A collage of Donald Trump as a 1950's greaser riding a bike in front of the White House with Hillary Clinton falling off. His shrt reads 'if you can read this the Bitch fell off'

A Quick Civics Lesson for the 2020 Election

Some pundits still describe Trump’s base as sad, left behind relics, yearning for the America of the 1950s, a golden age when White people ruled the Earth.

So, let’s do a quick recap of the social and economic policies of the United States in the middle of the 20th Century.

In 1950 Harry S. Truman was President. He proposed an expansion of the New Deal. He called it the Fair Deal.

Truman’s Fair Deal recommended universal health care, a fair minimum wage, and guaranteed equal rights for all Americans.

“Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal.”

Harry Truman, January 5, 1949 


In the 1950s, Males, 18 and above, were required to serve in the military or to serve in their communities.

Black and White AP photograph of Elvis Presley being sworn into the army
Elvis Sworn into the Army, 1958
By Associated Press – Public Domain

People paid a progressive tax based on income.

Art by Rob Goldstein
Universal World Reference Encyclopedia: Social Security

In 1953 the voters overwhelmingly favored Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Modern Republicanism.” As President, Eisenhower supported New Deal and Fair Deal programs, expanded Social Security, and prioritized a balanced budget over tax cuts.

Eisenhower entered the presidential race as a Republican to block the isolationist policies of Senator Robert A. Taftwho opposed the creation of NATO. Dwight D. Eisenhower

The 1950s saw White resistance in the South to civil rights and the
rise of the Black Civil Rights Movement.

In 1956, a group of Southern senators and congressmen signed a “Southern Manifesto,” vowing to resist to racial integration by all “lawful means.”  At the same time, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights led a successful drive for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and continued to press for stronger legislation. NAACP Youth Council chapters staged sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters, sparking a movement against segregation in public accommodations throughout the South in 1960. Nonviolent direct action increased during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, beginning with the 1961 Freedom Rides. The Library of Congress

In 1957, President Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation. He wrote: “There must be no second class citizens in this country.”

There were plenty of far-right conspiracy theorists in the 1950’s.

Members of the John Birch Society believed a dark cabal of internationalists, greedy (Jewish) bankers, and corrupt politicians controlled the U.S. and Soviet governments. The founder of The John Birch Society, Robert Welch, promoted a theory that President Eisenhower was a tool of the Communists, and guilty of treason. He claimed that Communists created the Civil Rights Movement and that negrophile traitors inside the government would betray U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist. New World Order; John Birch Society.

It’s funny how that turned out.

So, if we’re returning to the 1950s, let’s get it right.

This film by Encyclopaedia Britannica is a 1947 civics lesson.

Educational films like ‘Despotism’ were shown in almost every High School in the U.S. between 1947 and 1970.

Is it propaganda? A cynic might say yes, and offer the history of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union as proof.

But in the 1950s, the United States was still reeling from the racist horrors of Nazi Germany.

I like to think this film was also designed to teach children that the way to avoid the horrors of fascism was by using the economy to build a strong and healthy democracy.


As communities go, so goes the Nation.

screenshot from Despotism by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films which shows a scale between democracy and despotism


Where does your community stand?

Based on this civics lesson, where do you think the United States stands in 2020 on the scale between Democracy and Despotism?

Rob Goldstein(c) First posted 2016-Revised and updated 2020

Sources Wikipedia, the Library of Congress, and the Internet Archives







26 thoughts on “A Quick Civics Lesson for the 2020 Election

    1. It’s sad that Americans are so ignorant they don’t know that we lived under a system of regulated capitalism until the late 1980s and most people knew it wasn’t socialism. The New Deal is what got us to the moon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Today I realized how many hundreds of thousands have died from ignorance. Americans don’t know their own history. Eisenhower was no socialist; he was a capitalist and a New Deal Republican. Social Security is socialism, the way NASA or the DOJ is socialism. Investing in health and education is common sense, not socialism. Democracy is an expensive system of government; sick semi-literates can’t govern themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So did our founders. 🙂 After the Revolution, northern states emphasized education and rapidly established public schools. By the year 1870, all states had tax-subsidized elementary schools.In 1821, Boston started the first public high school in the United States. By the close of the 19th century, public secondary schools began to outnumber private ones. If we’re going to have a successful democracy we have to have viters who understand the meanings of words like, “socialist’. ”

        The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

        —John Adams, U.S. President, 1785


        Thanks for leaving a comment, Debby.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Absolutely Rob. I think some uneducated fail to recognize that socialism is not communism and if they don’t know what socialism is they should consider their local police, fire fighters, and all gov’t programs are under the umbrella of socialism. That doesn’t make them bad. But the misconceptions about health care for all being socialist is astoundinding. And it certainly doesn’t help when there’s an ersatz leader misleading people.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Right? We build highways with our tax money, and no one calls it socialism, but a public medical system that treats everyone equally regardless of race, creed, or religion is somehow socialism? I smell a racist trope. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m disheartened and still stunned I think. Every day brings the “Is this happening?” bit. I literally do not know what to think or feel at this time, so I just keep going as I have been.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand. My first reaction was a sense of numb grief. I think that the fact that so many people have this depth of feeling about it is heartening because it means that many of us are aware that this outcome is not just unexpected; it’s a moral offense.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Rob, I believe our coming together will have to be led by a grass roots movement. Our new leaders will be too consumed about offending a group to bring folks together. It will be interesting to see what our current President chooses to do after he leaves office. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The film in this post, Despotism, opens with an interesting point: ‘The form of a government is not enough to protect us from a despotism.’ We hear chatter about how our ‘form’ of government is still in tact, but is it? The GOP games the electoral college, blithely allows a foreign power to subvert the campaign of the opposition candidate and holds the judiciary hostage. The form of our government is in tact but for the second time in less than 20 years the GOP has successfully used the press and the electoral college to thwart the will of the people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To me the truth is simple. If your party must rely on a depressed turnout to win and does everything in its power to diminish it, then your party does not have a good argument. But, we are an easily manipulated crowd, so it is like shooting ducks on the water.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think the problem here is we allow the GOP to adopt the mantle of respectability even after they publicly shat on out most sacred principles.

        Its not them; it’s us.

        For sociopaths the difference between right and wrong is getting caught and being held accountable.

        Until we hold them accountable they will continue to brazenly foul our political system and twist it to suit their selfish interests.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Those who long for the 1950’s are forgetting what it took to make them what they were. They were a time of tremendous prosperity but the people were expected to sacrifice. This sentiment is best expressed in John Kennedy’s, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

      If the ‘whites’ behind this so-called Trump uprising expect gays to return to the closet, women to give up control, of their bodies and African-Americans to passively accept the loss of Civil Rights protections then it is only fair for white men to subject themselves to military draft. If we’re going back to the 50’s everyone needs to do his part.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Don’t forget, though, that Social Security was part of FDR’S New Deal and then modified since. And the 50s, of course, saw McCarthy’s rise and much inequality between the races. It was a “white world” and a world that many of those deluded enough to support Trump yearn for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t forget that…I just wanted to keep that post simple.

      It was a white world but because of the political system’s emphasis on human rights and democracy it gave rise to all of the great civil right’s movements of the last half of the 20th century. I read a post from someone who pointed out that for most of human history we have been divided between us and them, along racial, religious and gender lines. What made the modern era unique was that we worked against these impulses and created a dynamic and diverse nation in which most people could live in peace. This is the system that we must fight to preserve.

      Liked by 1 person

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