When he founded The Capital Times in 1917, William T. Evjue wanted to create a publication that would offset the vicious campaign that the Wisconsin State Journal and other conservative publications were then waging against U.S. Sen. Robert M. La Follette and other dissenters against the madness of World War I, war profiteering and other forms of corporate corruption.
Evjue was furious with the State Journal for attacking the most courageous man in the Senate, and he was equally furious with the morning newspaper's attacks on his favorite periodical: La Follette's Magazine. The magazine, which was founded in 1909 and would eventually be renamed The Progressive, was despised by the conservative daily newspapers of the time.
The State Journal condemned La Follette's Magazine for explaining that "this war is the creation of the rich" and suggested that, because of the magazine's challenge to the war profiteers, "America is in greater danger today" than at any time since its founding.
Evjue took a different view. He hailed La Follette's Magazine as a crusading voice for economic and social justice and for peace. And he created a daily newspaper that would echo those themes.
The Capital Times and The Progressive have stood together ever since, often in lonely opposition to the madness of new wars, new corporations and new forms of profiteering. We have differed at times on particulars, but never on principles.
As The Progressive celebrates its 95th anniversary today, we are struck by the fact that the magazine is still waging what La Follette referred to as "the old fight" against crony capitalism and imperial war-making. The cover art may be different, but the message is as passionate, and as true, as ever. And it is resonating, as circulation rises and attention to this fine magazine grows in a time when so much of the media offer only tepid and inconsequential coverage of the fiasco that is George W. Bush's presidency.
There will be much festivity tonight as Molly Ivins, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn, musician Steve Earle and poet Martin Espada appear at the Orpheum Theatre as part of a gala celebration of the anniversary. But, typically, there will also be thoughtful discourse throughout the day, with editor Matt Rothschild and his able staff hosting a conference at the Concourse Hotel under the banner of "A Progressive Tomorrow."
Today, in the midst of the long night of Bush and Cheneyism, we can only imagine a progressive tomorrow. But we look forward to celebrating The Progressive's 100th anniversary in the sunlight of a new age of American enlightenment and radical advance. And when that day comes, as it surely shall, it will be right to say that The Progressive showed the way out of the darkness.
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