A. Robert La Follette and the "Wisconsin Experiment"
1. As governor of Wisconsin, he was the nation's first progressive
a. In 1901 he helped destroy a political machine in his state, take control away from the lumber & railroad trusts and establish a progressive gov't.
b. Worked closely with experts on the faculty of the state university at Madison including Richard Ely.
c. Regulated public utilities by instituting public utilities commissions that created legislation for workers' safety, railroads and regulation of public utilities.
d. Direct primary: In 1903, La Follette pressured the legislature to institute an election open to all voters within a party.
e. Introduced the initiative, referendum, and recall
• Initiative: allowed citizens to introduce a bill
• Referendum: voters cast ballots for or against proposed laws.
• Recall: gave citizens right to remove elected officials from office.
f. Direct election of Senators (a favorite goal of progressives)
• Enacted to counter senate corruption and control by trusts
• The people could now vote for their senator; before, the state legislature had selected state senators
• In 1913, approved as the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
g. Adopted a state income tax; first state to do so.
h. Replaced the existing spoils system with state civil service
2. Other states followed Wisconsin's lead
a. Republican governor of California, Hiram Johnson, broke the grip of the Southern Pacific Railroads on California.
• Like La Follette, set up a political machine of his own.
b. Charles Evans Hughes, Republican governor of NY, earlier gained fame as an investigator of malpractice by gas and insurance companies and by the coal trust.
c. Gov. Woodrow Wilson turned New Jersey into one of the nation's most liberal states.
3. La Follette became the first of the Republican "insurgents" to reach the Senate (where he stood against Republican "old guard" who favored laissez faire with gov't help).
B. Australian Ballot (secret ballot)
1. Introduced more widely in states to counteract machine politics.
2. Reduced bribery as voting was now done secretly and the machines were unable to effectively monitor voters.
3. Unfortunately, the secret ballot also eliminated illiterate voters as party workers could not help voters mark their ballots.
• Hundreds of thousands of black and white voters became disenfranchised.
C. Galveston, Texas and the Commission System
1. In 1900, a tidal wave devastated the city.
2. Commission system
a. The city placed power into the hands of 5 commissioners: 2 were elected and 3 were appointed
b. A full-time city manager was hired.
c. The commission system peaked in 1915 (later replaced by city manager system.)
c. Within 20 years, 400 cities adopted the commission system
d. Reduced the power of machine politics
• In some cases, these reforms valued efficiency more than democracy as civic control was further removed from the hands of the people.
• Businessmen often dominated the commissions while the working class was not represented (due to the decline in political machines).