Progressive Party
Founded 1912
Youth wing Young Bull Mooses
Ideology Progressivism
Social liberalism
Internal factions:
Social democracy
Green politics
Social conservatism
Civil libertarianism
Left-wing populism
Official colors Red

The Progressive Party, also commonly called the Bull Moose Party or BMP and pejoratively Rooseveltian Party, is one of the three biggest political parties in the United States of America, the other being the Liberal Party and the Republican Party. The party was founded by former President Theodore Roosevelt, after a split in the Republican Party between him and President William Howard Taft.

The Progressive Party encompasses a social liberal and populist platform. The Progressive Party advocate social justice, conservationism, a balanced budget, and a market economy tempered by government intervention (mixed economy). The economic policy adopted by the Progressive Party has been referred to as "Third Way".

The party traditional strongholds are the states in the West (Franklin, the Californias and Nevada) and the Midwest (South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois). New York is the most solid and strongest party base in the East Coast and continuing to elect majority of Progressive officeholders federally and locally. There are also several pockets in Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia loyally support and vote for the Progressive nominees.


Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1929)

The Progressive Party was originated from the Progressive Movement at the end of 19th century. The main objectives of the movement were eliminating problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and corruption in government. The prominent figures of Progressive Movement in the Republican Party included Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and Charles Evans Hughes, while in the Liberal Party included William Jennings Bryan, Burton K. Wheeler and Al Smith.

After defeated by William Howard Taft in the 1912 Republican National Convention, Theodore Roosevelt and his supporters from the progressive wing of Republican Party formed the Progressive Party. Roosevelt ran on the presidential ticket of Progressive Party with the Governor of Upper California, Hiram Johnson, as his running mate. The new party attracted several Republican officeholders, although nearly all of them remained loyal to the Republican Party at that time.

First National Progressive Convention, 1912, in the Chicago Coliseum

The party called for socially progressive reforms, called “New Nationalism”. Its emphasized the priority of labor over capital interests, a need to more effectively control corporate creation and combination and proposed a ban on corporate political contributions. However, the Progressives had different outlooks on foreign policy, with pacifists like Jane Addams opposing Roosevelt's call for a naval build-up.

In 1912, Roosevelt won the presidential election albeit running as a third-party candidate and many have been expected the split between the Republicans would have assured a landslide victory for the Liberals. Most of Progressive candidates ran in Republican-Progressive fusion tickets or as “Bull Moose Republicans”. Nevertheless, the Progressive Party was unable to get most of its candidates elected. Only nine Progressives were elected to the House and none won governorships.

Despite the electoral failure in 1912, the Progressive Party did not disappear. However, the party suffered its first split following the American entry to World War I in 1917. Roosevelt’s pro-war stance alienated many pacifist and isolationist Progressives which resulted to the party split along the line of “War Progressives” and “Peace Progressives." The Progressive senators like George Norris, William Borah and Hiram Johnson later joined the Irreconcilables in the U.S. Senate in opposing the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations in 1919. Nevertheless, Roosevelt was re-elected for the fourth term in the 1916 presidential election.

Robert M. La Follette (1855–1925)

In 1920, Robert M. La Follette run on the Progressive ticket for the presidential election. La Follette won popular vote but lost electoral votes to Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes. With the support of Peace Progressives, La Follette successfully challenged Roosevelt’s endorsed candidate, Leonard Wood, and was nominated again in 1924. He was elected President of the United States but died after four months since taking office. La Follette was replaced by Vice President Hiram Johnson. Johnson would be later defeated by Republican Herbert Hoover in the 1928 presidential election.

In 1928, Theodore Roosevelt endorsed his fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the Progressive-Liberal governorship fusion ticket in the New York state election. Initially reluctant, Franklin eventually accepted the nomination and was elected to the office. After Theodore’s death in 1929, his son Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. eventually became the leading contender for presidential nomination. Franklin, however, entered the 1932 Progressive National Convention, challenging his own cousin, Theodore Jr.. Franklin won the nomination with Frank Knox as his running mate after a hard-fought contest.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945)

Before the Great Depression, the party strength remained far behind the Republicans and the Liberals. With Franklin’s election to the presidency in 1932, the progressive wing of Liberal Party shifted their supports to the Progressives and the party quickly emerged as the largest political party surpassing other two parties in 1930s and 1940s. Franklin came forth with the New Deal policies which established the American welfare state in continuation of Theodore’s New Nationalism. On other hand, the party was also divided bitterly between liberal, Franklin supporters, called the “Hyde Park Progressives”, and conservative, Theodore Jr.’s supporters, called the “Oyster Bay Progressives.”

The party suffered its setback when Theodore Jr. died in 1944 and followed by Franklin in 1945, just weeks into his fourth term. Franklin's successor, Thomas E. Dewey, revamped many New Deal programs for the sake of efficiency and economic growth and became the leading figure of right-wing Progressives. Henry A. Wallace, Dewey's predecessor as Vice President, led the party left-wing and vocally denounced Dewey's anti-Soviet foreign policy as warmongering. The party division deepened and allowed the Liberals to control the House in 1950 and the Congress in 1952 as well as bring Joseph P. Kennedy to the White House in 1952.

The Progressives became the minority party until 1960, although briefly controlled the House in 1956. Nelson Rockefeller, a moderate Progressive, was elected President in the 1960 and 1964 presidential elections. Rockefeller continued the existing anti-communist foreign policy with more cautious involvement regarding other nations' internal issues. He brought back the American welfare state after the Liberals completely scrapped the New Deal programs in 1955. Through the New Society programs, he expanded civil rights and increased spending on public sectors and environmental conservation.

Internal factions

Economic nationalists

Economic nationalists are the conservative wing of the party. The conservative Progressives, or the "Old Bull Mooses" (OBM), are ideologically originated from the progressive wing of Republican Party in 1920s which creates the original Progressive base of supporters. Like the liberals and social democrats, the conservatives favor progressive reforms using government to improve the problems of modern society. However, they support government regulation in place of direct intervention on economic activities.

They also reject neoliberalism and globalization in favor of economic nationalism and protectionism. On the social issues, many conservatives are also proponents of social conservatism and oppose cultural pluralism of the liberals. The conservatives are generally adopting pro-life stance over abortion rights, supporting the right of gun ownership and opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. Since most of conservative Progressives are from the rural regions, they espousing the strong communitarian principle.

Social democrats and liberals

Social democratic-to-liberal wing is supported by the majority of the Progressive base of supporters. White-collar college-educated professionals were initially supporting the Republican Party until 1950s, but now compose a vital component of the Progressive Party, especially in the Eastern United States. However, liberalism in the sense of Progressive Party denotes to social liberalism, in contrast with economic liberalism of Liberal Party.

The social democrats generally supporting the welfare state tradition of Progressive presidents, like Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism, Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Nelson Rockefeller's New Society. Immigration and cultural diversity are deemed positive by the liberals that favor cultural pluralism, a system in which immigrants retain their native culture in addition to adopting their new culture. Both social democrats and liberals favor stem cell research, the legalization of same-sex marriage, stricter gun control and environmental protection laws as well as the preservation of abortion rights.

Democratic socialists

Democratic socialists are the most left-leaning as well as most uncompromising faction in the Progressive Party. Their ideological predecessors are the supporters of Henry A. Wallace during the 1944 and 1948 conventions that favored strong intervention by federal government on economic issues, socially forward policies, and protection of working people's rights. Wallace and his supporters split up from the liberal-to-progressive Hyde Park Progressives in 1948 for their support on pro-labor platform over pro-growth Thomas E. Dewey and strong anti-war sentiment.

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