American History

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Question 1: Similarities and differences of the populist and progressive movements

Populism and progressiveness tend to be similar in that both claim to be acting for the good of everyone, especially ordinary people. Also, both political movements tend to promise the enrichment of the lives of ordinary people, and therefore, they promise to make legislations that directly affect their lives positively (Yack, 2019).

Despite the similarities, populism and progressiveness tend to have various differences. In regard to origins, the populist movement originated from farmers who formed the political party to help the farmers drive economic change. Progressiveness on the other hand was a movement of the elite, originating from the urban middle class who united against the political system. In regard to the goals of formation, the populist movement was formed to help reform the economic system, while the progressive movement emphasized political reforms as they were against the political system. In regard to the time period, the populist movement arose in the last decade of the 19th century, but the progressive movement was founded in the early 20th century (DeWitt & Pearson, 2017). Based on this, the populist movement was founded before the progressive movement.

Another difference between the populist and progressive movements regards ideas. The populist movement was founded on the ideas on reforms in the economic sector which included regulation of banks and industries, reforms in the civil services, and eight hours of work for labor. The populists believed that bankers and industrialists negatively influenced the government, and therefore, most of the policies driven by them were against the farmers to destabilize them economically. The progressive movement, on the other hand, was founded on political reforms as well as the associated vices such as inflation and corruption in the business class. Progressives are more inclusive and thus are more genuine in helping each member of the society to have an equal chance to be successful – promotes democracy, unlike populism which emphasizes what makes us different – violates democracy (Waisbord, 2018).

Question 3: Reconstruction

The reconstruction failed due to various reasons. For example, lack of unity in the government took away the focus of reconstruction, and these distractions led to its failure. Also, individuals entrusted with managing money for the reconstruction efforts misused them, and thus, it could not be a success without the essential resources. Another major reason for failure is that the Southern states were too poor to manage the reconstruction programs. Finally, the Republicans made radical legislations, which failed to protect former slaves from white persecution, and by this, it failed to redress the inequalities of slavery in the South (Jones, 2018). Despite the failure, the Reconstruction brought some positives, especially on the African Americans. For example, African Americans experienced rights and freedoms which they had previously been deprived of. They could vote, file lawsuits, own property, hold a political office, legally marry and sign contracts and finally, they could receive an education.

Another positive feature of the Reconstruction is that it restored the United States into a unified nation (Bateman, Katznelson & Lapinski, 2018). All the former confederates were involved in the drafting of the new constitution and pledged their loyalty to the unified government. Also, the Confederates acknowledged the 13th, 14th, and Fifteenth Amendments. The Reconstruction was a partial success and a failure. It failed to bring both social and economic equality for the former slaves and this can be attributed to Lincoln’s plan which was considered to be too lenient. Lincoln planned to reintegrate the Confederates states back to the Union through the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, granting the Southerner’s presidential pardons except for political leaders who took an oath of allegiance to the Union. Another obstacle is the government conflict between the legislative and executive branches that halted the progress on the status of freed slaves.


Bateman, D. A., Katznelson, I., & Lapinski, J. S. (2018). Southern nation: Congress and white supremacy after reconstruction (Vol. 158). Princeton University Press.

DeWitt, B. P., & Pearson, S. A. (2017). The progressive movement: A non-partisan comprehensive discussion of current tendencies in American politics. Routledge.

Jones, M. S. (2018). Birthright citizens: A history of race and rights in Antebellum America. Cambridge University Press.

Waisbord, S. (2018). Why populism is troubling for democratic communication. Communication Culture & Critique, 11(1), 21-34.

Yack, B. (2019). Of Scribes and Tribes: Progressive Politics and the Populist Challenge. Critical Review, 31(3-4), 440-453.

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