How effective was the political system of the gilded age and in what ways did progressivism include both democratic and anti democratic impulses? During the Gilded Age there came a time of economic stability and expansion that brought the country a surplus of wealth. What made this happen was the Second Industrial Revolution that came about post-civil war time, with the building of railroads and being able to transport raw materials from east to west and visa versa.
Although the times from 1870-1890 were fiscally dominant the politics in which business was executed was not for the faint of heart. The term “Gilded” is expressed by Mark Twain means “covered with a layer of gold, but it also suggests that a glittering surface covers a core of little real value and is therefore deceptive. ” During this time of Economic surplus the politics of business became very corrupt and the scales were balanced in order to benefit the few as opposed to the many.
No longer was legislation passed down to the general society without some corporate influence benefiting a particular economic juggernaut; the railroads known as the “third house” became just as influential as the politicians themselves. Many lawmakers had stake in many lumber and or railroad companies that were issued public aid, it was only logical that a person would want to protect his own interests by swaying legislation towards his benefit.
This political corruption exceeded state issues and would arise in the national level; the largest example would be the Credit Mobilier coming to light during the Presidency of Grant.  The company was split by stockholders whom held various positions in the United States Government, some as high as the Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax. Schemes such as these ensured cornering of the company’s respective market and the overwhelming expansion of construction.
Throughout the 1870’s the Federal Governments involvement in society was feeble compared to what it has become by today’s standards. The educational, and medical aspects of society were funded and mostly run by domestic state governments, although the federal government was limited in influence its parties democrat and republican both favored two different views of economics. Republicans were advocates of high tariffs in order to protect the sales of domestic goods but both parties were high advocates of the eastern United States and the banks.
The trust in banks and the deliverance of power gave eastern industrialists economic ease but the aggregate blue collar Americans declined in already plummeting wealth.  The lack of a strong government involvement in big business at the time gave way for businessmen known as the “robber barons” such as Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others to corner their own respective markets by creating monopolies in order to make them the sole providers of a certain good to regulate prices at a rate that could not be contested.
Buying out other companies in the same field also known as “horizontal economics” was usually the standard way of achieving this goal of an economic monopoly; this made the gap between wealth and poverty larger and gave inspiration for readings like Progress and Poverty.  The Progressive Era gave which followed the Gilded Age in a slow and gradual manner gave more hope of freedoms longed for by workers, and in some cases the socially deprived women of the United States up to an extent.
The Progressive Era is a time not to be forgotten because of the ideas brought forth to better the economy and social status of those fiscally thriving and the poor. Some wanted to return to widespread small business in order to prevent monopolies and the regulating of prices in order to give a chance to all to make money for themselves, many endorsed social abundance which became the economic cornerstone for the United States. Union Groups were cultivated to protect workers wages, jobs, industrial, and economic freedoms.
The AFL was a group created for those workers most skilled at their occupations; there have been disputes in the AFL for accepting workers mostly of white native upbringing. This example begs to differ the actual extent of how democratic the United States Government really was when it came to the protection of the economic freedoms of all men, regardless of race. The IWW was formed and their slogan and promise was to extend a fraternal hand to every wage worker no matter what his religion, fatherland, or trade.  Also from this Progressive Era the new notion of feminism was brought to light, even in the political world.
Feminists were women who believed that there were places outside of the home for them and whom believed that they had the write to work. And be educated to the extent of a male, also those who shared the belief that they had the right to have sexual relations without the purpose of giving birth (birth control). Mass discussions were held on a continuous basis that created a group feeling for women’s emancipation from social restraints.  During the Progressive Era or at least the early stages of it, the government became involved in the media and the public perception of women.
There was a banning in Hollywood of any type of image that would depict any sort of sexual connotations; even in the general public women were not allowed to smoke cigarettes. There were many attempts to create social and political reforms by petitioning for property taxes to create revenue towards transportation, education, and parks in neighborhoods. Politicians such as Pingree continued fights against the railroads in politics which created child labor laws, limiting workers hours of women, and the creation of the Public Utilities Act.
Branching from this came womens suffrage, and other social movements and reforms that would better the social status of people in the United States. President Roosevelt stressed the bettering of public welfare and would be known as a progressive president whom backed all of these social reforms brought to light by the frustration and initiative of the United States citizens and immigrants whom had also been fighting for unionization. The Progressive Era paved the way for social reforms that we practice toady in and out modern society, and was economically, and socially groundbreaking for all those affected by it.
The Progressive Era was a mixed bag of democratic and anti-democratic acts that conflicted themselves, the government had infringed on Americans freedom of speech by censoring certain things in the media, it also was responsible in aiding the creation of unions that represented the blue color worker of middle to lower class America. It’s involvement in society was missed due to its lack of appearance in the Gilded Age, but its inability to protect the basic rights that every man, woman, and child are born with contradicted what America was and still is.