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The Progressives' CenturyPolitical Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Modern American State$
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Stephen Skowronek, Stephen M Engel, and Bruce Ackerman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300204841

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300204841.001.0001

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From Promoting to Ending Big Government

From Promoting to Ending Big Government

1912 and the Progressives’ Century

(p.157) 7 From Promoting to Ending Big Government
The Progressives' Century

John Milton Cooper

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses the transformation of the political rhetoric surrounding the size and scope of government. The memorable presidential elections of 2012 also marked the centennial of another especially pivotal contest. On one side, Republicans were running against strong, activist government—at least as far as the economy and social welfare were concerned. Their Democratic opponents touted their own specific programs, but shied away from mounting any full-throated defense of activist government. In the talk about government, small was beautiful—always for one side and most of the time, rhetorically at least, for the other. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson squared off in a great debate about how a more active government might best enhance democracy. Their rivalry reminds us that America's political leaders are not culturally constrained to run away from government, and that American electoral politics need not be confined to a simple dichotomous choice between two varieties, big and small.

Keywords:   Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, presidential elections, 2012, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, government size

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