Over the years, the name "Progressive Party" has been applied to a number of parties and political groups worldwide: there are or have been parties with this name in Malaysia, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada, Puerto Rico, Iceland, Germany, Guyana, Cyprus, and Taiwan, to name a few. However, in United States history, there have been 3 groups who have claimed the name Progressive Party.
Progressive Party the First
In 1908, two-term President Teddy Roosevelt had hand-picked William Howard Taft to serve as his successor - not merely in name but in principles as well, for he believed Taft would uphold his views on monopolization, the environment, limited government, and fair labor standards. By 1911, however, he and several other Republicans realized Taft was too hard-lined and didn't fully represent the party. The prominent Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette had defected from the party and formed the Progressive League, a group attempting to oust Taft from the Presidency. Roosevelt gladly stepped forward and announced he would serve as the party's candidate, and the first Progressive Party was formed.
Nicknamed the "Bull Moose Party" for its aggressive and stubborn stance against Taft, the Progressive Party's platform had a number of progressive goals, including laws mandating a minimum wage, a ban on child labor, women's right to vote, and the creating of a recall process for members of Congress. Unfortunately, Taft and Roosevelt split the Republican vote enough to allow Democratic contender Woodrow Wilson claim the Presidency.
The Progressive Party continued to push for reform until 1916, when they disbanded to allow Wilson more unified power during World War I.
Progressive Party the Second
By 1924, Senator LaFollette had once again grown fed up with conservative reactionaries who were allowing Big Business to run rampant throughout America. He once again formed the Progressive Party, this time ushering in help from noted socialists such as Eugene V. Debs, Samuel Gompers, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. This time, the Progressive Party platform offered an even more aggressive economic reform. It proposed government ownership of the coal, oil, and timber industries, citing corruption and mismanagement; it proposed debt relief to American farmers; and it called for a reduction in taxes on the middle and lower classes.
Although LaFollette managed to pull in nearly 5 million votes nationwide, he was soundly defeated by Calvin Coolidge. Still, LaFollette managed to cull his popularity into a new magazine (titled, appropriately, The Progressive) and a total revision of Wisconsin state politics, with the Progressive Party taking over the governorship and the state legislature in the 1930s.
Progressive Party the Third
After over a decade of New Deal programs and the bleary prospect of a post-World War II recession, it appeared that America was ready for a change. The Republicans sensed this and chose the fresh-faced Thomas Dewey as their candidate for President. Meanwhile, Vice President Harry S Truman faced staunch opposition within his own party for his hardline stances against Communism and government control of the markets. In response, a third Progressive Party was founded, promising to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, negotiate directly with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War, and to improve wages. For their candidate, they selected Roosevelt's former Vice President Henry A. Wallace. Wallace was an economic wunderkind, having served as both secretary of commerce and secretary of agriculture under Roosevelt, as well as the head of the Board of Economic Warfare.
Wallace and the Progressives work hard to unseat Truman, accusing him of being directly responsible for the Cold War with his unwavering military arrogance. They managed to poll 1.1 million votes (mostly in Wallace's home state of New York), but Truman still won the election in an upset of almost miraculous proportions. The Progressives continued to work for the civil rights movement well into the 20th century, even after it had officially disbanded in 1954.