Unit 5: From the Left to the Right


QUIZ:  Read relevant chapters in Outline of U.S. History; Johnson, chapter 8 (begin p. 867); Zinn, chapter 17, pp. 458-end; and chapters 18-21, focusing on relevant pages.

This period has a dramatic arc that reverses the one we looked at in Unit 4.  LBJ created the Great Society, as set of social policies ranging from the Civil Rights Act 0f 1964 to Surgeon’s General warnings on the dangers of smoking.  At the same time, the cold war once again claimed a central place in the American mind.  JFK had renewed a commitment to winning (not just containing) the cold war and (after the debacle at the Bay of Pigs) had sent 16,000 advisors to Vietnam.  In 1964, North Vietnamese fired at U.S. ships.  The resulting Gulf of Tonkin Resolution marked the escalation of the Vietnam War. 

Picture US society at this time–civil rights leaders had become much more militant (SNCC and Panthers, eg.), women were angry and refusing to let men open doors for them (literally as well figuratively)–and more, Hispanic farm workers created great sympathy throughout the American population (think naming Cesar Chavez St. in Austin), and Native Americans re-claimed Alcatraz for themselves, and, when the draft (in effect since 1940) began to call up college students–protest rose.

Nixon, of course, was elected, blaming Democrats for the lack of law and order.  Then Nixon tried a new version of anti-authority, and ended up resigning.  Throughout the 1970s, America seemed to be losing the strengths it had long enjoyed.  Gas prices rose, cities burned, and things just got worse (think disco music).

America, which had undergone dramatic changes led primarily by youth–was primed for another revolution. This was the conservative backlash, that hoped to reinstate the orderly life it had imagined the 1950s to have been.  Reagan, supported by a coalition of the new Moral Majority, real estate and oil interests (from the new growth in the southwestern states), and old liberals who became neocons, ready to defeat communism, expressed the broad reaction to the broad extension of democratic ideas expressed in the Great Society.

In this reading, then, look for the ways the Left in the 1970s was challenged by the Right in the 1980s and be able to explain how and why this happened.


Reading guide can be found here: 5.0.Guide16

 5.0.Chronology has a general timeline of events from 1945 to 1972.  Use it to supplement your Guide timeline.


Lecture: The Turn from Liberalism to Conservatism

Part 5.1: Richard Nixon

Part 5.2: The End of History

Part 5.3: The Bigger Picture

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