The Battle for History

The “Real,” “Non-Divisive,” and “Comforting” History of American Race Relations

Writers Note: What you are about to read may soon be the only allowable narrative of the African American historical experience that can be taught in K-12 classrooms across the United States…

                                 “…The first black slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619. Soon more slaves were brought to the thirteen colonies to provide a labor force for the English settlers. Upset by the growing tyranny of King George III, which included continuing to force more slaves upon the settlers, liberty and freedom-loving Americans revolted against the brutal rule of the British.

                                   After establishing a government by and for the people, Americans began pursuing “life, liberty, and happiness.” It was their “manifest destiny” to spread their superior civilization across the entire continent. Slavery was a sad fact of life in America at this time; however, most of the slaves lived well and enjoyed their exposure to Christianity and other aspects of Western Civilization.

                                 By the middle of the 19th century, agitation sparked by misguided radical abolitionists led to constant attacks against the slave-holding states and their constitutionally protected property rights. These attacks sparked a bloody civil war between the Union and the Confederate States of America. Led by Republican President Abraham Lincoln, the slaves were freed. To help the freed slaves adjust to their new status, Reconstruction was instituted in the former Confederate States. It was a complete failure, riddled with corruption and incompetence. Proper leadership was restored in the South, as the former warring regions reunited in body and spirit, realizing that the war had been a sad, unnecessary tragedy.

                                  Going into the 20th century, George Washington Carver became famous for his work in developing uses for Peanuts, while Booker T. Washington advocated for vocational training. In large numbers, African Americans began leaving the South, moving to Northern and Western cities. After World War II, the Civil Rights Movement developed. Rosa Parks stood up for her rights by refusing to vacate her seat on a bus in Alabama. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King supported non-violent protest to gain equal treatment, as he promoted character development. In 1964 all Americans became equal as President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill into law. All Americans were given the equal right to vote the following year under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

George Washington Carver

                               More time is still needed to achieve a genuinely multi-racial democracy. A few “bad apples” on both sides delay this ultimate achievement. With the election of an African American President in 2008, the country is well on its way to total unity….”

Rosa Parks


                              Time is running out to stop or reverse the teaching trend described above. Most Americans want their children to receive a complete historical education. What you have read is not a complete historical education. Patriots believe that a “Worts and all” historical education is the best way to build a truly, “great” forward-moving nation that is constantly working to be a better place for all its citizens. To be blunt, Nationalists do not believe that. In the end, fear, anger, resentment, and hate will not win out.

“Rugged Individuals”

“Rugged Individuals”


John M. Lane

                                        We are all “rugged individuals.” We make our way; we need little help from outsiders (especially from the evil government); we rise and fall on our own merits and abilities; if we fail, it’s our fault. It’s not the system’s fault or other people’s; we are responsible. We have the “liberty” and “freedom” to rise to the heights or sink to the depths. We are “rugged individuals.” When we do organize in groups, it is specifically designed to advance a cause, a profession, a group, or an industry. Rugged Individuals know regulations stifle growth and innovation, and doing what is best for them is best for society. 


                                      The above description of Rugged Individuals has been gospel in the United States since its founding. To understand the history of the United States and its culture, you must understand the previous paragraph. It is why Americans do not have universal healthcare, tolerate polluted air, and drinking water, tolerate not having reliable, safe, affordable mass transit and rail services, and accept unequal K-12 education systems based on which district or jurisdiction has access to the most funding. Because of Rugged Individualism, Americans accept going into sometimes crippling debt as the price of obtaining a university education. The same post-high school education system does not have the capacity to train the millions of young people who need to acquire the training to work in professions where a university degree is not required (which is most jobs). Corporations no longer hire intelligent, educated people (especially liberal arts majors) and train them. Rugged Individuals need to acquire their own training.

                                     Because of Rugged Individualism, Americans accept over 40,000 traffic fatalities a year as normal. Obeying and enforcing traffic laws and norms are seen as violations of personal liberty and freedom. Universal driver training has long since given way to privatization. It probably does not matter anyway since stopping and slowing down are now optional. Firearms: there are more guns in circulation in the United States than there are people. The myth of the “Frontier” is a permanent feature of American life. (Historian Frederick Jackson Turner said the “Frontier” closed in 1890.) Rugged Individuals must protect themselves from other Rugged Individuals. “Liberty and Freedom” must be maintained.

                                     In the land of “Rugged Individuals,” corporations are considered “people” under broad interpretations (to say the least) of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Money is also interpreted as being “speech.” Rugged Individuals with access to the most money have the most “speech.” Voting is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  In our society of “Rugged Individuals,” voting is seen as optional, only if one can find the time from your busy work schedule to appear at the polls personally on the first Tuesday of November. Rugged Individuals know that only direct appearance at the polls is real democracy in action! If you can’t make it to the polls, well, you can vote in the next election. Online voting, mail-in voting, and “drop boxes” only weaken “real democracy.”


                                   Whatever it is called: “Horatio Alger,” Pulling yourself up your bootstraps, or being a Rugged Individual, in the end, the effect is the same. The concept makes it difficult to rise above your origins and achieve the “American Dream.” Rising above one’s “station,” however, can be done. When it is done, it happens because a government system worked, and helping hands from friends, family, strangers, and the community were extended. It also helps to be lucky, being with the right person and in the right place at the right time. “Self-Made Men” are rare indeed. No one makes it alone. Rugged Individuals had better be tough. The mythology is so deeply embedded in American culture that millions of the poor and disadvantaged believe it to be true.

                               The mythology described above to used to maintain power and privilege. It is why the black and white working and middle classes have been effectively pitted against each other; it is why the United States Tax Code is written the way it is written. It is why mercy, empathy, selflessness, and compassion are portrayed as weaknesses to avoid. In the 21st century, it is the reason why Democracy itself is seen as a burden.

                               Time is running out.

The “Post-War,” 1945-2022, Part V.

The “Post-War,” 1945-2022

Part V


John M. Lane

The Thirty “Greed is Good” Years, 1978-2008

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Abraham Lincoln, before the U.S Civil War (1861-1865).

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge in mankind, and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.”

The fictional character, “Gordon Gekko.”

In the film “Wall Street,” 1987

                                          Beginning in the late 1970s, the reaction against what was believed to be the excesses of the 1960s and early 1970s began in earnest. Many thought it was time to restore “traditional” American values. The revolution in “rights” had gone far enough. What about “personal responsibility” and ownership? After taking office in January 1981, Ronald Reagan began implementing his program to end liberal “activism” and restore American greatness.  It was the fulfillment of their career dreams for Laissez-faire/free-market economists from the “Chicago” and “Austrian” schools of economic philosophy. Both Milton Friedman and Alfred von Hayek had lived to see the ideas of their philosophical foe, John Maynard Keynes, overturned.   

Photo by Dom J on

                                    At every level of government, officials tried to balance budgets, cut costs and taxes, and “privatize” as much as possible. Taxes were cut, mainly for the wealthy, believing they would create more jobs and growth, trickling down to the rest of the population, thereby improving everyone’s well-being. “Reagan and other conservatives adopted what became known as “supply-side economics,” based on the erroneous belief that, by increasing the rewards to effort, tax cuts would generate more than enough through growth to compensate for the cuts.” (Lind 378). To confront the Soviets, the defense budget was increased to 1.7 trillion dollars over five years. The result: inflation remained high, the deficit grew (perversely, the deficits were used to show that spending on social programs could not be continued. The money was not there to spend.), and nothing trickled down. The wealthy kept the extra money and spent it on themselves.

                               To fight inflation, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by 7 percent over the rate of inflation to 19 percent. These moves resulted in two recessions in three years. (Lind 387). By 1984, inflation was under control; the way was paved for Reagan’s landslide reelection over Walter Mondale. He carried 49 of the 50 states. 

There were “two Nixons” and there were “two Reagans: President Ronald Reagan visiting the suburban Maryland home of an African American family in 1982 that had a cross burned on their yard in 1977.

                              The squeeze on the working and middle classes became tighter. Unemployment reached 10.7 percent in 1982. In the same year, there were 2,700 mass layoffs/plant shutdowns. The new policies devastated American manufacturing and its ability to compete globally. The manufacturing sector of the American economy has still not recovered. The labor movement was also crippled as the hollowing out of non-college-educated working, and middle-class workers accelerated. In 1987, the savings and loan industry collapsed after they began using “junk bonds” to invest in commercial real estate and businesses. It cost the American taxpayer 200 billion dollars to bail out the industry. By 1989, 31.5 million Americans were classified as poor. In the 1980s it was Japan that was the giant of growth and prosperity. The term “Japan Inc.” was accurate. “The deficits were easy to finance because of the inflow of foreign money, much of it from Japan…The United States was now the world’s largest debtor and Japan the world’s largest creditor. The Japanese central bank bought huge quantities of US government bonds to keep the yen artificially low, thereby subsidizing Japanese exports while hurting American exports. The same mercantilist technique would be adopted on a much larger scale by China a few decades later, with disastrous results for the economy of the United States and the world”. (Lind 389-390) History lesson, anyone?

                                  To help fund education in their states, states developed the “innovative” idea of starting state lotteries to fund public education and college scholarships. States began to rely on gambling by the people who could least afford it to fund education because they were no longer able (or willing) to. Local jurisdictions that could afford it raised property taxes to help support their schools.


                                   Technology, especially (by the late 1990s, the Internet), finance, and service, became growth industries while manufacturing jobs were sent “offshore.” Lavish lifestyles were praised and admired. Television shows, fictitious (“Dallas” and “Dynasty”) and “reality”- based (“Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous”), glorified the wealthy, promoting a lifestyle of “premium,” “deluxe,” “exclusive,” and “first-class.” Any product with those terms attached to it was seen as the best. Having an account at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, or Bloomingdales was a sign of status and success. Tax cuts for the wealthy began the most significant upward transfer of wealth since the late 19thcentury: (“the ratio of CEOs’ pay to their employees’ pay double(d) (before sextupling in the 1990s.), The top income tax rate on the richest is reduced from 70 percent to 28 percent.” (Andersen 120) This trend has continued unchecked as of 2022. Stocks and the stock market were seen by many as the leading indicators of economic growth, which every credible economist knows is false. 

Maybe you can have this!!!!!

                             Throughout the West, but especially in the United States and Britain, working and middle-class wages and salaries stagnated, and quality of life declined. In the United States- (“Consumer credit was deregulated excessively, causing consumer debt suddenly to increase by a third and interest payments to balloon, home mortgage foreclosures quadrupled. Federal spending on housing programs for low-income people was cut by 75 percent. The number of jobs requiring a college degree started increasing significantly. The cost of a four-year college (education) and the student debt to pay for it started increasing significantly.” (Andersen 121)

                        The working and middle classes had to take on more and more personal debt while working at more low-paying jobs to maintain what they had. (“Jobs in manufacturing rapidly disappeared- by 22 percent during the decades {the 1980s}).” (Andersen 120) Social mobility all but stopped. The idea that younger generations might not do better than their parents and grandparents was becoming a reality. During the 1981-82 recession, the departure from the Midwest to Texas and the West could have reminded people, although the scale was smaller, of families leaving for California in the 1930s. 

                      A new emphasis on “the war on drugs” would devastate African American communities. The 1980s drug of choice was cocaine and its synthetic partner, “crack.” Crack came into African American communities and crushed them. (“The large-scale movement out of poverty for black men from 1960 to 1980 stopped”, “Incarceration of “criminals” began its massive increase, doubling (before doubling again in the 1990s), and the first private profit-making prison companies were founded.” (Andersen 123) The use of cocaine would be just as pervasive as the use of crack. However, cocaine was the drug of the rich, the elite, and the white, and although law enforcement did attempt to enforce the law against cocaine users and dealers, it was never done with the single-mindedness of the effort against crack. Prosecuting crack offenses could bring 25 years to life sentences in prison; the punishment for cocaine offenses rarely reached that extent. 

A New phase in “The War on Drugs”

                            Combined with the de-industrialization of the country and the jobs that went with it, the cuts in funding for housing, education, medical care, and childcare, in addition to the “war on drugs” and the resulting mass incarceration to feed the rural, job-creating, prison-industrial complex (much of which would soon be in the hands of private companies); set back African American economic and social progress for at least thirty years. Maybe that was the point. In the 1980s, white Americans suffered from the cuts and elimination of the same programs, even more so because their numbers were more prominent. The question must be asked: Why would the great bulk of the majority population accept less than what they could realistically receive? 

                      In short, using resentment, particularly racial resentment, as a political strategy worked and continues to work in the 21st century.


                                George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan as President in 1989. His foreign policy credentials to be President were beyond reproach (CIA director, Representative to China, UN Ambassador.) Bush would oversee the end of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, and the end of the Soviet Union. Bush used the US military in 1989 to invade Panama to remove Manuel Noriega from power. However, He is remembered for the “Gulf War.” The 1991 Persian Gulf War was the last war of the second industrial revolution (1850- 1990, oil, steel, natural gas, and coal, the “commanding heights” of economic development dominated by the Americans, British, and Western Europeans). The Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had decided to acquire the oil fields of neighboring Kuwait to rebuild his depleted financial resources resulting from the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War. Saddam calculated that the West and the United States would not intervene because they no longer had the stomach for combat that might involve heavy casualties. He calculated wrong. The West needed access to Persian Gulf oil to keep their economies going.

                      Britain, France, and the United States sent an overwhelming force to Saudi Arabia and significant contributions from Arab countries as well. The American force alone numbered close to 500,000. For whatever reason, Saddam had decided to engage the West in a decisive battle, and in turn, he was decisively defeated. The armies created by the United States, Britain, and France to fight a massive battle of “decision” on the plains of Central Europe against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were unleashed on Saddam. This war happened because the now decrepit Soviet Union could do nothing to stop it, and the Chinese looked the other way. (Lane)

The First Persian Gulf War, January-March 1991

                      The victory was spectacular in its swiftness but was not decisive. Many of the best Iraqi units escaped and were relatively untouched when a cease-fire was declared. The Americans decided not to march on to Baghdad and remove Saddam. (Lane) The Americans believed the Iraqi people would do that. They did not. An uprising in the Basra region was attempted, and ordinary Iraqis paid a terrible price for trying. Comparatively speaking, casualties for the Allies were light, as the public could watch incredible images of smart bombs hitting their targets. It almost looked like a video game. Maybe this was the future of war: “cool” images with little or no casualties.

                     Domestically, Bush discovered that his inherited federal budget deficits were becoming untenable. He reached a five-year budget agreement with the Democrats that included tax increases. He had to renounce his “no new taxes’ campaign pledge to reach an agreement.  The Budget deal, combined with slow economic growth in 1991 and early 1992, finished Bush politically. H.W. Bush lost to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (in a three-way race with Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.) after having an 89 % approval rating at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. His primary domestic achievement was the passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in 1990.

President George H.W. Bush signing the American with Disabilities Bill in to law, 1990

                     The Democrats, desperate to win back the White House and Congress, chose another southern governor, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, as their candidate in 1992. Clinton was a “new Democrat,” supported by the Democratic Leadership Council, which would showcase the Democrat’s new moderation. The new Democrats would be “tough on crime,” advocate welfare reform, be “fiscally responsible,” and “carry a big stick” on foreign policy issues. The election of Clinton validated the policies of Nixon, especially Reagan, and indicated to the Republicans that they had been right. The same thing happened in Britain in 1997, with the ascendancy of “New Labor” under Tony Blair as Prime Minister. The Tories knew there would be little effort to roll back Conservative policies. Like the American Democrats, Labor would show they were better managers than the Tories and the Republicans. Other than that, nothing of substance would change. As Clinton said, the days of “big government” were over.

President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair

                    Clinton got the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress in 1993 as the movement toward economic globalization continued. Congress also passed the “motor voter” registration act, making it easier to register to vote, the Brady gun-control act, and a family-leave law. For the first time since the Truman presidency, an attempt to expand and reform health care coverage was introduced. The forces that defeated Truman’s effort again mobilized quickly to crush the proposal. Clinton lowered his sights and policy ambitions for the rest of his presidency. This was especially true after the Republicans regained control of Congress in 1994. Virulence, anger, and hypocrisy characterized American politics for the next 25 years.

                         Clinton, and his wife, Hillary, would be under constant investigation and attack for the eight years of his presidency. (She would become a US Senator from New York, US Secretary of State, 2008 Presidential candidate, and the 2016 Democratic nominee for President.) They were accused of murdering a top aide to keep him quiet about alleged criminal activity in a land transaction: “Whitewater.” Clinton faced a special prosecutor in 1998 after easily being reelected in 1996 because of unspecified wrongdoings that eventually focused on an affair with a White House intern. That affair led to Clinton being impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate after a televised trial. Clinton’s approval ratings remained high, even in the face of the attacks. This was due mainly to growing general prosperity, his effective use of the media, and his “baby-boomer” celebrity status.

                       Trade was a significant focus of the Clinton administration in foreign policy, especially attempts to strengthen the World Trade Organization (WTO). Clinton met several times with Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin to shore up the fledgling Russian “democracy.” (Those efforts failed). Militarily, after the chaotic attempts of nation-building and peacekeeping in Somalia, Clinton would be hesitant to commit US ground forces anywhere. A 1994 invasion of Haiti was avoided at the last minute, as hectic negotiations allowed for the invasion to become a peacekeeping mission. In 1999, in the former Yugoslavia, in support of Kosovo’s independence, NATO mounted a bombing campaign over Serbia and Kosovo (including bombing Belgrade) that forced the Serbs to back down without sending in ground forces.

                   In the year 2000, the world survived Y2K and was on the cusp of a new age. The Third “Industrial Revolution” was underway. The “World Wide Web” made the world even smaller, while incredible wealth was being made for the few at the expense of the many. In the United States, 2000 was an election year. Vice-President Al Gore was running as the Democratic candidate to succeed Bill Clinton. The Republican candidate was Texas Governor George W. Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush. For a modern Republican, Bush ran a surprisingly moderate campaign, as did Vice-President Gore. There were no major foreign policy issues to debate as both candidates explained how the United States would continue to manage affairs as the world’s remaining “superpower.” Domestically, they seemingly argued over how best to work Reagan’s legacy, with a few “tweaks” around the edges. Bush promised to lower taxes and return the government surplus to the people built during the Clinton “boom” years; he also encouraged homeownership and expanded local “faith-based” charitable activity as an adjunct for and replacement of government aid. Gore wanted to continue encouraging four-year college enrollment as a means of social mobility while supporting the continued growth of the “tech” sector and bringing attention to the signs of environmental damage. Again, it was a relatively moderate plan for a political party seen popularly as full of dangerous liberals, socialists, and radicals.

                  Bush won in one of the closest elections in American History. The election was not decided on election night, as ballot problems in Florida delayed counting ballots. The fight over ballot counts and recounts (“hanging chads”) went into December. Inevitably the fight ended up in the Courts.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ended the Florida recount. Gore reluctantly and gracefully conceded defeat, even though he had won the popular vote by over 500,000. There were no calls of “fraud” and no storming of the Capitol building. George W. Bush was sworn in as President on January 20, 2001. 

               Gore lost in 2000 because the historic political alignment that began in 1964 was complete. Gore did not carry his home state of Tennessee or Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. During the campaign, Gore kept Clinton at a distance, a grave mistake. However, it probably would have made little difference. The non-stop, incessant echo chamber “dog-whistle” racism of the previous 36 years had taken its effect. It was time to end the “hand-outs,” the “preferential treatment,” the “special favors,” the “reverse discrimination,” and the “coddling of criminals.” These attitudes were (and are) nothing new. In an opinion in a Supreme Court ruling on cases involving Civil Rights Laws in 1883 written by Justice Joseph P. Bradley, the “court majority found the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (was) beyond Congress’s powers under the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments.” (Schmidt, Jr. 461: 1982) Congress could not regulate private discrimination. In a statement that echoes down to our own time, Bradley, near the end of his opinion, wrote:” When a man has emerged from slavery…. there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the particular favorite of the laws.” (Schmidt, Jr. 462:1982- also from Lane) It is doubtful whether many African Americans considered themselves “particular favorites of the laws.”


                As President, George W. Bush pushed ahead with his tax cuts, which Congress passed in 2001. He advocated for more deregulation to “stimulate” economic growth and for more education reform and restructuring. His entire presidency changed on the morning of September 11, 2001. The country and world would never be the same. 


                            With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “rollback” of Communism, the United States no longer had an enemy upon whom their entire foreign policy was based. In the 1990s, going into the 21st century, American foreign policy focused on spreading free trade, open markets, and “Jeffersonian” democracy. The Americans did eventually find a new enemy: “Global” Terrorism. Terrorist attacks steadily increased from the mid-80s, leading to the ultimate attack: September 11, 2001.   On September 11, 2001, four hijacked aircraft were used to attack the United States. Two crashed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City.

Another crashed into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers resisted and fought the hijackers. The loss of life was the heaviest the United States had suffered since Pearl Harbor. The attack was planned and carried out by the Jihadist terrorist group, Al Qaeda, led by the Saudi Arabian terrorist Osama Bin Liden. The United States responded by allying with anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and intervening. The Taliban “government” in Afghanistan was overthrown, and Al Qaeda was crippled. Most of the Taliban leadership escaped to Pakistan; its military and intelligence service had helped create them. Bin Laden escaped and became virtually powerless to control Al Qaeda while hiding in Pakistan. 


                           The United States and Britain invaded Iraq in March 2003 (while the fighting in Afghanistan continued) to remove Saddam Hussein from power and destroy his “weapons of mass destruction” (which no longer existed). Crushing the depleted Iraqi Army took a matter of weeks. However, the invasion force was not big enough to secure the country, and no plans were made as to what to do with Iraq after it was conquered. As in Afghanistan, a government was created, and as in Afghanistan, guerrilla war and insurgency began, killing Allied troops in ambush after ambush. Surges went into an area, cleared it, left, and inevitably. Allied forces would have to return to repeat the process.

Marines crossing a bridge in Southern Iraq, under fire, March 2003

                          By 2008, the United States was in two unwinnable wars. The traditional, historical American definition of victory in war: total annihilation and defeat of the enemy could not be achieved. It is tough to defeat a “tactic.” Terrorism is a tactic; it is not a strategy. To paraphrase, Max Boot describes: Terror is the tactic the weak use against the strong (to carry out a strategy, in this case, to strike at the United States and the West). The overall campaign after 9/11 was called the “Global War on Terror.” American forces were deployed in direct combat or advisory roles in Asia, Africa, and South America, fighting or helping to fight groups identified as terrorists. The “terrorists” knew what a new generation of American “leaders” failed to learn from Vietnam. It is tough to convince free citizens in democracies/democratic republics to commit to an “open-ended” military campaign with vague goals, which entails the loss of blood and treasure indefinitely, no matter how good you think your” counter-insurgency strategy and tactics” are. In addition, the Americans did not draft soldiers. Consequently, only around one percent of the American population fought the “Global War on Terror”; the rest went on with their lives.

                                       2008 was an election year. Not only was the country reeling from the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, with no end in sight, but the economy, especially the housing market, was in “freefall” as well. 


                                    In the first year of the FDR administration, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act (1933). The law divided the banking industry. Commercial banks would be for mortgages, other loans, checking and savings accounts, etc. In other words, everyday banking. Investment banks would be for investments, stocks, bonds, securities, etc.  The law was designed to separate investments, which were riskier, from regular banking. It made banking “boring,” which is a good thing for most people.  At least until 1999. In another case of a peculiarly American phenomenon called “history does not apply to us,” Glass-Steagall was overturned. The barrier between commercial and investment banking was removed. The result was a “wild west” of financing. Anyone with financial assets or access to “hedge-fund” cash rushed to acquire the “easy money.” Exciting “new products” were developed out of old concepts (derivatives) that most of the executives running the banks could not explain. Banks and investment houses that should have known better got involved. There was simply too much money to be made, especially in financing mortgages. Anybody could get a mortgage: no assets, no employment, no problem. An adjustable-rate mortgage will solve the problem. We are an “ownership society,” and you need to be an “owner.” The poor, especially in the inner cities, were pulled into situations that destroyed their lives. Were they forced to sign the papers: No. However, the documents should never have been offered in the first place. The process used to be called professionalism, honesty, and morality. What was the result? “…in August and September 2008, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury mounted the greatest economic rescue effort in world history. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed corporations that underwrote a majority of America’s home mortgages, were effectively nationalized. Most of the great investment bankson Wall Street, including Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch, victims of bad gambles on home-mortgage debt, either vanished or were absorbed by or converted into large commercial banks. In a desperate effort to stop the contagion of bad debt and avert a credit freeze that could cause a new depression, the US government promised a bailout of the financial sector of more than a trillion dollars.” (Lind 446) To repeat, the means to have prevented this was repealed in 1999, 8 years earlier.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke: Fall 2008: Barely averting disaster


                      As all this occurred, a first-term senator from Illinois with a funny-sounding name was considering a presidential run. Barack Obama, of mixed Black-White ancestry, would have to defeat doubters in his party, an opposition with a media apparatus that could destroy his candidacy, as well as history. Would he be able to convince the country to do what many still considered to be unthinkable? 

Works Cited


Andersen, Kurt. Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America- A Recent History. New York: Random House, 2020.

Gellman, Barton, “January 6 Was Practice.” The Atlantic, January/February 2022.

Lane, John M. “Freedom Deferred: Frederick Douglass and The End of Reconstruction, 1865-1895”, 2022.

Lane, John M. “Geography, Culture, Technology and Conflict Through the Ages, Part III.” 2021.

Lane, John M. “Geography, Culture, Technology and Conflict Through the Ages, Part IV.” 2021.

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

McGee, Heather. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. New York: One World, 2021.

Schmidt, Jr. Benno C, “Principle and Prejudice: The Supreme Court and Race in The Progressive Era. Part I: Heyday of Jim Crow” Columbia Law Review Vol. 82, No. 3 (April 1982), pp.444-524. JSTOR 18 September 2009.

The “Post-War,” : 1945-2022 Part IV

The “Post-War,” 1945-2022

Part IV


John M. Lane

“The Triumph of The West” ?- The Cold War Ends

“First and foremost, it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Vladimir Putin, 2005

                                           The last gasp of the Soviet empire was in the 1980s. From the beginning, Marxist-Leninist Communism was a patchwork of incompatible contradictions built on a foundation of bluff, bluster, and lies. The Soviets could never create the kind of society they promised, and millions died. Soviet investment went to building nuclear weapons and beating the Americans in the space race (they lost). By the late 1970s, going into the 80s, inadequate housing, the lack of consumer goods, and food shortages were the norm. Alcoholism was rampant; public health was almost nonexistent; the population declined: death rates exceeded birth rates. Environmental damage was widespread, dwarfing that even of the West. On April 26, 1986, the nuclear power plant at Chornobyl in Ukraine exploded. The immediate death toll was thirty-two. The fallout drifted into Europe, and the population in parts of Ukraine and Belarus had to be evacuated.

                             The three previous leaders of the USSR before Gorbachev had been born before 1917(the year of the revolution): Leonid Brezhnev (died 1981), Yuri Andropov (died 1984), and Konstantin Chernenko (died 1985). The fact that they were in leadership positions was a clear symptom of a decrepit regime. By 1985, the “wheels” were coming off the wagon, and the end would be presided over by Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev introduced concepts like “Perestroika” (restructuring) and “Glasnost” (openness) to stop the decay. By 1988, he cut USSR defense spending and promised to withdraw large numbers of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. A year later, the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan.

President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev

                             The efforts were too little, too late. Going into the 1990s, the Soviet economy collapsed. Prices increased, and cash flooded the marketplace. Organized crime proliferated into all aspects of Russian life. In foreign policy, both the USSR and China remained silent in the United Nations as the western allies defeated the Iraqi armed forces in the deserts of Kuwait and southern Iraq in the winter of 1991. In July 1991, the US and USSR signed a START treaty that committed each side to cut their nuclear arsenals by thirty percent. In August 1991, the Soviet republics began declaring their independence from the government in Moscow, as Boris Yeltsin was able to prevent a coup that would have overthrown Gorbachev. On August 29, the Supreme Soviet abolished the Communist Party.                           

                                     Even as the deterioration of the Soviet Union could be seen by anyone who cared to look closely, the West, especially the Americans, continued to portray the Soviets as 10 feet tall “supermen” out to rule the world. The Eastern Empire collapsed beginning with the “fall” of the Berlin Wall in 1989(which caught Western intelligence agencies entirely by surprise). On December 21, 1991, a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed (it would evolve into the current Russian Federation. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day, 1991. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. Boris Yeltsin became President of the Russian Federation in June 1992. It was the first actual general election in Russian history. In St. Petersburg (it was no longer Leningrad), former KGB officer Vladimir Putin began a promising new career as a city official. He soon caught the attention of Yeltsin and other officials in Moscow. Russia was humiliated and watched as NATO expanded eastward into what they considered their “sphere of influence. The great Czarist/Soviet empire was gone, as Democracy never took hold in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a news conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow March 4, 2014. Putin said on Tuesday Russia reserved the right to use all options in Ukraine to protect compatriots living in “terror” but that Moscow would use force only as a last resort. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskiy/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA – Tags: CIVIL UNREST MILITARY POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WAS PROVIDED SEPARATELY


                                After the cease-fire on the Korean peninsula, The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began efforts to industrialize and modernize China. Aid and technical support arrived from the USSR as five-year plans for development along the Soviet model (1957) were introduced. The “reform” of agriculture began in earnest in 1954 with the first steps toward collectivization. In 1958, the “Great Leap Forward” was started. The idea was to catch up to the West in industrial production. Communal life was “encouraged.” By the end of 1959, over 25,000 communes became home to most of the rural population of China. Small factories were established and staffed by people who used to be farmers. The results could have been predicted: family life was shattered, and even more importantly, between 15 and 20 million people died from starvation. The “Great Leap” was a complete disaster.

                               The government of Tibet, led by the Dalai Lama, was dissolved by the Chinese in 1959. The Dalai Lama fled to India as Beijing tightened its grip on the country. The myth of “monolithic world communism” was a myth. In August 1960, the Soviets withdrew all of their personnel from China.  China and India fought a month-long border war in 1962. The Chinese bitterly chastised the Soviets for having supplied weaponry to India, some of which had been used in the war. (Throughout most Cold War, the Chinese (and the Americans) would support and arm Pakistan, while the Soviets did the same for India.)

                            The next of Mao’s grand ideas took place between 1965 and 1968. The “Cultural Revolution” was designed to increase the revolutionary fervor of the Chinese people. Leaders and officials who were not seen as sufficiently fervent in their dedication to the revolution were identified and punished.  Purges of top leadership occurred; some were publicly humiliated, others were imprisoned and abused, and many “disappeared”; the lucky ones got out of China just in time. Chinese universities were almost destroyed because of the “Red Guards” desire to eliminate “bourgeois influences. The Soviet-Chinese dispute spilled over into open battle in 1969, as Red Army and PLA troops fought each other along the Ussuri River. During a brief meeting, Chou En-Lai and Soviet Premier Kosygin tried to smooth matters over.  Chou En-Lai died in January 1976; Mao died in September. China’s door was now open to change how it interacted with the world. 

                              China’s population went over one billion people in 1982. The one-child-per-family policy went into effect. The policy of communal living was ended.  Throughout the 1980s, tourism increased as well as foreign “investment” in China. They were “encouraged” to enter joint ventures with Chinese companies, which allowed them to build factories in China. In exchange for “cheap labor,” most western companies willingly turned over technological and procedural knowledge to their Chinese counterparts. It was during this time that the powerhouse that became known as “Japan Inc.” dominated the electronics industry and revolutionized auto manufacturing and other “durable (steel) goods manufacturing. (South Korean industry was just beginning its ascendancy).  

Deng Xiaoping at a rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army. 1977. (Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

                           There was a gradual loosening of tight controls over freedom of expression during the 1980s in China. Was democracy possible? The answer was no. In April 1989, demonstrations began in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  On May 4, over 100,000 students gathered for peaceful protests. A replica of the “Goddess of Liberty” appeared in the square by late May. Martial law had declared on May 20, and on the night of June 3-4, 1989, PLA troops and tanks moved into the square to drive the protestors out. The death toll will never be officially known; most experts believe it was in the thousands. The US government criticized the Chinese for their repressive tactics. That was as far as the Americans were prepared to go. In May 1989, President George H.W. Bush extended the “most favored nation” trade status to the Chinese for another year. “Human rights” was no longer a top American priority. This practice continued into the 90s when in 1993, Bill Clinton made the same extension. The Americans tried to fight back against the Chinese. However, it was already too late. Tariffs were placed on Chinese imports to stop the Chinese from making and selling counterfeit goods and stealing intellectual property.  With little effect. 

                       In April 1997, for the first time since 1842, Chinese troops took up positions in Hong Kong. The British turned over control of Hong Kong to the Chinese government on July 1, 1997. As the 21st century dawned, China’s power and influence grew. The return of the “Middle Kingdom” was at hand.   

China’s first domestically built Aircraft Carrier

“The Middle East is just a blip. The American military contest with China in the Pacific will define the 21st century. And China will be a more formidable adversary than Russia ever was.” 

Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, June 2005

Works Cited


Andersen, Kurt. Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America- A Recent History. New York: Random House, 2020.

Gellman, Barton, “January 6 Was Practice.” The Atlantic, January/February 2022.

Kaplan, Robert D. “How We Would Fight China.” The Atlantic, June 2005.

Lane, John M. “Freedom Deferred: Frederick Douglass and The End of Reconstruction, 1865-1895”, 2022.

Lane, John M. “Geography, Culture, Technology and Conflict Through the Ages, Part III.” 2021.

Lane, John M. “Geography, Culture, Technology and Conflict Through the Ages, Part IV.” 2021.

McGee, Heather. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. New York: One World, 2021.

Schmidt, Jr. Benno C, “Principle and Prejudice: The Supreme Court and Race in The Progressive Era. Part I: Heyday of Jim Crow” Columbia Law Review Vol. 82, No. 3 (April 1982), pp.444-524. JSTOR 18 September 2009.

Next: Part V: The United States, 1981-2021 “The Forty Greed is Good” Years

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.

National Archives

Next: Part III, “The Cold War”

In The Balance

In The Balance


John M. Lane

                          “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this, I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.” 
 Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Letters

Photo by Gu Bra on

                Events in the United States over the next thirty months will go a long way in determining the future of democracy in this country and freedom-loving countries worldwide. As said previously, the forces of authoritarianism are on the march. The ability of the forces of evil and tyranny to recruit and radicalize racial and religious zealots has reached the point where acts of terrorism can be carried out similarly worldwide because of the internet. Politically, the United States in particular, and democracy in general, faces an existential threat. Some political parties and countries have eagerly embraced the new “fascism” of the 21stcentury. The future of the three great “western democracies” literally lies in the balance. It is in the realm of possibility that Britain, France, and the United States, could, by 2028, be ruled as authoritarian one-party states in “illiberal” democracies/dictatorships, complete with phony elections and sham legislatures, and faux legal structures. Large portions of the populations in all three countries appear to want that outcome.

                               French authoritarian Presidential candidate Marine LePen announced that she would pull France out of the NATO command structure.  LePen lost the election to President Macron. However, as stated in earlier writing, her vote total increased from 31% five years ago to 41% in the recent election. Similar rumblings about NATO were heard in the United States between 2017 and 2020. Britain has already exited the European Union. If democracy collapses in France, Britain, and the United States, how long will it last in Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and Italy…?

                                       That list is long. The awful possibility is there. European and American fascists/authoritarians are especially enamored with Russia because, at their core, they are racists. Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia no longer exemplify “western civilization.” They are now seen as decadent mongrels, poisoned by “yellow, brown, and black” immigration and homosexuality. Russia is seen as the last bastion of “pure white” civilization and manly virtues; the sooner the other “white” nations join with Russia, the better. European and American fascists/authoritarians see China as the implacable foe of the West for obvious reasons. (Apparently, the current Russia-China détente can be overlooked.) Pictures of western leaders/celebrities shaking hands with the Russian leader are clear signs of progress and stability. Images of western leaders/celebrities (mainly American Presidents) shaking hands with Chinese leaders are clear signs of “weakness.”

Photo by Gotta Be Worth It on

                                     The possibilities of the “American Experiment” are endless. It is finally time to realize those possibilities. The rule of law and the rule by law, free and fair elections, equal opportunity, and the expanded right to vote need to be defended, not disparaged. These are things that many Americans are now sadly turning their backs on. These Americans believe that trust in the ability of a “Great Leader” is all that is needed. The enemies of the United States, foreign and domestic, are counting on class, gender, and especially racial divisions to continue. (Unfortunately, it appears this situation is not going to change. The sad, shameful, yet not surprising massacre in Buffalo, New York, is confirmation. (The forces of chaos unleashed on the Internet, and the media are determined to ensure that it does not). The 21st-century fascists/authoritarians intend to destroy the United States and its institutions. In the 1940s, the United States and its Allies defeated the fascist/authoritarian attempt to create empires and destabilize the world. However, this time, the fascist/authoritarians are better prepared and organized; they live among us and will use available technology and the institutions of democracy to their advantage.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, FDR Memorial, Washington D.C.

                                Everything hangs in the balance…

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” 
 Abraham Lincoln

War,Peace, Authoritarianism, and Democracy

War, Peace, Authoritarianism, and Democracy


John M. Lane

                                             Democracy is the most fragile form of government that humans have devised to rule themselves. Various forms of dictatorships, monarchies, absolutist rule, and theocracies, have for most of the time that humans have lived in what we call “civilization” (give or take 7,000 years), have been how humans ruled and governed themselves. It was simple to implement. Those with the most weapons and largest armies won. The populations depended upon them for protection, order, and leadership. The victorious warlord established an elite resource/landowning class accountable to the ruler/warlord and installed it in power. The “power elite” installed a priestly class to legitimize the new order. Everyone knew their place in what would be called society.

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                                           The significant deviation from this order was Ancient Athens, where the first direct democracy exercised authority with minimal participation from only the elite male population of the city. Millennium later, the ideas of the Enlightenment brought forth the concept of rule through the consent of the governed: Democracy or the Democratic Republic. The original manifestation of this idea was the creation of the United States, the first democratic republic with a written constitution. Although far from perfect (the list is long, beginning with the “three-fifths” clause created to count enslaved persons for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives), the document did establish fundamental rights for citizens that have expanded (often grudgingly) over the past two hundred plus years. 

                                          The United States Constitution has been repeatedly copied and imitated over two centuries. Even the vilest, repressive regimes in history have felt the need to create a document that at least reads like the United States Constitution. Around the world, most people are aware of the document’s contents, except, sadly, Americans themselves. Many of whom do not have an accurate idea of what the document says (Political Science/Civics/ Government instruction is currently not in vogue) and attribute it to its “rights” that are not mentioned in any part of the document. Americans do not have the “constitutional right” to practice the “personal liberty” of not stopping at stop signs or driving through lights at intersections. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on


                                       “Classical liberalism” reached the point of becoming a viable political philosophy by the 1840s. Classical liberalism, at its core, promotes the rule of law, rule by law, free and fair elections, representative democracy, capitalism, free trade, and equality of opportunity. By the beginning of the 20thcentury, Classical liberalism had split into two camps: The Tories (Conservatives) believed that the role of government should be “limited” and that lightly or unregulated capitalism and opportunity were the best ways to improve life for most people over the long run. The Social Democrats (liberals/progressives in the United States) felt that the government was obligated to intervene to “level the playing field” to ensure that markets and capitalism worked for all populations through regulation, fair taxation, and worker representation. The struggle between Conservatives and Social Democrats over how to define classical liberalism and implement it has continued into the 21st century. In the past, politics in a democracy/democratic republic meant that neither side got everything it wanted. This situation used to be called “compromise,” which is now a “dirty” word, a sign of “weakness,” and a failure to stand up for “core values.” Because of the refusal to compromise, actual governance in the United States has ground to a screeching halt. Nothing of any substance is accomplished or agreed to. Today, what is substituted for governing management is who can “score the most points” over the latest incarnation of the “culture war.” Meanwhile, for example, the country is burning and melting under our feet, while close to one million people died because a public health crisis was turned into an “us” vs. “them” political battle.

Photo by Werner Pfennig on

                                Historically, the political extremes have been waiting to take advantage of the situation under the circumstances described above. When compromise fails in democratic republics/democracies, either the Communist Far Left or the Fascist Far Right were ready to offer easy solutions to society’s problems. The Communist Far Left will promise that state control of all the means of production will solve everything, while the Fascist Far-Right blames “those other kinds of people” for stealing your jobs, taking your money, and ruining the country. Today, four countries can be called “Communist”: North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and China. North Korea and Cuba are “basket cases.” Vietnam is a threat to no one and seeks better relations with the United States. China is positioning itself to challenge the United States to control the “Commanding Heights” of the world economy in the 21st century.


                                   The main threat to the democratic republic/democracy in the 21st century comes from the Authoritarian Right. They offer the comforting notion that it is possible to return to the world of 1950; when the “right kinds of people” were in charge politically, economically, and culturally, no matter what your situation was, you knew you were superior to “those other kinds of people.” In the United States, that guaranteed “superiority” meant that you would be willing to accept higher costs in education and housing, a lesser quality of health care, public transportation, and infrastructure to ensure that “the other” did not benefit from your “hard-earned tax dollars.” To gain and retain power, the Authoritarian Right will build on resentment to stoke anger and frustration in the “working class” against “the other.”

                              What does the war in Ukraine have to do with any of the above? It has everything to do with it. If the Democracies do not stand with Ukraine to fight against the savage, authoritarian attack on that country, the aggression will continue. It appears that Western democracies have decided that they will make that stand. Their battle will be both internal and external. In the recent French presidential elections, the authoritarian candidate received only 41% of the vote. However, that is ten points higher than that candidate received five years ago. Five years from now, it could be even closer.

                                     In Britain and the United States, authoritarians are making gains at every level of government, confident that soon they will gain power, permanently, they hope. Externally, authoritarians worldwide are connected and coordinated. They use the same “playbook,” media outlets and technology, conferences, and propaganda techniques to undermine democratic institutions, the rule of law and spread division. (In the West, they are protected by the same freedoms and constitution they seek to undermine and destroy.)  Democracies must fight back with an equally vigorous effort on all fronts. From time to time, “carrying a big stick” works: At the height of the Cold War, in the 1960s/1970s, the United States had 300,000 troops stationed in Western Europe (while fighting in Vietnam). The Warsaw Pact/USSR never seriously considered a westward attack.  That number is not going to be placed there today. Right now, there are around 65,000.

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                                   Authoritarians must be made aware that further aggression, both military or otherwise, will be met with determined political, economic, and, if necessary, military resistance.

Freedom Deferred

Freedom Deferred:

Frederick Douglass and the End of Reconstruction 



                        April 1865 saw the end of what was, and remains, the bloodiest war in American History. Over six hundred thousand Americans were dead, and more hundreds of thousands had been wounded. The rebellious South had been devastated: politically, economically, and socially. Physically, large areas of the region had razed to the ground in what became the first modern, industrialized, total war. Finally, four million black slaves were now legally free. They were jobless and landless, with no obvious economic opportunities on the horizon. The “freemen” lived among a hostile, bitter population that was still in shock regarding the outcome of the war. In the North, many in the abolitionist community felt that their work had been done. Most believed the victorious Union would ensure Black rights and liberties, and all would be well.

US Army soldiers – Virginia, 1864

                        Frederick Douglass would “emerge as black America’s premier spokesman, welcomed at the White House, his speeches widely reprinted in the Northern press, his own life, he believed, exemplifying how America might move beyond racism to a society founded on universal human rights. Throughout the war, Douglass insisted that the logical and essential corollaries of emancipation were the end of all color discrimination of black men – the ‘full and complete adoption’ of blacks into the great national family of America” (E. Foner 866).  

                          Although Frederick Douglass was optimistic, he expressed a prophetic view of the fate that awaited Blacks, not just in the South, but in the North as well, if vigilance and effort were not maintained. At an Anti-Slavery society meeting in May 1865, he opposed William Lloyd Garrison’s call for disbanding the organization. “I hold that the work of abolitionists is not done. Even if every state in the Union ratified that Amendment, while the black man is confronted in the legislation of the South by the word ‘white,’ our work as Abolitionists, as I conceive it, is not done. I took the ground, last night, that the South, by unfriendly legislation, could make our liberty, under that provision, delusion, a mockery, and a snare, and I hold that ground now” (Foner 578). As we shall see, Douglass was right to be concerned.

                       In this paper, we will examine the “Redemption” of the South following the withering away of Reconstruction and the reaction of Frederick Douglass, as it becomes apparent to him that his life’s work may have ultimately been in vain. We will then look at Douglass’ reaction as Blacks in the South are slowly re-enslaved in a new form of bondage. We will conclude with a brief examination of the triumph of “Jim Crow” and a look at the hopes and fears of Frederick Douglass, as his long life came to an end. 


                       For Blacks in the United States, the end of the Civil War brought about a combined sense of euphoria and hope. “Among northern blacks the war inspired hopes for a broad expansion of their rights within American society. The small northern black political leadership of ministers, professionals, fugitive slaves, and members of abolitionist societies had long searched for a means of improving the condition of blacks in the Free states and striking a blow against the peculiar institution. In the antebellum decades, a majority (including Frederick Douglass) had embraced what Vincent Harding calls the ‘Great Tradition’ – an affirmation of Americanism that insisted that blacks formed an integral part of the nation and were entitled to the same rights and opportunities white citizens enjoyed” (E. Foner 866).

                         At times it appeared that Douglass fully expected this to happen. He “concluded in 1865 that the persistent question ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ had only one answer: ‘Do nothing…Give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!’ Douglass realized that the other face of benevolence is often paternalism and that a society resting, if only rhetorically, on the principle of equality, ‘special efforts’ on the freedmen’s behalf might serve to keep up the very prejudices, which it is so desirable to banish” (E. Foner 881). Like a lot of Blacks, north and south, Douglass believed that the Union victory in the Civil War and the subsequent end of slavery could end racism in the United States. “Douglass looked forward to a day when American society would be as color-blind as its post-bellum constitution. The closer America got to this ideal, the less need there would be for blacks to concern themselves with the fate of their own race, to form associations for racial advancement, and to talk of racial loyalty” (Goldstein 469-470).

In keeping with his push for a color-blind society, Douglass stated, in 1866, that racial assimilation of blacks was the best course for the future of the United States: “My strongest conviction as to the future of the Negro therefore is, that he will not be expatriated nor annihilated, nor will he forever remain a separate and distinct race from the people around him, but that he will be absorbed, assimilated, and will only appear finally, as the Phoenicians now appear on the shores of the Shannon, in the features of a blended race” (Foner 591).

                         For a brief time, it appeared that the United States would make every effort to ensure equal rights for blacks. George Frederickson believes that “the enfranchisement of southern blacks by the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 inaugurated what may have been the most radical experiment in political democracy attempted anywhere in the nineteenth century” (182). In addition, in the first months and years of Reconstruction, Blacks boldly asserted themselves in ways that have been unthinkable under slavery, they “held mass meetings unrestrained by white surveillance; they acquired dogs, guns, and liquor (all forbidden them under slavery); and they refused to yield the sidewalk to whites. Blacks dressed as they pleased and left plantations when they desired” (E. Foner 870).  In a move for further autonomy, they also demanded the right to set the terms of conditions for their employment (E. Foner 870-871). Boiling beneath the surface, however, was a rage that was about to explode.

                      The shock of the Confederate defeat in 1865 cannot be overstated. An entire way life, going back over two hundred years, had ended. Millions of slaves, the backbone of the Southern economy, were now free and, at least on paper, equal to their former masters. Suddenly, access to education, public accommodation and services, public transportation, and just about every aspect of life would be open and available to everyone. A social system that took for granted the concept of supremacy now faced the specter of dealing with their former slaves as social equals. For centuries, even the poorest and most downtrodden whites could be secure in their knowledge that they were seen as racially and socially superior to blacks. Now those same whites faced the real possibility in rural areas of competition for land and resources and in urban areas, competition for jobs and housing. As for the middle- and upper-classes, the reliability of a cheap work force was in jeopardy. The majority population faced what they saw as a terrifying future of blacks no longer willing to be deferential and submissive to their former masters.

                     The reaction to the perceived threat of blacks to the Southern way of life was swift and often violent. “The pervasiveness of violence reflected the determination to define in their own way the meaning of freedom and their determined resistance to blacks’ efforts to establish their autonomy” (*E. Foner 120). At the University of North Carolina in 1865, a group of white students violently broke up a meeting held to select delegates to a state-wide black convention” (*E. Foner 120). A Freedmen’s Bureau agent observed that “Southern Whites are quite indignant if they were not treated with the same deference that they were accustomed to under slavery and behavior that departed from the etiquette of antebellum race relations frequently provoked violence” (*E. Foner 120).

                                  One of the main perpetrators of this violence was an organization founded near Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866 as a social club. “The Ku Klux Klan now spread into every Southern state, launching a reign of terror against Republican leaders, black and white” (*E. Foner 342). Those murdered in the initial 1866-1868 round of violence included several men who attended state constitutional conventions, three members of the South Carolina legislature, and an Arkansas congressman (*E. Foner 342). The immediate post-war southern state governments also enacted legal systems known as “Black Codes”. These laws denied blacks the right to vote, serve on juries, testify in against whites in court, buy or lease real estate, or refuse to sign yearly labor contracts” (Kousser 653). The Black Codes would be overturned when Congress established “radical reconstruction”. By 1885, however, legal restrictions against blacks would be re-established in even harsher forms.

                     Reconstruction would end in 1877, prematurely in the eyes of many historians. The process had gone through two phases. The first phase was presidential reconstruction, briefly under President Lincoln, but mainly under President Andrew Johnson, a Unionist Democrat from Tennessee, and a white supremacist. Johnson resisted working with Congressional Republicans, and in the 1866 mid-term elections, the Republicans won an overwhelming victory, which opened the way for the second phase, “radical” congressional reconstruction. This led to ten southern states being re-occupied by the US Army and “forced them to enfranchise black men and granted those states congressional representation only after they had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and rewritten their state constitutions to make them more liberal” (Kousser 654).

                                 After a near economic depression in 1873, it had become clear that the North and the Republican Party were tiring of the cost being paid to support blacks in the Southern reconstruction effort. After the 1876 election that put Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House under very questionable circumstances, Hayes ended the federal occupation of the South, and the fate of blacks was left to “redeemer governments” of Southern Democrats and ex-confederates. These governments were now free to proceed on the road that would lead to Plessy v. Ferguson. In their paths were the recently ratified Thirteenth (citizenship), Fourteenth (equal protection), and Fifteenth (right to vote) amendments to the US Constitution, as well as the federal Civil Rights Acts of 1870 and 1875. These laws provided remedies against state officials who violated citizens’ constitutional rights and required equal treatment of all in places of public accommodation (Tushnet 125). 

The Reaction of Douglass

            The optimism of the Civil War victory quickly passed. It appeared, as Douglass had anticipated, that Blacks would not be allowed to quickly assimilate into the American way of life. In a letter published in the National Standardon October 15, 1870, he notes the difficulty Blacks have using public resources and services in New York: “ Neither in London, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Rome, Vienna, nor Constantinople, could two decent persons with money in their pockets and willing to pay, be refused accommodation at any hotel on account of color…this inhuman treatment of men and women, for a color which they cannot alter to suit the taste of anybody, plainly enough tells the colored people, that no part of their number shall be respected as men or gentlemen if New York hotels can degrade them” (Foner 608) .  Frederick Douglass had expressed this belief in the humanity and dignity of black people his entire life. He never lost his anger and bewilderment as to why people could not be treated decently as people.

On the larger issue of maintaining rights of blacks in the United States, a fierce debate took place in Congress over proposed Civil Rights legislation in the first half of the decade of the 1870s. Constitutional amendments in and of themselves do not guarantee rights or that the amendments will be followed. The force of law must be in place to insure their enforcement. Incredibly, or not, the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing the right to vote, received ratification in 1870; however, it was only enforced when Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  Douglass and those who supported equal rights and protection under the law for blacks knew that unless strong legislation was passed, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments would never be enforced.  

                    In a December 1872 article in The New National Era, Douglass makes the case, as forcefully as ever, that real legislation is needed to enforce the Constitution: “We cannot be asking too much when we ask Congress to carry out the intention of this nation as expressed in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. We are not free. We cannot be free without the appropriate legislation provided for in the above amendments…The result intended to be reached by the nation has not been reached. Congress has neglected to do its full duty” (Foner 613). As we read this, we must keep in mind that this was December 1872. U.S. Grant had just been reelected President, the Republicans were in control of Congress and the height of the Reconstruction effort had yet to be reached. Douglass, however, understood the movement for full rights was in danger of spiraling out of control.

                Earlier in the December 1872 article, Douglass expressed why it was so important for Congress to support the amendments. Being an abolitionist and former slave, he begins at the root of the problem: “Freedom from the auction block and from legal claim as property is of no benefit to the colored man without the means of protecting his rights. The black man is not a free American citizen in the sense that the white man is a free American citizen; …he cannot send his children to the nearest public school…if after purchasing tickets for a first-class railway carriage, a colored person is hustled out into a smoking car, he or she has no redress at law because custom prevails which allows injustice in this respect to colored persons” (Foner 613). 

                  In the end, custom would prevail. During the antebellum era, blacks, free or slave, were excluded from American life. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, segregation from whites, by law and custom, would become the norm. In the United States, governments at every level moved to segregate blacks from whites. In the South this was done through “legal” means, in the rest of the country, it was done by a laissez-faire approach that let custom prevail.

The Triumph of “Jim Crow”

                  As the Nineteenth century entered its final two decades, the issue of race relations in the United States had reached a crucial crossroads. The attempt at giving the newly freed slaves the tools to succeed and the legal framework to protect their rights as Americans had essentially failed. Reconstruction had been poorly conceived and led. It had never been completely embraced at any level of government, and most Americans, North and South were glad to see it end in 1877. During Reconstruction and afterwards, attitudes toward blacks did not change. Racial supremacy was to be maintained and strengthened, and if racial exclusion was no longer possible, racial segregation would be implemented.

The End of Reconstruction

                                “Segregation first became a major political issue in the 1870s as many private railroads and streetcar companies, theaters, hotels, and restaurants excluded blacks altogether or set them apart in Jim Crow areas” (Schmidt, Jr. 461). The Civil Rights Act of 1875, so passionately argued for by Douglass, was supposed to give legislative backbone to the Fourteenth amendment and guarantee blacks their civil rights. In 1883 “The Supreme Court finally decided the dozens of cases dealing with the Act’s constitutionality” (Schmidt, Jr. 461). In an opinion written by Justice Joseph P. Bradley, the “court majority found the Civil Rights Act of 1875 beyond Congress’s powers under the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments” (Schmidt, Jr. 461). Private discrimination could not be regulated by Congress. In a statement that echoes down to our own era of conservative retrenchment and denial, Bradley, near the end of his opinion wrote: “when a man has emerged from slavery… there must be some stage in the process of his elevation when he takes the ranks of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws” (Schmidt, Jr. 462). Justice Bradley obviously thought that eighteen years was long enough to secure all the things needed by the former slaves and their descendants to enjoy full citizenship, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

       Despite the success of Redemption, white Americans, especially southerners, were not completely secure in their reestablished domination. “Before segregation laws and suffrage restrictions had apparently put southern blacks ‘in their place,’ anxieties about how to maintain total dominance over a group that persisted in asserting its claim to civil and political equality helped provoke an epidemic of lynching and pogrom-type “race riots” in the South. Even after the full array of discriminatory legislation was on the books, extra-legal violence, or the threat of it, continued to play an important role as a device for intimidating blacks and shoring up the color line” (Frederickson 251). 

              There has always been an unwritten social and economic “bargain” in the United States, from its beginning. This bargain is based on race and economic class. The social and economic myth of the United States is that everyone can rise as high as their aspirations and abilities can take them. The facts, however, do not bear this out. The United States has been dominated by oligarchic elite that rules every macroeconomic and political factor of American life, mainly to insure its own survival.

                 The “wild card” in this equation has always been race. Take away the presence of black Americans, and the United States would have a social and economic system today like that of any other western European country at the beginning of the 21st century. This, however, is not the case. Blacks have been woven into the American mosaic from the beginning.  Hence, the “bargain”, which goes something this: Most people in this country know they cannot break into the elite ranks, unless under the most extraordinary circumstances. The elite, however, guaranteed that the majority middle class, working class and rural poor, would dominate all economic benefits not already controlled by the elite, and that they would remain socially superior to all blacks. Non-elites, in many cases, would accept lower pay and living standards, especially in the South, to maintain the bargain.

                    According to Leon Litwack, black education grew to be the dominant fear of whites after the Civil War. “Speaking with ‘an intelligent businessman’ a visiting journalist was startled by the virulence of his reaction to an important black school in the vicinity. The school should be dynamited, he insisted, and the principal run out of the state. That he explained, would force blacks to understand that ignorance, hard work, and white domination constituted their permanent destiny” (Litwack 100). Education for blacks was useful only if it perpetuated the social and economic status quo (Litwack 102).  “No matter how fervently whites embraced beliefs in black inferiority, no matter what controls were placed on the quality and extent of black education, the fears and skepticism never really subsided. The principal concern remained readily apparent – the danger in teaching blacks until, in the words of one fearful educator, they had the same ‘instincts and drives’ as whites. That would be a certain invitation to trouble” (Litwack 103).

                                Ironically, blacks already had the same “instincts and drives” as whites. As Douglass had already noted, blacks had the same drive to succeed and thrive as whites, if only they would be left alone and allowed to do that as equal citizens. This was not to be the case. “Even if blacks managed to accumulate some savings and used the savings to purchase land, they needed to exert as much resourcefulness to retain the land as they had expended to acquire it. The fears of black success and independence that provoked much of the violence of Reconstruction proved equally devastating when blacks posed no political threat. The historical record is replete with examples of violence aimed at successful blacks, those suspected of having saved their earnings, those who had just made a crop, those determined to improve themselves” (*Litwack 324).

                    In the eyes of the majority population, it did not matter what blacks did, how they lived their lives, how patriotic they were; it just simply did not matter. “Faithful adherence to the work ethic brought most of them (blacks) nothing. No matter how hard they labored, no matter how much trust they put in the free labor ideology and in abstract notions of democracy and equality, no matter how fervently they prayed, the chances for making it were less than encouraging, the basic rules did not change” (*Litwack 323). This hopelessness was compounded by the real fear of death through a system of state-ignored domestic terrorism engaged in by individuals, small groups, mobs, and terrorist organizations.  

                         Lynching and terrorism were the ultimate expressions of the need and desire of whites to maintain domination and superiority. “According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), between the years of 1889 and 1900 (five years after Douglass’ death), 3,224 people fell victim to lynch mobs. Of these victims, 2,522 or 78% were black” (Soule 431). Blacks lived under the constant fear of threat, intimidation, and death because of the way they conducted themselves and lived their lives. “The terror visited on black homes and families impressed on all blacks their powerlessness and vulnerability” (*Litwack 320). This kind of domestic terrorism, ignored and thereby sanctioned by the state, had the result the of breaking the spirit of blacks. “The language and demeanor of blacks defined their ‘place’ in society, and white people were sensitive, especially after emancipation, to any deviation from expectations to any semblance of individuality. Early in their lives then, blacks came to appreciate the narrow boundaries of their world, the limited options, the need to learn the appropriate social usages, to carefully weigh every word, gesture, and movement” (*Litwack 320).

           In their detailed sociological study of lynching, Beck and Tolnay, give three major reasons for its emergence: “the political threat of a large black population, economic competition between southern white and black laborers/small farmers, and the maintenance of the caste boundary that assured whites superior social status, despite the often-minuscule difference between the economic well-being of blacks and whites” (526).

               As the 1880s concluded, most of the gains blacks made during the Civil War and Reconstruction had been crushed under a tidal wave of court decisions, domestic terrorism, political intrigue, and societal neglect. The means and parameters of their servitude had changed, but it remained servitude, nonetheless.


The Hopes and Fears of Douglass

Frederick Douglass

                         In the last five years of Frederick Douglass’ life, the triumph of conservative redemption neared its predictable, yet tragic, conclusion. Blacks had been terrorized into submission, stripped of their chance for real economic advancement, and denied the right to exercise what is fundamental in a democracy, the right to vote. “In Georgia, for example, the estimated black voter turnout in 1876 was 55%, a figure that dropped to less than 10% after 1900” (Soule 434). As we have seen, every other indicator of black freedom went in the same direction.

                After Reconstruction, Douglass would serve in the government as U.S. Marshal (1877-1881) and Recorder of Deeds (1881-1886) for the District of Columbia and as Consul-General in Haiti (1889-1891). Douglass served in the administrations of four presidents. During this service, he acknowledged what was happening to hope and desires for blacks and for America on a regular basis. During the brief Garfield administration, he attacked the reemergence of ex-confederates: “Under the disguise of meekly accepting the results and decisions of the war, the rebels had come back to Congress more with the pride of conquerors than with the repentant humility of defeated traitors” (Douglass 950-951).

                To the end of his life, Douglass remained a loyal Republican. He criticized his party for not being tough enough on the South; however, he always saw them as better than the alternative, the Democrats. “During the administration of Chester A. Arthur, also during that of Rutherford B. Hayes, the spirit of slavery and rebellion increased in power and advanced toward ascendency. At the same time, the spirit which abolished slavery and saved the Union steadily and proportionately declined, and with it the strength and unity of the Republican party also declined” (Douglass 963). Commenting on the election of Grover Cleveland, a Democrat: “Clinging in hope to the Republican Party, thinking it would cease its backsliding and resume its old character as the party of progress, justice, and freedom, I regretted its defeat and shared in some measure the painful apprehension and distress felt by my people at the South from the return to power of the old Democratic and slavery party” (Douglass 962).

                In retrospect, the 1883 Supreme Court decision declaring the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional was the death knell for any hope blacks had to achieve equal citizenship. An astute observer like Douglass knew this was the case. His reaction to the decision was uncompromising: “The Supreme Court of the United States, in the exercise of its high and vast constitutional power, has suddenly and unexpectedly decided that the law intended to secure to colored people the civil rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States, is unconstitutional and void” (Douglass 969-970).

                Douglass than moved to the heart of the matter: “We cannot, however, overlook the fact that though not so intended, this decision has inflicted a heavy calamity upon seven million of the people of this country, and left them naked and defenseless against the action of a malignant, vulgar, and pitiless prejudice” (Foner 688).  

               As for domestic terrorism, Douglass directly attacked the entire premise of lynching: “Its presence is either evidence of governmental depravity, or of a demoralized state of society. It is generally in the hands of the worst class of men in the community and is enacted under the most degrading and blinding influences” (Douglass 2). In 1886, Douglass discussed one of the worse massacres in American History and one of the least remembered : “Only a few weeks ago, at Carrolton Court-House, Mississippi, in absence of all political excitement, while the Government of the nation, as well as the government of the Southern States, was safely in the hands of the Democratic party; when, there was no pending election, no pretence of a fear of possible Negro supremacy, one hundred white citizens, on horseback, armed to the teeth, deliberately assembled and in cold blood opened a deadly fire upon a party of peaceable, unarmed colored men, killing eleven of them on the spot, and mortally wounding nine others, most of whom have since died. The sad thing is that, in the average American mind, horrors of this character have become so frequent since the slaveholding rebellion that they excite neither shame nor surprise; neither pity for the slain, nor indignation for the slayers…Neither governors, presidents, nor statesmen, have yet declared that these barbarities shall be stopped. On the contrary, they all confess themselves powerless to protect our class; and thus, you and I and all of us are struck down, and bloody treason flourishes over us” (Foner 698). 

            Frederick Douglass passed away on February 20, 1895. He thought he was born in 1817 or 18; however, he was never sure. At birth, Douglass was not considered to be a real human being, so no records exist of his birth. Celebrated at his death, both he and his legacy would pass into oblivion until the sixth decade of the twentieth century. His journey into oblivion mirrored that of his black brethren. In 1896, the Supreme Court, in the case of Plessey v. Ferguson, confirmed segregation, the concept of separate but equal and it made blacks second-class citizens by law. “When President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 1906 ‘that as a race and in the mass they (Negroes) are altogether inferior to the whites,’ he articulated the belief of most Americans, a belief that was being acted out not only in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, but in Latin America and Asia” (*Litwack 333).


                            The rise out of oblivion would be a long, sad, painful journey. In the 21st century, much progress has indeed, been made toward the goal of achieving Douglass’s ultimate hope and dream that African Americans would be seen as a “Real Americans”. The struggle has always been through peaks and valleys. In the third decade of the 21stcentury, the valley has reappeared.    

Works Cited

Beck, E.M. and Stewart E. Tolney, “The Killing Fields of The Deep South: The Market

     For Cotton and the Lynching of Blacks, 1882-1930” American Sociological Review,

     Vol. 55, No. 4 (Aug., 1990), pp.526-539. JSTOR 29 October 2009.  .

Douglass, Frederick, “Lynch Law in the South” The North American Review Vol. 155, 

     No. 428 (Jul., 1892), pp 17-24. JSTOR 6 October 2009. . 

_______________ . Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New York, 1893

_______________, “Give Us the Freedom Intended for Us.” Frederick Douglass:

    Selected Speeches and Writings edited by Philip S. Foner. Chicago: Lawrence Hill,

    1999. pp. 612-614.

______________, “Southern Barbarism”: speech on the occasion of the Twenty-Fourth

    Anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., in P.S.  

    Foner, pp. 696-705.

_______________, “The Need for Continuing Anti-Slavery Work”: speech at Thirty

      Second Annual Meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, in P. S. Foner,

      pp. 577-580.

_______________, “The Future of The Colored Race” The North American Review, in

     P.S. Foner, pp. 590-592.

_______________,”To A.M. Powell, Esq., in P.S. Foner, pp. 608-609.

Foner, Eric, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution: 1863-1877, * New York:

     Harper and Row, 1988.

____________, “Rights and the Constitution in Black Life during the Civil War and

     Reconstruction” The Journal of American History Vol. 74, No. 3, The Constitution

    and American Life: A Special Issue (Dec., 1987), pp. 863-883.

    JSTOR 5 November 2009.

Frederickson, George M., White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and

     South African History, New York: Oxford, 1981.

Goldstein, Leslie Friedman, “Racial Loyalty in America: The Example of Frederick

     Douglass” The Western Political Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 3 (Sep., 1975), pp.463-476.

     JSTOR 6 October 2009.

Kousser, J. Morgan. “Reconstruction” The Oxford Companion to United States

    History. edited by Paul Boyer. New York: Oxford 2001 pp.653-655.

Litwack, Leon F., “Trouble in Mind: The Bicentennial and the Afro-American

    Experience” * The Journal of American History Vol. 74, No. 2 (Sep., 1987),

    pp. 315-337. JSTOR 28 October 2009.

_______________, “The White Man’s Fear of the Educated Negro: How the Negro

    Was Fitted for His Natural and Logical Calling” The Journal of Blacks in Higher 

     Education No. 20 (Summer, 1998), pp. 100-108. JSTOR 28 October 2009.

Schmidt, Jr. Benno C., “Principle and Prejudice: The Supreme Court and Race in the

     Progressive Era. Part I: Heyday of Jim Crow” Columbia Law Review Vol. 82, No.3

    (April 1982), pp. 444-524. JSTOR 18 September 2009. 

Soule, Sarah A., “Populism and Black Lynching in Georgia, 1890-1900”

    Social Forces Vol. 71, No. 2 (Dec.. 1992), pp. 431-449.

    JSTOR 29 October 2009.

Tushnet, Mark. “Civil Rights.” The Oxford Companion to United States History

    edited by Paul Boyer. Oxford, 2001 pp.124-125.                         

Do You Still Want A Democratic Republic: Part III

Do You Still Want a Democratic Republic?

Part III

Yes, it is the Economy!


John M. Lane

                      Should you have to live in poverty if you work forty hours a week? That is a straightforward, basic, and fundamental question. The answer should obviously (I hope) be no. The pushback against the answer “no” will be that “of course, I am against poverty. However, shouldn’t we allow the hidden hand of free markets to determine the situation, since markets work best.” What if the deciding factor, however, was not “free markets,” what if it was societal decisions or choices, or as Economist Thomas Piketty calls it: Ideology“Every human society must justify its inequalities: unless reasons for them are found, the whole political and social edifice stands in danger of collapse. Every epoch, therefore, develops a range contradictory discourses and ideologies for the purpose of legitimizing the inequality that already exists or that people believe should exist. From these discourses emerge certain economic, social, and political rules, which people then use to make sense of the ambient social structure. Out of the clash on contradictory discourses- a clash that is at once economic, social, and political- comes a dominate narrative, which bolsters the existing inequality regime”. (Piketty 1)

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on


                                             Over the past two centuries, the dominant Western economic narrative has been successfully challenged from time to time. When that has happened, inequality lessened, the safety net strengthened, and the condition of the working and middle classes improved (see Part II), as did all members of the society. The tide did raise all boats. However, the proponents of the dominant economic narrative have access to tremendous resources. They use those resources to push back to the dominant narrative at every challenge. Phony “populism” has always been a good tactic, as has been pitting the working and middle classes against each other (in the United States, racial polarization seems always to work). The best method appears to be calling for lower taxes, balanced budgets, “fiscal responsibility,” and living within our means. Their “information” efforts have been so successful that large portions of the working classes in the United States have become concerned about the unfairness of the inheritance tax, better known as the “death tax.” Most are unaware that the inheritance tax does not apply to over 99% of the working and middle classes. They do not have the income or the assets.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on


                                          Returning to a rigid progressive tax structure, investments in education infrastructure, encouraging 21st-century manufacturing, responsible, far-sighted corporate management and executive pay, government regulation that “keeps the playing field” level,” along with the reforms mentioned in the two earlier essays of this three-part series, would strengthen democracy and the democratic republic against forces determined to destroy them. As an educator, I want to mention schools especially. After forty years of “school reform” (some of it very much needed), we are still a long way from the kind of classroom outcomes we would like to see. Maybe we should look at the foundation, that is economics. Families living in poverty, worried about medical care ( families/individuals should be able to own their comprehensive insurance coverage, available through private or public providers) , feeding, clothing, and housing themselves, will not be very successful, as a whole, in school. Hungry children have a difficult time learning. Economically stable families and children will be successful. Parents will be involved, and children will succeed. Combining this with the reform efforts already underway will go a long way in solving our societal, educational issues. 


                                        If you work forty hours a week, you should not have to live in poverty. Living wages will increase tax revenue, societal stability and increase consumer consumption, which means economic growth. A bulwark will be created, protecting us from demagogues and our enemies, foreign and domestic.

The question remains… Do you still want a democratic republic?

Constitution Hall, Philadelphia – Author’s Collection


Piketty, Thomas. Capital and Ideology. Cambridge and London: Belknap Harvard, 2020.

“Time Travel”- What If?

This post will be the final one on this blog for 2021. The next post will appear on Wednesday, January 5,2022.  It will be the first essay of a three-part series…

Time Travel- What if……?

2021 America became 1941 America

A Different History


John M. Lane


 News Bulletins on Tuesday, December 16, 1941

“Fallout continues from the Pearl Harbor disaster, as members of the House are seriously considering asking for Impeachment proceedings against President Roosevelt. At a press conference today, several members demanded that the President resign immediately. Calling a bipartisan national unity government unnecessary, several Opposition members are demanding that Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Knox, both Opposition members, resign from the “incompetent” Roosevelt Administration. Neither has been available for comment. More to follow.

Congress finally approved Declarations of War against Germany and Japan after five days of fierce debate. The House approved the resolutions by eight votes and the Senate approved after gaining a filibuster proof majority. Members in both chambers were concerned about the possible length of the war and the resulting high casualties.

Calls, despite the US being engulfed in a worldwide war, continue to be made to investigate President Roosevelt’s victory in last year’s election. Perceived “irregularities in several states” need to be investigated said Senator— of —. “There is evidence of thousands of fraudulent votes being cast” he said. Confronted with the issue that these “fraudulent” votes came from high “minority” areas, the Senator said he “simply wanted a fair vote count”.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – Taken by Author

Anti-war groups continue their demands for an investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack. They claim to have evidence that the “international Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy” and the “British International Cabal” were key players in crippling American intelligence efforts.

At least ten state governors have stated they will be “hesitant” to allow their state national guard to be called to federal service in the Army, saying that the call-up is a violation of states’ rights. Other state governors are sending Guard units to the Southern border to protect against “highly probable” German and Japanese troop movements into Mexico and Central America.

Anti- draft demonstrations continue in all areas of the country as protestors decry the intrusion into their “personal liberty, freedom and lack of control over their bodies”. Lawsuits are currently in the federal court system claiming that the 1940 conscription law is unconstitutional and the mandate for draft registration is illegal.

Senator— said today that it is time to immediately begin negotiations with Germany to end the war now, just five days after Germany declared war on the United States. Senator— also said that the United States should seek common ground with Hitler, who has done “many great things to improve life in Germany”.

Mooring for USS Arizona, Pear Harbor- Taken by Author

All the major consumer corporations remain in talks with the government as to how much domestic consumer production can be limited to begin production of military vehicles, aircraft, and equipment. A spokesman said, “the talks are slowly having positive results.”

Local groups in at least 25 states have indicated that they will resist efforts to impose food and fuel rationing as “completely unnecessary and un-American” since it restricts “freedom and individual choice”.  The War and Navy Departments indicated that the rationing is necessary to feed and fuel what they hope will be a massive build-up of forces.

Cities on the eastern seaboard and along the Gulf of Mexico are resisting orders to institute “blackouts” in their cities after 7 PM. Several mayors, governors, and local chambers of commerce have indicated that the blackout will hurt business during prime hours of operation. Because ships are easily silhouetted against lit cities, the Germans have sunk three vessels in the last two days.

Congressperson— said today that the United States was partially responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack because of the “unnecessary economic sanctions” the US placed on Japan, because of the their invasion of China which started in 1937. He also stated that peace talks with Japan should begin immediately in order “to stop further bloodshed”.

“Real American” groups have stated that they will resist any opening of war production employment to all citizens, regardless of race or ethnic background, as an affront to true “Americanism” They will resist expansion of war production, which would mean slower war production and the loss of hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs. Many in the “Real American” groups have indicated that they would have no problem with a Nazi victory in Europe, as a means of saving “Western Civilization” from “Godless communism and liberalism”.

In Overseas News:

Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for talks with the Roosevelt Administration. His speech to a joint session of Congress was cancelled because of fears that it might offend Hitler and the Nazis.

Prominent “America First” supporters called on Churchill to immediately begin peace talks with Hitler to end the war. They also indicated that they are against further aid to Britain because it would increase the American budget deficit.

Anti-war groups are calling on General MacArthur to surrender his forces in the Philippines to the Japanese immediately to end the “unnecessary violence”.

Speaking on the new “Real America” radio network, Senator— indicated that reports coming out of the Soviet Union that during the German advance in that country over the summer and fall, follow-up Germans units were systematically massacring Soviet officials and Jews as “nonsense and fake news made up by the “international Bolshevik- Jewish conspiracy” and the “British International Cabal” He indicated that he believed the reports were false, “therefore they certainly are false.”

…That is the news for Tuesday, December 16, 1941. Thank you and good night.”

… if 2021 America went back in time to 1941 America. Thankfully, that cannot happen. We all have a general idea as to what happened. The vote for war was unanimous in the Senate, in the House there was one dissenting vote. National mobilization began immediately. Thousands volunteered for the military within days. Rationing for food and fuel was accepted as a patriotic duty, as millions “pitched in” whatever they could to support the war effort. After four years, victory was achieved.

President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress on December 8, 1941

“Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. 

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. 

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

United States – Second World War Casualties:

Combat Deaths – 291,557

Deaths from Other Causes (Training, Accidents, Illness, etc.) – 113,842

Total Deaths- 405,399

Wounded- 670,846

Missing- 72,491

Total- 1, 076,245