Progressive Movement (2010).
While it’s true that more options in entertainment provided opportunities for “Association” among the middle and working classes, this “mixing” didn’t work out the way progressives had hoped. While Americans of the middle and working classes attended “World’s Fairs”, amusement parks, baseball games, or movies, commercial entertainment actually increased individualism (for the middle class, individualism was the pursuit of pleasure) in the middle class instead of “closing the gap” in terms of social tensions.
Before World War I, transportation and communication had reached a point in which those in the middle class were able to transcend the “here and now”, according to McGerr. Increased transportation and communication led to a sense of liberation; Americans were no longer confined to a specific location. As with commercial amusements, the improved communications and transportation at the turn-of-the-century increased the level of individualism in a growing number of middle class Americans; a “redefinition of self” was occurring on an increasing scale before World War I; the pursuit of pleasure (middle class individualism) was valued far more than the pursuit of reforms.
In the early stages of America’s involvement in World War I, progressives were
encouraged that mobilization for war would feature increased federal control, and then, finally, class conflict, or “negative” individualism (pursuit of power, profit, or pleasure) versus "negative" mutualism (identity through a group; "strength in numbers"), would drastically decrease. By that, I mean that progressives thought that due to greater federal influence, there would be far fewer labor strikes and owner lockouts; a kind of “enforced” association would be achieved. This was the “false dawn” that teased, then torchered, progressives; in the end, World War I increased middle class individualism via pleasure (for example, should a person spend money on leisure, or war bonds; most seemed to favor pleasure), created a resurgence of class conflict, and increased government influence so pronounced that America experienced a “Red Scare”.
During the Election of 1920, 60% of Americans that voted elected the Republican
candidate Warren G. Harding as president, a conservative individualist; the Progressive Era was over (had Theodore Roosevelt not died in 1919, he almost certainly would have been elected president again in 1920). During the presidencies of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, big business returned in force, while the middle class, by and large, chose individualism and pleasure over association.