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Sources and significance of the rights revolution in the late 1960s
Since its independence, America had a spectacular one decade experience between 1960 and 1970. Most importantly this decade was a transitional period, when such core issues as racial injustice and poverty were addressed (Foner 598). This period was mainly characterized with the rights revolution which brought a remarkable transformation to the US community into what it is today, especially in terms of social-political advancement.
According to Foner, the rights revolution was characterized by three major aspects: civil rights movement, the Great Society idea and the war in Vietnam. The public was growing impatient over government’s sluggishness in enacting and implementing change. Movements advocating for civil rights mounted with significant students` involvement and grassroots associations. There were severe political upheavals after the brutal assassination of the President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the blacks’ liberation activist.. The situation was cooled with the tremendous election of Lyndon B. Johnson who embraced and expanded the Kennedy`s idea of the Great Society, as quoted, “He vowed to uphold and protect the nation’s interests over Vietnam” (Foner 6oo).
The Great Society program received an enormous support, especially its policy of war against the poverty, as it revived public hopes to achieve their rights in sharing the national wealth. The situation went sour when Johnson and the Congress declared full and direct involvement in the Vietnam War. According to Foner, this decision paralyzed the implementation of the Great Society programs, since the financial support to the Vietnam conflict was raising on a daily basis. This led to the tax increment in order to sustain the high economic demands (Foner 602)
There was a tremendous public opposition and criticism towards the government, as people protested against the war, terming it as a waste of public funds on a fruitless international conflict. Foner demonstrates that when Johnson’s term ended, the Vietnam issue still existed, and very little was done regarding the Great Society (Foner 602). He declined in vying for another term as he had lost popularity by failing to achieve the nation’s objectives. Due to the underlying unresolved issues, the government lost credibility in public eyes. The fight for participatory democracy intensified with the youth, especially the students, stepping into the scene in the alarming amount. Many other movements, advocating for social justice and equality as well as feminine liberation, mounted the upheavals and political and social tension was at its peak towards the end of the decade. Only after the withdrawal from the Vietnam conflict and during the Nixon’s reign the things started taking shape. However, later the nation was able to heal and reconstruct for a better future.
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The late 1960s was a distressful period for Americans. The President Nixon took over the government when the nation was under the constant strain and tension. As Foner explains, he inherited a desperate situation and he, therefore, had to devise strategic means of curbing the prevailing social and economic distress. He took over with a policy of promoting participatory democracy (Foner 604). Through the Supreme Court, he was able to reform and implement integration in public schools. He advocated for better social services and good working conditions for the people. Racial justice was reached through a court ruling leading to abolition of racial quotas (Foner 606).
In order to rescue the economic atmosphere, which was characterized by surging consumer prices and unemployment, Nixon decided to minimize the government spending (Foner 609). According to Foner, this method slowed down the general economy leading to more inflation. Faced by a decline in gold mining, unexpected balance of trade debit and fluctuation of US dollar in international trade, Nixon decided to freeze wages, rents and consumer prices. These rescue mechanisms resulted to a suppler but broad program called Phase II. Depreciation of the dollar in 1971, 1973 and 1974 was another important undertaking. Furthermore, withdrawal from the Vietnam conflict had a positive effect on social-economic problems of Americans, since their main cause was government’s neglect and reluctance towards domestic issues. Despite this moves Nixon’s regime did not attain a desirable economic progress, even after being re-elected for a second term (Foner 610).
Roots of conservatism
As the need for change in equality and civil rights increased, there was a rising opposition from conservatives who felt that their freedom was threatened. This was a group of wealthy people who formed quite a considerable portion of the government, with the dominance over the Republican Party. It was a form of a movement that campaigned for protection of American political, religious and moral traditions. They were in opposition to the liberalization move and they had a great impact to the national constrains, experienced in 1960s.
Conservatism has its origin from the need to preserve the traditional system of life amid the unpredictable atmosphere of change that characterized most of mid nineteenth century. Many conservatives did not see the need for rights revolution. They were opposed to changes on social and political standards. Their emergence was also triggered by the idea of New Deal which involved equal distribution of business powers and urbanizing of the public (Foner 617). Lack of a quick recovery from the Cold War was a threat, and it was suspected to mitigate the conventional values.
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The cultural influence of 1960s led to changes in family religious set up which was propagated by the rise of feminist movements. Moreover, the growing mistrust in the government raised a suspicion that had probable erosion on the traditional norms. Women fought for equality and freedom which was against the conservative community in relation to religious norms. The presidential ambition of the conservative Goldwater in 1964 strengthened the influence of the conservatives in the political arena (Foner 623). Generally, conservatism through its traditional ideologies erected an obstacle to modernization and slowed down the transformation rate. It’s one of the factors that characterize the American Revolution in nineteenth century.
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