The Omaha Platform
The Populist Party met on July 4th, 1892 in Omaha, Nebraska; their convention let to the drafting of the Omaha Platform, which called for:
  • direct primary election of US senators.
  • passing state laws with initiatives and referendums placed on the ballot.

Progressivism Steps In
Seeing their own state governments as incapable, Progressives worked to increase the power of the electorate.
1890s: Progressives first proposed the initiative and referendum, which essentially allowed them to force state politicians to obey the citizens.
  • The initiative allowed reformers to circumvent state legislatures altogether by submitting new legislation directly to the voters in general elections. In other words, voters had more force over convincing legislation to consider a bill.
  • The referendum allowed citizens to vote on proposed laws printed directly on their ballots.
    • By 1918, more than twenty states had enacted one or both of these reforms.
  • The recall was an effort to limit the power of party and improve the quality of elected officials. It gave voters the right to remove a public official from office at a special election, which could be called after a sufficient number of citizens had signed a petition. Although the recall encountered a fair amount of opposition, a few states (such as California) adopted it.

The Man Who Started It All...
Hiram W. Johnson was elected governor of California in 1910.

The son of a lawyer, Johnson passed a series of progressive measures including women's suffrage and child labor.

1911: Johnson added initiative, referendum, and recall to his state government, giving California a unique system of direct democracy at
the time.

1912: Theodore Roosevelt chose Johnson has his prospective vice-president.

1914: Johnson was re-elected as governor, but this time, he represented the Progressive Party.

1930s: Johnson supported Roosevelt and the New Deal but opposed Roosevelt's foreign policies.

"I do not by any means believe the initiative, the referendum, and the recall are the panacea for all our political ills, yet they do give to the
electorate the power of action when desired, and they do place in the hands of the people the means by which they may protect themselves."

-Hiram W. Johnson

lafollette.jpgHow Other States Applied Hiram Johnson's Policies...
Robert M. La Follette was a major reformer during this time period.

Elected governor in 1900, he helped turn Wisconsin into a "laboratory of progressivism" by winning approval of initiatives and referendums on ballots.

1911: La Follette planned on running against Willam Taft in the 1912 Election, but Roosevelt talked him out of it.

La Follette initially supported Woodrow Wilson's progressive policies, but soon turned towards his own ideals.

"Governor La Follette was a powerful man...short but solid, broad and strong...with a grace of trained strength, both physical and mental...
he had the gift of muscled, nervous power, he kept himself in training all his life."

-Lincoln Steffens

AMSCO: Page 386 and Chapter 21
Text book: Page 580