The “Post-War,” 1945-2022 – Part II

The “Post-War,” 1945-2022


John M. Lane

Part II

High Hopes, 1947-1977

                                             From approximately 1947 to 1977, the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, arguably had the most significant period of targeted prosperity in recorded history.The standard of living rose across the class spectrum in all those countries and regions mentioned above. By 1970, the broad range of the “first world” populations had access to affordable, durable goods, housing, energy, education, health care, and retirement pensions.

New York City, 1951

                                         Economic growth was fueled in the United States by policies that began in the 1930s, although in a way not traditionally or historically understood. According to Michael Lind… The institutional and physical underpinnings of the American economy were rebuilt in the New Deal era between the 1930s and the 1970s… Liberals, it is said, reconciled themselves to a combination of free enterprise and Keynesian demand management. Nothing could be further from the truth. Keynesian demand management policies were pursued inconsistently under presidents Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Johnson and hardly at all under EisenhowerNor was the postwar economy based on free markets, as those are usually defined. The major sectors of the economy were either organized as government-backed cartels or dominated by a few oligopolistic corporations. Unions were concentrated in the same sectors.” (Lind 345-46) Lind described the heavily regulated industries for the public good and benefit: trucking, airlines, energy, banking & finance, communications, agribusiness, shipping, and radio & television. (Lind 346-47) “America’s oligopolistic corporations were both stable and prosperous. Between 1954 and 1976, fewer than five of the hundred largest industrial corporations lost money, except for two years.” (Lind 348-49) 

                          The Post War “boom” was fueled by progressive tax structures, global trade, massive investments in education and infrastructure, a solid manufacturing base, responsible, far-sighted corporate management, and government regulation that kept the “playing field” levelPossibilities seemed endless for the first world “Baby Boom” generation, born after the war. However, we should remember that the Post War boom was a historical accident brought about by the convergence of events and ideas that coalesced at precisely the right time. The historical forces of reaction and authority that opposed the New Deal and “governmental activism” had not disappeared; they were reorganizing, reassessing, and regrouping. They would reassert themselves with a relentless fury when the time was right to regain power. 


                        In the United States, the pent-up demand for consumer goods, the New Deal era economic reforms, the support for veterans’ education, the government subsidizing of suburban housing, free trade, and the interstate highway system were among the factors leading to explosive economic growth from the early 1950s into the 1960s. The wealthy and heads of corporations did not display their wealth. Conspicuous displays of consumption were in bad taste: no yachts, third homes, or private planes. There were few stock options and hostile takeovers. Incompetence was not rewarded; there were no “golden parachutes” for executives who were not up to the job. Savvy corporations put most of their profits back into their businesses, not bonuses. The shareholders wanted it that way. When the company grew, both workers and owners benefitted. It was considered wise and morally responsible to support unions and give your workers fair wages and retirement pensions. Attorneys and physicians did not advertise; advertising was in bad taste and unprofessional. A generation of Americans had survived the Great Depression and the deadliest war in history. They wanted to build a better future like their counterparts in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

                           From the war’s end to the early 1960s, the United States had no real international economic competition. Its potential competitors were rebuilding after being devastated and bankrupted. In a move designed more as an anti-communist tactic rather than a humanitarian policy, the Americans spent millions of dollars to aid the reconstruction of Europe through the Marshall Plan. In the meantime, if you wanted a durable good (automobiles, washers, dryers, or the new television), you bought American-made.

                         A new popular culture spread across America and around the world. The medium of television brought news and entertainment into more and more American homes, beginning in the late 1940s. Although Britain, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, and Japan had strong film industries, they were dwarfed by the Americans. American films and television were where foreigners could learn English to study American “history” and the American “way of life.”  Fears, however, that television would cripple the film industry did not materialize. 

                            American English replaced French as the language of diplomacy. It became the preferred language of business and commerce. (These facts would cripple the study of “foreign” languages in the United States into the 21st century. “They all speak English, why bother…”). The new musical genre, “Rock and Roll,” originated in the United States from roots in African American culture (a fact that caused so much consternation, anger, and concern in many elements (not most) of the broader American populace. “Alternative artists” performed the music to make it acceptable. In Europe, young musicians in groups later known as “the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin” openly embraced the musicians they copied and learned from). For better or worse, new youth culture had spread worldwide because of American popular entertainment.


                                 There was a strong belief within the African American population in the United States that with the victory in the Second World War, the nation would begin to fulfill the unmet promise of liberty, freedom, and equality. Conditions, however, in the early post-war years were not promising. As in the aftermath of the First World War, African American veterans were attacked, often while still in uniform. Because of local control, these same veterans were denied complete access to GI Bill benefits that should have been available to all veterans, especially mortgage loans (housing ownership is a crucial means of developing long-term wealth). As in Europe, there was a movement to expand the “social safety net” in the United States. The first proposals to provide universal health care to Americans were in 1946 and 1948. Although the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, along with the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, had not yet established complete control over health care in the United States, they could still mount a highly effective campaign to stop the legislation. Their allies were segregationists, South, North, and West, who did not want even to consider the possibility of integrating medical care, which would have resulted from a universal system. 

                              The initial breakthroughs of the Civil Rights Era, from 1954 to 1968, began with the landmark decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, which overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision. The Supreme Court in “Brown” ruled that public school segregation was illegal. However, “all deliberate speed” was used in the decision’s wording. Jurisdictions throughout the country, especially in the South, would use those words to take measures to avoid obeying the decision. Elsewhere, direct, non-violent civil disobedience by a young Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama, named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proved it could work. He led a boycott of Montgomery’s bus system, leading to the system’s desegregation.

May 17, 1954 – Brown v Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas

                                 In Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, the governor of the state-led the challenge to “Brown” by refusing to allow the integration of Central High School. Although “lukewarm” on desegregation, President Eisenhower decided to overrule the Arkansas governor and send federal troops to enforce the “Brown” decision. It had not been one hundred years since the US Civil War. Feelings about the North and “Yankee aggression” had always festered just beneath the surface of civic life. Those feelings now came out into the open. Opposition toward the changes promoted during the New Deal and continued by Truman and Eisenhower never went away. In the 1950s, the opposition developed a new ideological/intellectual foundation through the journal National Review, and its founder, William F. Buckley, Jr. National Review published an article on August 24, 1957, entitled “Why the South Must Prevail,” stating the argument for what soon would be called “movement conservatism.” : “Buckley made the same argument James Henry Hammond made in 1858, explaining that a minority could override the majority’s wishes if the majority were wrong. Buckley dismissed the idea of universal suffrage as “demagogy” and declared that whites were entitled to dominate black people because they were “the advanced race.” (Quoted in Richardson 159). The foundational beliefs of “movement conservatism” are anti-communism/socialism, free markets, little or no taxation, little or no regulation of business, privatization of government and public services (including education), judicial “restraint,” religious conformity, “traditional” family values and white domination of society and the body politic of the nation (which means access to the voting booth must be limited). The language that has evolved to promote these ideas has been brilliant and deployed in a masterful way that has dominated American political life from the late 1970s into the 21st century. The political opposition to movement conservatism has been at a loss to develop the language (and ideas) to counter it. Orwell, writing in 1949, was prophetically right:




In “1984

By George Orwell


                                    The US Supreme Court also began, except during the “Glorious Thirty Years,” to use creative language. In their interpretation of the 14th Amendment, “corporations” are “people,” and in their support for “free speech,” “money” is now “speech.” In the history of the American republic, the US Supreme Court, except for fifteen years (1954-1969), has ruled around eighty percent of the time to make the wealthy wealthier, the powerful more powerful, and the comfortable more comfortable. In a court presided over by a Republican chief justice (former California Governor Earl Warren), appointed by a Republican president (Dwight Eisenhower), the Court began to rule in favor of ordinary Americans instead of the power interests. Separate but equal by race was no longer constitutional; you had the right to legal representation if charged with a crime. Individuals had the right to privacy, criminal suspects had the right to remain silent during interrogation, and people could marry whomever they wanted, no matter their race (Loving v. Virginia, 1967). The Court ended “Same-sex” marriage bans in 2013. “Traditionalists” have waged battles to attack, weaken, or overturn these decisions as examples of “judicial overreach.”


                                  The civil rights movement continued to gain momentum into the 1960s. Demonstrations, “sit-ins,” and “freedom rides” drew attention to the hypocrisy of American life. The 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, with the images of fire hoses and attack dogs, were seen in print and on newsreels worldwide. How could the Americans promote “liberty and freedom” worldwide and deny it to their citizens? President Kennedy proposed a Civil Rights Bill and implored Congress to pass it in a nationally televised address. The height of the Civil Rights movement was the August 1963 “March on Washington.” It would be the last time until 2020-21 that the possibility of a peaceful reckoning and racial reconciliation for the American people appeared to be within reach. Dr. King’s riveting speech (parts of which have been co-opted by “the movement,” especially “the content of our character”) was a call for social, political, and economic justice. It was a fleeting moment for what could have been.

                                       In the fall of 1963, President Kennedy prepared to run for a second presidential term. He expected his opponent to be Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a former Senate colleague. “Movement” activists hated JFK. As he arrived in Texas, “wanted leaflets” began to appear. Some of the charges were as follows: “He has given support and encouragement to the communist-inspired racial riots” (they meant Birmingham 1963). and “He has illegally invaded a sovereign State with federal troops.” (National Archives). (They meant he sent Federal marshals to the University of Mississippi in 1962 to enforce court integration orders allowing James Meredith (US Air Force Veteran) to attend the university.) 

                                     Both parties knew that Texas would be crucial in the electoral college vote. JFK decided to go to Texas to unite the factions of the State Democratic party behind his candidacy. The trip would take him to San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin. While the president rode in an open car in downtown Dallas, he was shot by an assassin using an imported rifle purchased from a mail-order company. The President died from his wounds on November 22, 1963. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President on Air Force One, as it departed Texas for Washington D.C.   Johnson was a southern “new dealer.” He believed in FDR and what he had tried to accomplish in the 1930s. Johnson wanted to finish what FDR had started and create a “Great Society.”

President Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963

                                     In 1964, Johnson still had the political support to proceed with his ideas. LBJ was able to get the Civil Rights Bill through Congress in 1964 by using his legislative experience to break a Senate filibuster (and with crucial support from mainstream Republicans, 82% of House Republicans and 80% of Senate Republicans voted “Yes.” Western and Midwest “movement” Republicans and southern segregationist Democrats opposed the legislation, including Republican presidential frontrunner Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The former two mentioned groups would soon begin forming the “new” Republican Party).

                                      The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in employment (including gender), public accommodations, schools, and federally funded programs. 1964 was a presidential election year, and LBJ ran against Barry Goldwater. The South had always been the base region of the Democratic Party, going back to the days of Andrew Jackson. Eisenhower and Nixon had made inroads in recent elections, and as the campaign accelerated, LBJ was concerned about the party’s chances of holding its Southern base. After signing the Civil Rights Bill, LBJ said to Bill Moyers: “I think we just gave the South to the Republicans for your lifetime and mine.” (Branch 404). African Americans had been loyal to the Republican Party since the Civil War, and Reconstruction ended. In 1960, the African American vote split between JFK and Richard Nixon. (Retired baseball “superstar” and racial pioneer Jackie Robinson supported Nixon). As Republicans moved toward the philosophy of the “movement,” The Right longer welcomed African Americans with open arms into the Republican Party. The passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, only accelerated the process. In 1964, the great American political realignment began.

President Johnson and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. : The signing ceremony of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

                                       LBJ won the 1964 election over Goldwater in a landslide. Goldwater carried the Deep South states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Alabama Governor George Wallace won the Indiana Democratic primary in the primary season. The handwriting was on the wall for all who wanted to see it. 1964 would be the last presidential election in which most white American voters would pull the lever for the Democratic presidential candidate.

                                   In 1964, the first urban “riot” occurred in Harlem (New York City). The riot was the first example of expectations not meeting results. The pattern would continue in the immediate years to follow. Also, in the summer of 1964, a significant push began to increase African American voter registration in the South. “Freedom Summer” was declared, and Mississippi would be the point of focus. After training in Oxford, Ohio, college students went to Mississippi to challenge the state’s voting practices. They entered a maelstrom of racial hate and intimidation. Three young people (two were white) went missing near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Their bodies were found in an earthen dam. The local terrorists had murdered the students with the support and knowledge of law enforcement and “prominent” citizens. Today, Philadelphia, Mississippi, remains a focal point for the “movement,” which presidential candidates and surrogates visited in 1980, 2016, and 2020. 

                         Dr. King became more directly involved in the push for Voting Rights in 1965. The marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in the winter of 1965, beginning with “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, and were seen on worldwide television, galvanized support for Voting Rights legislation. Congress passed the Voting Rights Bill in 1965 with broad bi-partisan support. The law outlawed the denial of the right to vote based on race, the poll tax, literacy tests, and most importantly, required federal election examiners to be present to protect African Americans attempting to vote or register to vote. The Voting Rights Act completely changed the calculus of American politics in the South and across the nation.

                         The nature of the Civil Rights revolution changed by the mid-1960s. Younger activists were tired of non-violent rhetoric; instead, they advocated “action.” “Rioting” broke out in cities across the United States from 1965 through 1967. The worse of what could better be called “uprisings” occurred in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark. The spark was usually the heavy presence of police, using command and control methods in areas where widespread poverty existed. The programs of the “Great Society” were a start. However, they could not overcome unabated systemic racism and discrimination. Now one of the most despised people in America, Dr. King took his campaign North to highlight housing and job discrimination. His reception in Cicero, Illinois, an “ethnic” suburb of Chicago, should have dispelled all notions that America’s racial issues were primarily a Southern problem. 

                     In April 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee, to assist garbage workers in labor disputes with the city. On April 4, 1968, he was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nationwide, “rioting” broke out after the assassination. The assassination of Dr. King was a part of a year, 1968, one of the most tumultuous in American, or indeed, World History. In the United States, the Vietnam War drove Lyndon Johnson from the presidency, as he decided not to seek another term. Student demonstrations against spread across university campuses. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic Presidential primary. In August, at the Democratic convention in Chicago, protestors for many causes clashed with Chicago police in violent melees around the city.  

                              Richard Nixon was the Republican candidate for President in 1968. He promised to end the war in Vietnam “with honor” and restore “law and order” in the country. Third-party candidate George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, promised to bring order back to the country. (Wallace carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Humphrey had Texas; Nixon took the rest of the South). The Democratic candidate, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, ran a brave campaign. In the end, he closed the gap, but it was not enough. Nixon was elected President. The New Deal coalition that had controlled the Democratic Party and dominated policy since 1933 was over. Two things brought about the coalition’s collapse: Civil Rights and Vietnam.

                                    Nixon held grudges and despised his “eastern elite establishment” enemies. He knew resentment and could recognize it; he could sense the country’s mood. Nixon would enlist the “Silent Majority” in his war against the elites. He allied himself with evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics. He appealed to the “ethnic” and rural working classes and those who had not gone to college. Nixon knew the main reason the country turned against Vietnam was not the war itself but that America had decided not to try to win it. In general, Nixon had figured out what the Democrats and the Left did not grasp: Namely, that using class and racial resentment could be used to peel white Southern voters (the “southern strategy”) away from the Democratic party. He and his advisers saw that it was possible to build a new coalition of business/corporate interests, northern working and middle class “ethnics,” religious/social conservatives, and combine it with the South into a voting bloc that could win elections.                               

                           Susan Jacoby explained this situation in her book The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies: … “In 1969, a Gallup Poll conducted for Newsweek revealed the breadth and depth of the silent majority’s disapproval of student demonstrators. (Significantly, the Newsweek poll was limited to white adults. Blacks were not considered “middle Americans,” the group targeted by the pollsters.) More than 84 percent felt that protestors on college campuses had been treated too leniently by university and law enforcement authorities. More than 85 percent also thought black militants had been dealt with too leniently. “It is almost impossible to overstate the resentment in middle America against the recent turbulence on the nation’s college campuses,” observed one analyst, adding that the resentment “has a special spice for those in the lower economic brackets” because they see the protests as a manifestation of “ingratitude and irresponsibility on the part of those who have a chance that they never got.” (Jacoby 153-154) 

                               In the long term (decades), the political and philosophical infrastructure to accomplish this was already under construction by the late 1960s. The “think tanks” were being built, the theories were under discussion, and mechanisms to carry out their ideas were under development. Financing these efforts would not be a problem. Foundations and corporations controlled by the “movement” would see to that. The Democrats had lost sight of the legacy of FDR and Truman but believed they were ascendant. The Democrats wrecked their party structure and cohesion in the name of fairness and equal representation. (The Republicans would eventually do the same, but for different reasons.) The Democrats forgot that political power is built at the local level, in school boards, city/county councils, and state legislatures, not just in presidential elections. By the time the Democrats figured out what had happened (over fifty years later) in the 21st century, it was too late.


                                 The domestic agenda of the Nixon administration remains an enigma. Nixon supported the creation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the expansion of the Job Corps, a guaranteed annual income to replace welfare payments, and “OSHA,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In economics, Nixon took the US off the “gold standard” and continued the policy of deficit spending to “prime” the economy. The “other” Nixon opposed the extension of the Voting Rights Acts and busing to achieve school integration. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that busing to achieve racial balance in schools was legal. (The worse anti-busing backlash occurred in Boston in 1974-75, where violence broke out as students and buses were attacked). He tried to put southern conservatives on the Supreme Court (that effort failed). Nixon was determined to roll back what he and his supporters believed was judicial activism. His appointees to the court would change the American political and judicial landscape into the 21st century. Warren Burger replaced Earl Warren as Chief Justice in 1969. Burger changed the administrative procedures of the court and was a reliable center/right vote on most decisions, as was his fellow Minnesotan, Harry Blackmun. Corporate lawyer Lewis Powell had been active in planning the business response to the “New Deal” and “Great Society” and would be instrumental in championing corporate interests on the court. William Rehnquist, still in his forties when he was appointed, had been a clerk for Justice Robert Jackson in the early 1950s when he wrote a memo opposing the “Brown” decision and affirming that “Plessy” (1896- Separate but Equal) had been right. Rehnquist would eventually be appointed Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan. 

                                       In 1969, Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” Drug use had indeed increased, which gave the administration the excuse they needed to go after the groups who were the real targets of the “war”: anti-war protestors and “the Blacks.” This policy was admitted to years later by Presidential advisor John Ehrlichman. As the “war” began, so did the policy of mass incarceration.

FILE – President Richard Nixon tells a group of Republican campaign contributors, he will get to the bottom of the Watergate scandal during a speech on May 9, 1973 in Washington. (AP Photo/John Duricka, File)

                                    By 1972, with the Democrats in complete disarray and the Vietnam War winding down, Nixon seemed assured of reelection (he won in a crushing landslide over George McGovern, who carried one state). That was not the way he saw it, however. He believed his enemies were everywhere and out to get him. Outside of regular law enforcement and intelligence entities, special units strike against those enemies first. These units conducted break-ins and deployed “dirty tricks.” The most famous break-in occurred in June 1972 at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel/Office complex in Washington DC. Washington police captured the inept burglars. The coverup began as Nixon destroyed himself. The country was mesmerized and paralyzed by “Watergate” from the summer of 1972 to August 9, 1974, when Nixon, facing impeachment and substantial evidence that he had broken the law, resigned from the presidency. 

                                  On December 6, 1973, Michigan Representative Gerald Ford was appointed by Richard Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew as Vice-President (Agnew had resigned over tax evasion charges). Ford was sworn in as President on August 9, 1974. Ford continued Nixon’s foreign policy regarding China and the USSR. At home, he faced a slowing economy brought about by the 1973 Oil embargo and the after-effects of the Vietnam war. Goodwill (and there was a lot) that the American people had for Ford vanished when he pardoned Nixon of all crimes in September. The Democrats won a solid majority in both houses of Congress in 1974. (Including a young senator from Delaware named Joseph R. Biden, Jr.). Inflation worsened throughout 1975, as the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression spread across the United States. Unemployment reached the level of 9% of the workforce. 

                                The Post War boom was coming to an end. By 1975, the desire to work and sacrifice for a better society was gone. Instead, self-awareness and self-indulgence spread through the country. Looking out for “Number One” became the new “mantra.” “Disco” music, with its pulsating beat and meaningless lyrics, took over the “airwaves” and clubs while creating new fashion trends.

                              The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s continued into the 1970s. In the 1972 case of Baird v. Eisenstadt, the Supreme Court ruled that it was permissible for single persons to purchase contraception methods. (Married couples had gained the right to use artificial birth control in 1965 in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut. The case guaranteed a right to privacy). In January 1973, the Court made having an abortion a constitutional right in the case of Roe v. Wade.

                           The post-war prosperity allowed women to challenge the status quo at home and in the workplace. They entered professions that had previously been “for men only” and broke barriers. Unfortunately, for every wall broken, a new one appeared to replace it. The journalist Betty Friedan wrote the ground-breaking book for modern American feminism, The Feminine Mystique, in 1963. “Friedan blamed what she called “the feminine mystique,” a repressive ideal promoted by journalists, magazine editors, advertisers, educators, and social scientists. The domestic ideal held that women could find fulfillment only as wives and mothers. It stunted women’s aspirations and trapped them in the home.” (Boyer et al. 262). Legal and de facto discrimination against women began to be challenged by groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966. In 1972, Congress approved a proposed constitutional amendment, The Equal Rights Amendment, which stated: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” To be ratified, thirty-eight states also needed to approve the amendment. In rapid order, thirty-five states approved the amendment. At that point, the amendment’s opponents launched an assault on it that was so intense that by 1982, it was clear the amendment would not become part of the Constitution.

                          Other marginalized groups asserted their voices during this period. Indigenous people began to speak up and demand equality in a land taken from them. Latinos demanded justice and cultural respect; Gay and Lesbian people started to leave the “closet” and openly demand equal treatment. The backlash against these movements played out against the backdrop of Vietnam and its aftermath, however, gained political and cultural momentum.


                           If not for “Watergate,” there is a strong possibility that Jimmy Carter would have never become president. He ran as an “outsider” in 1976, positioning himself as a competent, organized professional who could straighten out America’s economic issues and restore faith in American governance. In the general election, Carter had clinched the Democratic nomination by May 1976 and faced President Ford, who barely survived a bruising primary battle with Ronald Reagan. The Republican contest for the 1976 Republican nomination indicated that the ascendancy of “moderate” republicanism was over. In a close election, Carter only won because he carried the South. He would be the last Democratic presidential candidate to do so. The two factors in his favor were that he was an evangelical from Georgia and a prominent African American voter turnout.
                         Domestically, Carter inherited an economy in transition. The era of cheap energy was over, and the West (especially the United States) had difficulty adjusting to the new energy reality. The oil crises in 1973 and 1978 and brutal winters in 1977 and 1978 were the first indications that the United States was not ready for that new reality. The energy situation was not helped by the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. Any confidence the public had in atomic power use for energy was gone. Carter tried to explain to his credit that the country’s energy habits needed to change. His calls fell on deaf ears and were ignored. The beginning of deregulation of the economy did not begin under the Republicans; it started under Carter, who deregulated the trucking and airline industries (the airlines were deregulated in 1978, the author remembers when flying on a passenger plane was a civilized experience). Carter was an economic moderate, which infuriated many Democrats who wanted to expand the size and reach of social programs. Carter could not do that, even if he had wanted to.

The End of Cheap Energy: lines during the 1973 Oil Embargo

                          By 1978, economic growth had slowed, and unemployment remained high as inflation increased. This situation became known as “Stagflation.” This condition hit the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and, by the 1970s, had spread to at least seven major economies, including the United States. Carter tried to rally the country in July 1979 with an excellent speech revolving around sacrifice and hard work. At first, the speech was well-received; however, it became known and reviled as the “malaise” speech over time.

                       The Federal Reserve tightened the money supply as interest rates approached 21%. Carter’s approval ratings dipped into the “20s”. In 1980, as the hostage crisis dominated his time, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts challenged Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination. Carter won a bitter fight with Kennedy to win the nomination. In the fall campaign against Ronald Reagan, the election appeared to be close, but things broke for Reagan over the last two weeks before election day. He won a crushing victory over Carter.

                       During the “High Hopes” era, the working and middle classes of the “First World” reached a level of well-being and general prosperity never seen in human history. By the late 1970s, and accelerating into the 80s, it was going to slowly but steadily be taken away; in the name of “Liberty and Freedom.”         

Works Cited


Archer, Christon I, John R. Ferris, Holger H. Herwig, Timothy H.E. Travers. World History of Warfare. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002

Boyer, Paul S., ed. The Oxford Companion to United States History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Branch. Taylor. Pillar Of Fire: America in The King Years 1963-65. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Cox Richardson, Heather. How The South Won The Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Hastings, Max. Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975. New York: Harper Perennial, 2018.

Horne, Alistair. Hubris: The Tragedy of War in The Twentieth Century. New York: Harper Perennial, 2015.

Jacoby, Susan. The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies. New York: Vintage Books, 2018.

Kershaw, Ian. The Global Age: Europe 1950-2017. New York: Viking, 2018.

Lind, Michael. Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States. New York: Harper Collins, 2012.

Lopez, Jean, ed. World War II Infographics. London: Thames and Hudson, 2019.

Ricks, Thomas E., The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Ward, Geoffrey C., and Ken Burns. The Vietnam War: An Intimate History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

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