OpEd: We Need A Second Progressive Era

Miniature people standing on a pile of coins. A concept of income disparity.

I believe we are currently living through a second Gilded Age. It began officially with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and has continued through both Republican and Democratic administrations to the present.

As both U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have stressed, the system is rigged and the richest 1 percent of Americans and other wealthy donors have been controlling our political processes. But living during a Gilded Age is nothing new to us. 

More than a century ago in the 1880s, America saw the first Gilded Age, when the robber barons preyed on the masses. That era was ended in large part by the Progressive Era. So much good came from those “woke” at that time in the world of reporting, writing, and advocacy. 

Substantial reforms were passed from the creation of the primary system, the development of the initiative process for citizen-written laws, and the referendum process for citizens to vote on ballot measures that could also become law. 

Police and fire departments were created by people arguing for a safer society. Building codes were passed. Job safely measures enacted. Large trusts like John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil were broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court because they had too much power and had abused the trust of the people in the process.

Thus from the perspective of the masses the 99 percenters of the day this was a fairly healthy time period for positive change. What we need today is a second Progressive Era, bigger and bolder than the first, to right so much wrong that has crept into our politics.

The current woke among us need to push back the political, social, and economic pendulum firmly toward serving the needs of the majority of Americans. We need a return to a liberal-progressive America that values people over profit first. 

Bernie would be a great leader in that effort and so would Warren. Fighting the right fight would place our economy on a much firmer and secure footing to create a vibrant future America. The status quo and current political reality is not a sustainable one. 

Robert Buonaspina is a Long Island Activists steering committee member