Progressive party, in U.S. history, the name of three political organizations, active, respectively, in the presidential elections of 1912, 1924, and 1948.
Election of 1912
Republican insurgents dissatisfied with the conservative administration of President William Howard Taft formed (Jan., 1911) the National Progressive Republican League. Senator Robert M. La Follette was their choice for the Republican presidential nomination in 1912 until former President Theodore Roosevelt, at odds with his old friend Taft for various personal and political reasons, threw his "hat into the ring" (Feb. 24, 1912). The regular Republicans, however, controlled the national convention at Chicago (June) and renominated Taft, whereupon the Roosevelt supporters organized the new Progressive party (the Bull Moose party) and nominated, also at Chicago (August), Roosevelt for President and Hiram W. Johnson for Vice President. The Progressive platform called for the direct election of U.S. Senators, the initiative, referendum, and recall, woman suffrage, reduction of the tariff, and many social reforms. As a result of the split in Republican ranks, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, won, but Roosevelt, who received 88 electoral votes and over 4 million popular votes, fared better than Taft. The party maintained its organization until 1916, when, after Roosevelt declined another nomination, most Progressives supported the Republican presidential candidate, Charles Evans Hughes.
See B. P. De Witt, The Progressive Movement (1915, repr. 1968); G. E. Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement (1946, repr. 1960); A. R. E. Pinchot, History of the Progressive Party, 1912–1916, ed. by H. M. Hooker (1958); J. A. Gable, The Bullmoose Years: Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party (1978).
Election of 1924
The success of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, sponsored by the railroad brotherhoods, in the congressional elections of 1922 led to the nomination at Cleveland in 1924 of another Progressive party ticket, with La Follette for President and Burton K. Wheeler for Vice President. La Follette's program, supported by the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist and Farmer-Labor parties, and most other non-Communist left-wing groups, called for public control and conservation of natural resources, abolition of child labor, recognition of the right of labor to organize and bargain collectively, and the breakup of monopolies. In the Republican landslide that followed, La Follette won only the 13 electoral votes of Wisconsin, but polled nearly 5 million popular votes. Under La Follette's sons, Robert M., Jr., and Philip F., the Progressives continued strong in Wisconsin until 1938, when they were defeated by the Republicans. In 1946 the Wisconsin party dissolved itself and joined the Republicans.
See K. C. MacKay, The Progressive Movement of 1924 (1947, repr. 1966).
Election of 1948
At Philadelphia in July, 1948, a new third party, organized as a challenge to the Democratic party, adopted the name Progressive and nominated Henry A. Wallace for President and Senator Glen H. Taylor for Vice President. Endorsed by the Communist party and by the American Labor party of New York state, the Progressive party accused the Truman administration of failing to cooperate with the Soviet Union to end the cold war and advocated repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and reestablishment of wartime price controls. Its candidates won no electoral votes and only slightly more than 1 million popular votes as Truman defeated Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate, by a close margin.
See K. M. Schmidt, Henry A. Wallace: Quixotic Crusade, 1948 (1961); C. D. MacDougall, Gideon's Army (3 vol., 1965). See also bibliography under progressivism.