By Peter Dreier
Back in 1900, people who called for women’s suffrage, laws protecting the environment and consumers, an end to lynching, the right of workers to form unions, a progressive income tax, a federal minimum wage, old-age insurance, dismantling of Jim Crow laws, the eight-hour workday, and government-subsidized health care and housing were considered impractical idealists, utopian dreamers, or dangerous socialists. Now we take these ideas for granted. The radical ideas of one generation have become the common sense of the next.
How did this happen?
Social movements transformed these (and many other) radical ideas from the margins to the mainstream, and from polemics to policy. The 20th century is a remarkable story of progressive accomplishments against overwhelming odds. But it is not a tale of steady progress. Continue reading