History Discussion Post: What led to the rise of American Imperialism in the 1890s and why did the US go to war against Spain in 1898? What significant changes came out of this war for the US?
Prof notes: please make sure that you provide specific information and examples to the questions. The best answers to both questions last week were those that provide specific examples of legislation supported by Roosevelt and Wilson or other Progressives (depending on which question you answered).
Progressivism was a response to problems brought on by Industrialization and the movement was led by upper and middle-class professional women and men. There were Democrats, Republicans, and Socialists who supported Progressive reforms and not surprisingly, there were some clear ideological differences but they all supported greater government involvement. As several of you mentioned, there were numerous reforms passed during the first few decades of the 20th Century including the 16th,17th, 18th, and 19th amendments, the Pure Food and Drug Act, Workers Compensation laws, the Mann Act, etc. The Mann Act focused on stopping the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes rather than seeking a more drastic abolition of prostitution. Prostitution was regulated more at a state level, which is why it was (and still is) regulated differently in Nevada than elsewhere. Federal regulation has focused more on public health aspects of prostitution rather than prohibition of it. While the NAACP did emerge in the context of Progressivism, African Americans faced profound racism and discrimination during the Progressive Era. Lynchings, segregation, and disenfranchisement continued to undermine efforts to gain meaningful equality.
In the comparison of Wilson and Roosevelt, it was important to focus on them as presidents and why both were considered Progressives despite the fact that they were members of different parties. Both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were Progressive presidents but what made them be identified as Progressives? Roosevelt, as several of you noted, as a Republican while Wilson was a Democrat. However, they both supported greater government regulation and they both signed a number of Progressive laws into effect (keep in mind that Congress passes laws and then presidents sign them into law unless of course they veto them). The biggest political differences between Roosevelt and Wilson manifested themselves in the 1912 election with the New Nationalism and New Freedom platforms.
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