Before the rise of the Progressive movement at the turn of the century, all forty-five states-- Oklahoma did not join the Union until 1907; Arizona and New Mexico, until 1912; Hawaii, 1959; and Alaska, 1960--used the caucus-convention system to select state delegates to the national conventions. By the early years of the twentieth century, however, widespread charges of corruption and oligarchical control over the machinery of both major parties by the political bosses and vested interests who worked with them echoed across the land. It was the rising discontent among the middle class--the small businesspeople, members of the professions, and independent farmers--that spawned the Progressive movement and the rise of presidential primaries.
Over the next fifteen years the Progressives could claim credit for a series of governmental reforms: the direct primary, direct election of U.S. senators, nonpartisan local elections, the initiative, referendum, and recall. The Progressives, however, failed to achieve one of their major goals: major reform of the presidential nominating process. From the start, the Progressives argued that basic reform of the presidential nominating process could never take place until the state parties were freed from the vicelike grip of big-city bosses, state party leaders, and big business.
By 1912, under Progressive-inspired leadership, more than a dozen states had adopted presidential primaries to select national convention delegates and/or to express a presidential preference on the ballot. 1 But most of these