When the word progressive is thrown around in the politics of today, it is always tied to the Democratic party. But it was not long ago where if the word was uttered, it only applied to another party, a fresh upstart party which refused to “play ball” with established power brokers. They took office and attacked corporate interests, corruption, those oppressing labor unions or the minorities of this nation.
What was this miracle party, which put into its platform over 100 years ago that women are equal to men, and that racism was unacceptable in this nation?
The Republican Party:
From the Teddy Roosevelt “Square Deal” to Richard Nixon’s “Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan,” Republicans have been at the forefront of progressive ideas. Whether it’s labor rights, women’s rights, civil rights or economic fairness, it has been progressive Republicans who led the way. Even the “conservative” Ronald Reagan was very progressive in his policies, raising taxes more times than his three immediate predecessors did combined and engaging in compromised solutions brokered with the Democratic House Speaker, Tip O’Neill. Progressivism and Republicanism are one and the same.
Forged in the blood soaked fields of the Civil War, Republicans grew to understand that only by pushing the envelope, by progressing this nation forward, could the country become a world power. It was the Republicans which oversaw the application of the Hamiltonian-era economic policies which the Democratic and Whig Parties had been fleeing from for several years, which resulted in the United States going from the worlds 8th largest economy to the worlds largest within 20 years. It was the Republicans which implemented the income tax and the estate tax. It was the Republicans who created the Interstate Highway System. It was the Republicans who created NASA. It was the Republicans who created the Panama Canal. It was the Republicans who freed the slaves. It was even the Republicans who wrote the original bill upon which President Obama created the Affordable Care Act, now called Obamacare.
The Progressive Republicans are not gone, but they are endangered. The radicals of the Tea Party and corporate oligarchs continue to drain their party dry, using the party name in the same way in which a tapeworm consumes its host. If they cannot take back their party, it will become a relic of history, a shameful end to the party of Lincoln.