Any study of Robert M. La Follette must include the consideration of three features in the development of contemporary American political and social thought. These features are: (a) the sectional differences between the East and the West due to the influences growing out of the settlement of the West; (b) the results of the period of economic and industrial development which followed the Civil War; and (c) the succession of third parties, which culminated in the Progressive Movement and the Progressive Party of 1912. All three of these factors, closely interwoven, made the United States of 1912, upon which the European War and its aftereffects have reacted. La Follette is a representative of the combination of these influences, modified by a personality of great force and ability and of unusually pronounced individuality.
Sectional differences between the East and the West developed naturally and have persisted to the present time. The newer regions of the West have had different problems and experiences. Their need of more capital has led to paper-money agitations and to wildcat banking. More democratic suffrage and the spoils system had their origin in the West. The result has been antagonism between the sections, which appears in Western hostility to Wall Street and in Eastern criticism of Western demands for modifications of the national banking system. The West has been and still is the great source of democratic impulse in the United States. It is different from the East because it is nearer to the frontier and farther away from the Atlantic and Europe. Its centre of interest is "the day after to-morrow" instead of "the day before yesterday."