What happened before the Progressive Era | Three Things Thursday

Unite America

In a well-functioning republic, the people elect representatives, who are supposed to represent their best interests. In theory, if we as a people agree on something, so too should the people we pay to represent us. 

Of course, that’s not what happens. Between the people and the people who represent us, there exists a vast network of special interest groups, political parties, and election systems that distort the voices of we, the people. Even when we as Americans agree, the people who lead us don’t

But we can fix that. Here are three things to think about this week:

  1. A history lesson

Reforming our political system is nothing new; over the course of America’s history, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to seize the spirit of innovation and self governance central to our founding, and fix our political system when it stops working correctly. Unite America Executive Director, Nick Troiano,  often talks  about how we’re entering a new Progressive Era — the period at the turn of the 20th century when reforms were passed to make our political system more democratic (i.e. giving women the right to vote, creating the ballot initiative process, mandating direct election of our Senators, etc). But what was the political system like before the Progressive Era?

Turns out, a lot like it is today. As our writer Ed Kilgore points out, today’s gridlock is like a 19th century nightmare. Before the Progressive Era, we had the Gilded Age, when politics were tumultuous, elections were tight, and agreement seemed impossible. Yet reformers pushed through. They saw a system that wasn’t working, that gave too much power to party bosses, and they pushed through sweeping, dramatic reforms that put voters first. Now, we have the opportunity to do it again. 

  1. Georgia’s restricting voter access

Following Georgia’s year of record voter turnout and participation, which saw the state’s Republican Senators ousted and the state’s Electoral College votes go blue, Republicans in Georgia are seeking to make massive changes to who can participate in elections and how. Bills that have passed both the Senate and the House would make significant changes to the states absentee voting system. 

Unlike other states, which were forced to make emergency changes to their vote at home systems amidst the pandemic, Georgia has had a no-excuse absentee system since 2005, and under the leadership of a Republican secretary of state, was able to stand up to intense national scrutiny. Yet this effort which helped to put Georgia voters first is under attack, like voting access in so many states across the country

If our country values the will of the voters, it has to be the will of all voters, not just those who agree with you.  

  1. Serve together

Our friends at Millennial Action Project are hosting their second annual Serve Together: National Week of Post-Partisan Action (NWPA) March 15 - 19, 2021. This week of action is an opportunity for legislators and community members alike to engage with each other across the political spectrum, model courageous bridge-building, and commit to a shared vision of a stronger, more collaborative democracy.

Throughout the week, MAP will be hosting a series of events and activities for legislators and the public. Join them for a live discussion of the film The Reunited States with the filmmaker and cast on Tuesday, March 16th. On Thursday, RSVP to the GenRoundtable Forum with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Former U.S. Rep. (and Unite America board member!) Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) to discuss how the next generation of leaders can reshape our democracy. And on Friday, join the conversation online with a Twitter chat about how #MAPServesTogether. For a full calendar of our week's activities and information on how to join, check out their website here.

Read more

Stay up to date with all the latest.

Support the movement


Join us to stay up to date and get involved.

Got it! Thank you for joining the movement
*Please fill out all fields above.