The progressive movement was the first attempt of the 20th century to motivate government action as public response to a broad range of problems. Thus, the movement is in the public sphere, beyond the governmental sphere, but is brought into the governmental sphere by politicians of both parties.
Grew from the Populist Movement of the 1890s. The Populists was a union of the Farmer's Alliance (farm problems) and the Knights of Labor (a labor union). The Populists became a political party and won elections in the farm states of the Plains and South. The Party nominated William Jennings Bryan for President, and with his acceptance as the Democratic Nominee, the Party tended to lose its political power, coopted by the Democratic Party.
The Populists proposed to use government as a countervailing power to the industrialists who controlled the economy. Their rhetoric revolved around the ideograph <progress> a great American ideograph.
The Populist's cause was taken up by the journalists and writers of the day who began to publish attacks on the industrialists of the day. Thus, the public sphere was activated.
Soon, progressivism swept both political parties. Bryan's faction took over the Democratic Party. Theodore Roosevelt became a Republican president representing the progressive wing of his party. Then Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912 from the Democratic progressives. In addition, a Progressive Party competed in elections throughout the country.
Economic. Regulation of railroads, particularly rates. Fair Labor Laws. A fairer distribution of wealth including instituting an income tax.
Political. Democratization including direct election of Senators. Citizen power including the initiative and referendum.
Social. Slum services including improved schools and a push for public health. Housing regulation including building codes requiring safety measures and adequate ventilation.
Consumer Issues. Pure food and drug laws. Regulation of the financial sector including the Federal Reserve System.
Named the material conditions as blights on the American <progress> requiring public action.
Depicted the wealthy and powerful as greedy, driven by accumulation of wealth in contrast to humanity.
Government became the counterpower to this wealth and greed.
Emphasis on the visual. Photography is being discovered as a rhetoric that depicts the slums and the poverty of workers. The cartoons by Thomas Nast depict the corruption of government. Vivid portaryal of events such as the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire dramatically demonstrate the shortcomings of industrialism.
Thus, a realistic rhetoric. Portrays the material facts in the starkest form. Let's your own responses to those facts compel public action.
Progressives were thoroughly rhetorical. Roosevelt is the first president since Jackson to enhance the power of the presidency by appealing directly to <the people> as a construction to enhance the power of his office against others in government and the concentrated power of others in the economy and society.