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Since the Founding, Americans had fondly hoped that the United States, through its foreign policy and the example it set, would foster the spread of freedom and self-government among the peoples of the Earth.This aspiration had always been central to what Americans considered exceptional about their republic.
Prominent governors devoted to change included Robert M.
La Follette of Wisconsin and Hiram Johnson of California.
“The world must be made safe for democracy.” Thus did President Woodrow Wilson, addressing Congress in 1917, summarize America’s high purpose in entering the First World War.
At first glance, Wilson’s particular vision of America’s role in the world may not sound radically new.
These ideals are fundamentally opposed to the principles of the American Founding.
Because they take their bearings from different foundational principles, heirs to the Progressives and the American Founders give very different answers to the questions of why and how we should go about promoting freedom abroad.Wilson’s foreign policy demanded action for the sake of a principle—the spread of freedom and democracy—that he was unshakably certain was right in and of itself.Wilson’s approach to foreign policy, driven as it was by ideology, also eschewed the Founders’ emphasis on the need for prudence in the application of just principles.Wilson’s replacement of prudence with ideology in American foreign policy meant that the tempered pursuit of what is best given the circumstances would give way to the uncompromising pursuit of what is simply right.Wilson’s foreign policy arose from a set of beliefs that were widely shared among Progressives at the time and continue to exert influence on both the Right and Left today.Progressives never spoke with one mind and differed sharply over the most effective means to deal with the ills generated by the trusts; some favored an activist approach to trust-busting, others preferred a regulatory approach.A vocal minority supported socialism with government ownership of the means of production.The second reform era began during Reconstruction and lasted until the American entry into World War I.The struggle for women`s rights and the temperance movement were the initial issues addressed.The needs of African Americans and Native Americans were poorly served or served not at all a major shortcoming of the progressive movement.Progressive reforms were carried out not only on the national level, but in states and municipalities.