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

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11 Beautiful Minds of The 20th Century

Eleven brilliant and courageous men and women.

1.

Pablo Neruda
July 12, 1904-September 23, 1973

Art by Rob Goldstein
Pablo Neruda Ricardo Reyes as a young man

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

~ Pablo Neruda

2.

Norma Jeane Mortenson
June 1, 1926-August 5, 1962

Art by Rob Goldstein
Portrait of Norma Jeane Mortenson

I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human.
Norma Jeane Mortenson

3.

Harvey Milk
May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978

 

Art By Rob Goldstein

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”
Harvey Milk, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words

4.

el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Malcolm X


“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
Malcolm X

5.

Nina Simone

February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003

Art by Rob Goldstein
Nina Simone

“I am just one of the people who is sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all. To me, America’s society is nothing but a cancer, and it must be exposed before it can be cured. I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.”
Nina Simone

6.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

7.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929- April 4, 1968

Art By Rob Goldstein
Dr. Martin Luther King

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

8.

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau
July 5, 1889 – 11 October 11, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Cocteau

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.
Jean Cocteau

9.

Frank O’Hara
March 27, 1926 – July 25, 1966

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Frank O’Hara


“I wonder if the course of narcissism through the ages would have been any different had Narcissus first peered into a cesspool. He probably did.”
Frank O’Hara, Early Writing

10.

Simone de Beauvoir
January 9, 1908 – April 14, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Simone de Beauvoir


Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying. Simone de Beauvoir

11.

Jean Genet
December 19, 1910-April 15, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Genet

What I did not yet know so intensely was the hatred of the white American for the black, a hatred so deep that I wonder if every white man in this country, when he plants a tree, doesn’t see Negroes hanging from its branches.  Jean Genet

 

Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge the images on this page are in the public domain.

Header photo, Portrait of Malcolm X, by Rob Goldstein (c) 2016

Blog post updated June 2020

 

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