Roosevelt Food and Drug Act to ensure that

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v. Wilson

A new reform
movement began to captivate the nation early on in the first decade of the new
century. The Progressive Movement of the early 1900s was similar to the
Populist movement of the 1880s and 1890s, only it was larger and had much more
of an effect on American life and politics. Muckraking journalists,
reform-minded politicians, women, socialists, and more were all classified as
Progressives; those who wished to use the government as an instrument for the
betterment of society. They were simply looking to clean up business and
government while giving the lower classes the help that they deserved.
Progressivism reached the White House in 1901 when Theodore Roosevelt assumed
the office left vacant by the late President McKinley. Roosevelt attacked big
business with his “Square Deal.” When Woodrow Wilson won the election
of 1912, a different type of Progressivism sat in the Oval Office in the form
of the President’s “New Freedom.” While, Wilson portrayed himself as
a conservative, some of his actions while in office were as progressive as any.
Both men’s platforms had significant differences, but also significant
similarities. Only through consideration of both can we decide who’s approach
to reform was the most effective.

Roosevelt was not always a fan of Progressivism. He initially viewed laborers
and the working class as people who complained before attempting to work hard
for their own gains. Roosevelt looked to defend the public interest from
corruption while at the same time, avoided spoon-feeding the American people. He
wanted to give everybody a fair shot to make something of their life. As
President, Roosevelt’s Progressive platform was dubbed the “Square
Deal” for capital, labor, and the public at large. Roosevelt tamed several
corporations, while leaving alone companies such as US Steel which he believed
were essential to the American economy. He then protected all American
consumers in passing legislation such as the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure
Food and Drug Act to ensure that the citizens of the United States would remain
healthy. Throughout his two terms, Teddy believed he embodied Progressivism in
fighting for the common man and backing off big business. He wanted to bring
the confidence to the people, that if they worked hard, they could fight
against other social problems. When Roosevelt ran for the presidency in 1912, he
upgraded his Progressive platform to “New Nationalism.” He wanted
people to see the nation over the individual. What could the people do to
improve their country; not what could the nation do to improve its people. He
looked to continue to battle trusts, bring peace to unions and management,
introduce new regulation and extend the vote to women. During his time in the
political spotlight, Roosevelt clearly became more progressive over time and
fought to reform most of societies issues.

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Woodrow Wilson was
raised in a conservative, religious background, making it tough for him to
embrace reforms. However, Wilson listened and was very open minded. After
receiving the Democratic nomination in the election of 1912, Wilson drew up his
“New Freedom” program to fight against Roosevelt and Taft. Wilson
preached for small business and entrepreneurship. After an electoral landslide,
Wilson entered his term with confidence ready to battle the tariff, banks, and
trusts. In seemingly little time, Wilson held three special sessions of
Congress where he pushed through a lower tariff, reform of the banking system
with the Federal Reserve Act, and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act. He even nominated
the first Jew to the Supreme Court. Wilson promoted causes for the common good,
but it became a bit harder when it came to the African American population. The
one flaw of Wilson was his refusal to halt the growing segregation.

In debating the
ideals of Roosevelt and Wilson, they shared many similarities. Both men were
for laissez-faire economics. Both believed that they stood for the common man
and that they had the public’s interest at heart. They both became more
progressive as their careers dragged on. In terms of action, Wilson might have
been the more progressive candidate. While his isolationism approach to the war
differed from the progressive T.R, he passed the 19th Amendment granting the
vote to women. He also passed many types of legislation that could be seen as
progressive. However, if Roosevelt would have won the election of 1912 he might
have done the same. Lastly, it can be said that without Roosevelt, there may
have been no Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt was the first progressive president and
in a sense; he had to warm the country to the idea of reform. It may be true
that during his time in office, he didn’t accomplish as much as Wilson, but he
began the fight on corruption and on protecting the common man. 

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