Fashion, Political Elections, Political Figures, Religion, Sexual History, Social Movements

The Presidential Election of 1928: The First Culture War Election

There are certain presidential elections that I would call culture war elections. These would be elections where issues relating to what degree of freedom one is entitled to, or conversely, what obligation and conformity individuals in a democratic, pluralistic society should adhere to in their interactions with others and the community at large. These issues tend to involve religious freedom, gender issues, appropriate forms of protest, law and order, and the degree to which government should regulate personal behavior. Some of the presidential elections I would consider heavily dominated by culture war concerns would be 1968, 1972, 1980, 1992, 2016, and 2020.

However, the first modern-day culture war presidential election I feel would be that of 1928. I mentioned in a previous post that I consider the 1920s to be the first decade of the modern age. The 1920s witnessed a level of societal change, especially regarding gender, sexual mores, and the introduction of Hollywood mass entertainment. I would say that perhaps only the 1960s saw more societal change within a ten-year time period. Conservative society, which favored the status quo, was greatly alarmed by the advent of flapper girls in free-flowing knee-high dresses and smoking in public.

Conservative society had what can be called a pyrrhic victory at the start of the decade with the passage of Prohibition, which outlawed alcohol. In many ways, the law only ended up glamorizing the consumption of alcohol as a hip and inviting activity. The urbanization and arrival of many immigrants from southern Europe at the start of the century furthered alarmed many in WASP society. It is with this background in mind that one can understand better the cultural significance of the election of 1928.

Al Smith, the Democratic Candidate, was a politician straight out of Tammany Hall, New York City, and a Catholic. I often thought that anti-Catholic sentiment was a thing long in the past, from the mid-nineteenth century and “The Know-Nothings” of the 1850s, a sort of bizarre, quirky belief. However, the internet has shown me, much to my bemused surprise, just how much anti-Catholic sentiment remains even to this day among many Protestant Fundamentalists and evangelicals. Many go so far as to say Catholics are not even Christian, which seems a bit perplexing considering Protestantism came only into existence fifteen hundred years after the supposed time Jesus lived, and Christianity began. This sentiment was even more prevalent in 1928 and, along with The Monkey-Scopes Trial, just two years prior, increased the anxiety of those opposed to the secularization of society and suspicious of modernity. While they gained a victory of sorts with the defeat of Al Smith, it was at best very brief and not far-reaching. Five years later, Prohibition, their core cultural war issue of 1928, would be repealed. I would say the 1950s and the 1980s were the only two decades where society became more conservative than the decade that preceded, and even then, it would be for a relatively brief period.
Political Elections, Social Movements

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? Our Nation Turns Its’ Lonely Eyes Towards You: The 1980 Presidential Election

There are certain presidential campaigns where one can practically feel the tension in the air almost, as if there is a battle for the soul of the American nation taking place. I think the past election of 2020 certainly qualifies. Some past historical presidential campaigns that also had this significance in my opinion would be those of 1960, 1968 and the one I will discuss a bit here, 1980. The summer of 79 witnessed the emergence of gas lines throughout much of the country, yearly inflation that reached the double digits, mortgages with 20 percent interest rates, the three American auto manufacturers failing dismally and American productivity and manufacturing quality overall very much in decline. In regards to international relations and foreign policy matters there was even more pessimism. The year saw the Sandinista Victory in Nicaragua which established the second communist run nation within the Western Hemisphere. Islamic fundamentalism began to explode throughout the Middle East, especially once the Islamic Republic was established in Iran with the fall of the Shah in the earlier part of the year. Christian Fundamentalism in the United States was also increasing greatly as many Americans began to feel there was a moral rot of sorts taking place in American Society. During the fall of 1979 things became even worse when American diplomatic staff was taken hostage when the American Embassy was stormed by militants in Tehran, Iran. Americans woke up each morning to see video footage on the morning talk showing effigies of Carter and America being parade in front of the seized embassy in a mocking and demeaning manner. For many Americans this incident symbolized a sort of basement low point of sorts. This atmosphere of anxiety, pessimism and national angst was how the 1980 Presidential Campaign kicked off and which would lead to the political demise of Jimmy Carter and the election of the former governor of California and Hollywood “B” movie actor Ronald Reagan.

Political Elections, Political Figures

Spiro Agnew: Moderate Turned Rightist Henchman

In earlier times presidents were expected to act......well presidential. Often surrogates were given the task of delivering talking points that were more vindictive and partisan in nature. Spiro Agnew, the governor of Maryland, was asked by Richard Nixon in 1968 to be his vice presidential running mate. His political reputation as governor of Maryland was pretty centrist in nature. However as Vice President his political philosophy began to evolve quickly to the right, and indeed became to the right of Nixon. He developed a reputation of being The Nixon’s Administration figurative executioner of sorts. He was famous for his verbose flowery attacks against hippie university leftists, outspoken racial minorities and the counter cultural values espoused by the new left. It should be pointed out however that even Agnew’s most bombastic barbs were probably still tame compared to what Trump would sometimes utter as President. Was the evolution of his political philosophy sincere or was he acting out a role Assigned to him? I do not know. I guess many ask the same question of Trump as president, considering his Democratic Party leanings of his past. Agnew had no part in The Watergate Scandal, but resigned on October 10, 1973 due to an unrelated matter of receiving kickback bribes while governor of Maryland. He pleaded “nolo contendre” to these charges. I am no lawyer but I think it is kind of like pleading guilty while not actually physically stating so.

Political Elections, Political Figures

Adlai Stevenson II: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again. However, Keep In Mind, You Still May Fail.😜

Adlai Stevenson II was the Democratic nominee that ran against Eisenhower both in 1952 and 1956, but was unsuccessful both times. He tried for a third time to get the Democratic nomination in 1960. However he was bested by John F. Kennedy. His political philosophy was best described as being of the old school classic liberal flavor which was heavily influenced by his progressive Christianity of his Unitarian Denomination, although Unitarianism of today is more of a humanist organization and not necessarily Christian. He was well known for having a great sense of humor that was of the dry kind. Below is an example of his humor where he vetoes legislation while governor of Illinois that would have barred cats from roaming freely outside for the sake of saving birds.

“It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming…the problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to solve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problem of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency. For these reasons, and not because I love birds the less or cats the more, I veto and withhold my approval from Senate Bill No. 93.”

Fads, Fashion, Political Elections, Social Movements

Niche Groups In America Through Time: The Preppies

One of the niche groups in America Through Time at the start of the 1980s was the preppies. The 1970s was a decade of disco, social experimentation, outlandish fashion and a reverence of “newness”. However, at the start of the 1980s, there was a noticeable conservative backlash that permeated society, both politically and socially. Religious fundamentalism definitely became widespread and was helped along by the emergence of nationally known TV mega preachers. Many held the belief that society needed to get back to “groundedness”, for the lack of a better word.

The preppies, in addition to religious fundamentalists, were a group that seized on this kind of new wind sweeping the psyche of the nation. The preppies were not necessarily religious, but definitely politically conservative and the second pillar allied with religious fundamentalists in a Republican ascendancy that occurred during the decade. They very often were wealthy country club Republicans, but not always, as the preppie look was copied by many among the lower middle class as well as the upper middle class. In truth however It was really the ivy league elites and “Greenwich Connecticut” lifestyle that preppies idolized and put on a pedestal.

In popular culture this lifestyle was romanticized in television shows like The Paper Chase and movies like St. Elmo’s Fire. The ideal preppie was to drive a BMW or expensive European model automobile and to dress always in a conservative manner that heavily favored old school sports jackets and cotton button down dress shirts when formally attired and Izod sports shirts or wool sweaters when more casually dressed. They would often spend their summers out in The Hamptons of Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard or other similar posh and heavily WASP locations. They still exist to this day, but sort of had their heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s and sort of declined in popularity in tandem with the decline of Republican 1980s conservatism.

Music, Political Elections, Political Figures

Needless to Say Politics Was Much Different Then