Some Republicans are identifying liberal Democrats as progressives. Ironically, the Progressive party began with Republican President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
Its first incarnation came in 1912. Theodore Roosevelt led progressive elements out of the Republican Party. After leaving office, Roosevelt, an outspoken conservationist, could not support Republican President Taft for his re-election bid because Taft fired Gifford Pinchot, our first chief forester, appointed by Roosevelt. Pinchot advocated conservation and protection of our natural resources by planned use and common sense renewal. He called it “the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man.” He coined the term conservation ethic.
Roosevelt had made no secret of his low opinion of President William H. Taft and felt he could not support the ticket. He formed his own Progressive Party challenging Taft. During a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was wounded in an assassination attempt. Within a few minutes, he declared he was ready for the campaign saying, “it takes more than that to kill a bull moose.” The phrase caught on and his Progressive Party was known as the Bull Moose Party.
Roosevelt’s platform called for conservation of all natural resources, stricter industrial regulations, women’s suffrage, safety in the work place and prohibition of child labor. That sounds like what the Republicans call progressive democrats. Twenty-six years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, abolishing child labor. Henry Wallace was the last presidential candidate representing the Progressive Party in 1952 .
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is joining the ranks of current Republican progressives. He told Politico, Republicans need to stop being simplistic and called for an end to “dumbed-down conservatism.”
“We need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.” He argued for an end of offensive, bizarre comments by the Republican Party. He encouraged putting a stop to “offensive, bizarre” comments.
During the past six months, we have witnessed Chris Christi, Colin Powell and now, Bobby Jindal’s efforts to restore political sanity to the right-wing base of the Republican Party. The question is: do they have the same political courage and personal conviction of our founding fathers and President Obama to unify our diversity with common sense solutions or will they get lost in the history of the failed Progressive Party? I’m betting it’s just more political rhetoric and self promotion than any true concern for women’s rights or unifying our diversity.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.