How did the political environment change, 1917-33


Return to normalcy and isolationism

Return to Normalcy 

  • Harding became president in 1921 and promised a return to normalcy. Even though black Americans thought this meant greater equality, WASPS saw this as a return to things that had been done before the war 
  • There was a short economic depression between the end of the war and Hardings election which meant unemployment rose from 955,000 in 1919 to 5 million in 1921 
  • He said that the government had to balance the government books, reduce taxation on Americans introduce tariffs to protect Us trade and provide countrywide radio


  • Harding said the USA should support other nations but not become entangled with them 
  • The USA had to focus on itself and this was partly done by 'Buying American' 
  • Isolationism meant introducing trade tariffs that favoured US businesses, not joining the league of nations and not setting up colonies 
  • It also meant cutting back on the number of immigrants coming into the country  and this was done by the 1921 Emergency quota act which reduced immigration to 357,000 a year and was revised to 150,000 a year  in 1924
  • The USA wasn't entirely Isolationist and helped Europe build economically
  • Tariffs on imports such as Fordney-McCumber Tariff act encouraged people to buy American
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The appeal of Republicanism

  • Hardings slogan was 'Less government in business and more business in government'
  • The republican notion of laissez-faire believed that it wasn't the job of government to control the economy but to keep its own spending under control. 
  • Hardings campaign aims were vague as looked like a president who wouldn't interfere and didn't try to draft laws or drag USA into international politics
  • Harding, although not himself corrupt, had friends who were and exploited their positions to make money 
  • The democrats could not agree with a candidate after Hardings death. The republican candidate Coolidge combined laissez-faire with dignity that Republicans hoped would restore faith in their party 
  • During Coolidge's presidency the USA entered a period of recovery and prosperity as people began to feel republicanism working 
  •  The boom economy had serious flaws but wasn't clear at the time 
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First Red Scare

  • In 1917 the monarchy was replaced by a communist government and the revolution sent shockwaves round the world and made many people in capitalist USA very disturbed 
  • During the first world war, workers in the USA had not gone on strike but when their conditions didn't improve the workers began to strike and the communist party of America was founded
  • Anarchists distributed pamphlets in cities and urged revolution. 1 in 4 workers were on strike in 1919
  • Police and strikers did not clash but rumors of communist revolution spread and people began to accuse each other of communism, 'Red-hunting' began to break out 
  • Anti-Communist feeling caused businesses to sack employees and peopled suspected their neighbours and people began to worry about being suspected of communism 
  • The KK target all groups they considered 'Un-American' 
  • Palmer raids intended to capture and arrest anarchists from the USA. Palmer's prediction of Red revolution on May 1920 failed to occur 
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Rugged Individualism

Rugged individualism 

Hoover gave the Republican laissez-faire policy a spin that dwelt less on inaction & allow people to take responsibility for themselves.This was a shift on emphasis rather than directionHoover outlined the ideas he would bring into his presidency and developed the theory of 'rugged individualism'. Those who believed in rugged individualism felt that ; 

  • People were weakened by government and that the government t interfere to help those with jobs and homes. It shouldn't regulate working hours or conditions, and shouldn't fix the bank interest on loans 
  • The USA should isolate itself from other countries 
  • The USA should restrict immigration

The great depression

  • In 1929 the boom combined out of control share trading produced the wall street crash 
  • This triggered the Great depression that hit the USA and the rest of the world 
  • Unemployment meant people lost their homes and businesses failed 
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The decline of republicanism

  • Hoover persuaded congress to set up the Federal farm board to help farmers who found it hard to sell abroad because of isolationist tariffs in 1929 
  • Hoover came to realise laissez-faire wasnt working 
  • He set up businesses to offer help on a local personal level and encouraged people to do this
  • In 1930he set up the president's emergency Committee for employment to find work projects for the unemployed and persuade business to create more jobs on a voluntary basis
  • He encouraged businessmen to invest in the economy by setting up organisations 
  • Between 1930-32 Hoover moved from encouraging private help to giving federal help to the states by advising them on projects and giving them money to fund some of the help 
  • Hoover tried to put through more federal measures many of which Congress rejected 
  • In the last year of his presidency the government recieved 2 million and spent over 5 million
  • Hoover was blamed for the economic crisis & towns of homeless people was named after him

The Bonus Army

  • In 1924 the government gave a bonus payments to those who fought in the war
  • Those who were owed $50 was paid at once and the rest went into fund to pay out in 1945
  • After the depression, many homeless veterans asked for their money early and rioted 
  • In 1932 up to 200,00 of the marched to Washington and set up camps. Troops were sent with tear gas and tanks 
  • Hoover lost a significant amount of popularity as a result of the way the Bonus army was treated 
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