR was a left libertarian dismisses the whole political theory of the left and right converging at anarchism. That they do is virtually axiomatic. Clearly theory based on the best available evidence. AND, further, that it seems impossible to cross over i.e. to go from a republican to anarchist to leftist to democrat & vice versa, to go from democrat to leftist anarchist to republican. This would explain Gravel 2008. Willing to stretch progressivism to libertarianism but no farther i.e. not republicanism. He did not go so far as to join Ron Paul & join the republican party. Individuals who manage to go from republican to democrat & vice versa are centrists/moderates. e.g. Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman. If in present day understanding progressivism is largely leftist, about 2/3, where does that come from? Which in the case of TR, being a republican all his life, how did he get from there to largely leftist progressivism? The only known possibility is left libertarianism.

  13. paulie

    The progressivism of TR’s time was not leftist in the sense of the original political meanings of “left” and “right”, whereas today’s left-libertarianism – and the individualist anarchism/libertarianism of that time – is. At best, progressivism works towards leftist goals through rightist means – and even that much is disputable.

    Eugenics is incompatible with left-libertarianism, and anything except 100% voluntary eugenics with no government mandates or incentives is incompatible with any kind of libertarianism.

    It’s true that Wilson did not join the Progressive Party, but it was not an ideological issue; he was widely considered a progressive – it’s just that he already had the Democratic nomination, whereas TR was unable to get the Republican nomination.

  14. Robert Milnes

    Agreed in 1912 one couldn’t expect Wilson and/or Taft to abandon their party & join the Progressive Party. They already had their party’s nomination. One wonders whether TR realized he needed to outreach to the left democratic progressives to win. The simplist way to accomplish that would be to insist that the vp be a progressive democrat. This would have created a fusion ticket. However he missed this opportunity for whatever reasons. & he evidently failed to select a good heir apparent as he & Taft had their falling out. But Wilson & Taft subsequently failed to join the PP as well as many others, & Tr died in 1919, condemning it to failure.

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