By the late 19th century, the idea was gaining ground that United States was a democracy, or that it ought to be anyway. Reformers began to latch on to democracy in the latter part of the 19th century, pushed for popular control over government to be expanded, and linked this to progress and progressivism. They linked it to broader and deeper reform, too, by identifying democracy with equality, and proposing to use the power of government to make men more nearly equal. The expansion of the power of the central government and the use of that power to transform not only America but the world setting as well was a part of the progressive ethos.
Clarence B. Carson, A Basic History of the United States, Vol. 4: The Growth of America 1878-1928, pg.117-118
[Our current horrid social situation in the USA is a direct result of this ideology.]