PROGRESSIVE PARTIES WERE a populist form of radical political organization that experienced some moderate successes in North America in the 20th century. Emerging as oppositional forces against the power of monopoly capitalism, these parties were antimonopolistic without being anti-capitalist. They spoke on behalf of the interests of the small farmer and the independent small businessperson against the big banks and major manufacturing interests. Such independent operators were open to populist appeals of fairness in commercial dealings and a political voice for the “little guy.” They held the belief—deeply resonant with the frontier mindset of American political culture—that the “fat cats” of industry and the venal political leaders needed to be kept in line. The political mechanisms chosen to effect such control were the popular referendum, ...

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