The USA after Nixon


Responses to social divisions - Women

  • More women were working: the majority in low-paid jobs but increasing numbers entered traditionally 'male' occupations such as medicine
  • Women's salaires were only 73% of males causing many women wanted an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to promote equality - many women opposed the ERA
  • Phyllis Schlafly 'Sweetheart of the silent majority' established a 'Stop ERA' organisation in 1972 - 50,000 members
  • Democrat- controlled Congress voted overwhelming for the ERA in 1972 but the ERA never got the assent of 75% of the states - Ford kept quiet and Carter supported it 
  • Before 1973 abortion was a crime in 30 states - led to backstreet abortions
  • 1973 Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling legalised abortion - liberals approved - Ford and Carter said nothing and conservatives opposed
  • The National Rigjht to Life Committee est by the Catholic Church in 1967 - campaigned against Roe v. Wade and mobilised large numbers of voters in 1978 congressional elections
  • 1979 housewife and author Beverly LaHaye est Concerned Women for America (CWA) to oppose the ERA and abortion - 500,000 members by the mid 1980s
  • 1976 law banning federal funding for abortion was ruled consitutional by Supreme Court 1977
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Responses to social divisions - Poverty

Liberals lamented large-scale poverty while conversatives criticised those dependent on state handouts - Ford believed in self-help - Voters expected Carter to help 

Carter struggled:

  • Federal expenditure on Social Security and health care for the increasing members of elderly was rocketing 
  • 'White Flight' deprived cities of taxes and exacerbated inner-city poverty
  • The number below poverty line was growing espically during recessions in 1973-75 and 1980
  • Homeless grew - some estimated it at one million in 1980
  • Carter did little to help: he wanted spending restrained to balance the federal budget
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Responses to social divisions - Race

Statisitcs showed both black American advances and problems in the 1970s:

  • 35-45% of black families were now middle class 
  • the number of elected black officals was rising 
  • average black male teenage unemployment was 50% and half of New York City's black teenagers did not graduate high school 
  • black infant mortality was twice that of whites 
  • 50% of all black female heads of household were below the poverty line

Liberals believed school desegregation would help. 1974 the percentage of segregated Southern schools had fallen from 68% to 8% but Northern de facto Boston guilty of unconstitunitonal segregation of schools and ordered busing. Violence decreased only when white students moved to private schools 

Carter was sensitive to minority rights but black Americans considered him unsupportive on socail welfare programmes and busing. They suffered disproportionately Liberty City, Miami, Florida, in 1980, 16 died and over 400 were injured

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Political Corruption

  • The Johnson administration's dishonest claims that America was winning the war damaged the faith in the government 
  • Many thought Ford got the presidnecy in exchange for pardoning Richard Nixon
  • When Ronald Reagan challenged Ford for the Republican nomination 1976, he ran as a outsider untained by Washington corruption. Reagan lost but he undermined Ford, who was already considered weak on economic problems and the Soviets
  • 54% voter turnout for the 1976 presidential election was the lowest since 1948. 75% thought both Ford and Carter lacked presidential quailty. The percentage confident their government would 'do what is right most of the time' fell from 56% in 1969 to 29% in 1977 and the percentage convinced their government really cared about them fell from 74% to 40%
  • Carter defeated Ford due to the perception that Ford's administration was corrput: pardoning of Nixon, Ford's golfing buddies were thought to have recieved special favours, John Dean claimed Ford tried to stop investigations into Watergate, and Ford's running mate Bob Dole had recieved illegal coropate contributions in 1973
  • President Carter was tainted by several scandals, notably 'Billygate'. His brother Billy recieved a $220,000 'loan' from the Libyan government - Senate investigation cleared Carter
  • 1980, 12 government officals and 7 members of congress accpeted bribes from FBI agents posing as 'wealthy Arabs' 
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The Loss of National Self-confidence

Many voters felt America was in crisis in the 1970s:

  • the 1960s protest movements had made criticism of American society and politics commonplace
  • Americans considered Nixon corrupt and Ford and Carter incompetant 
  • other nations seemed increasingly disrespectful, e.g Iran took Americans hostage 
  • America had acute economic probelms 

In the 1970s, the econmy seemed to be in crisis:

  • Expenditure on Vietnam and Johnson's Great Society increased the federal government deficit from $1.6 billion in 1965 to $25.3 billion in 1968 - encouraged inflation - dollar weak
  • American manufacturing industries were in decline relative to those of Japan and West Germany - contributed to a balance of trade deficit 
  • Rising oil prices led to inflation and a higher cost of living
  • 1978 - 63% of Americans considered unprecedentd inflation their greatest concern - made everything more exensive
  • Rust belt hit hard by unemployment: its manufacturing industries were declining because of increasing mechanisation and cheaper adn better Japanese and German imports
  • Americans depent on oil imports in 1970s
  • Politicans seemed unable to solve the energy crisis and the economic problems
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The Final Withdrawal from Vietnam

  • Nixon promised Thieu continued American aid
  • Congress responded to voter sentiment by cutting aid to Soith VIetnam in 1973 and again in 1974
  • In winter 1974-75 the Communists staged a major offensive against South Vietnam
  • Ford wanted to help Thieu but Congress was not intrested
  • By April 1975, South Vietnam had collapsed
  • Ford arranged for the evacuation of the 6,000i remaining American personnel in South Vietnam
  • Many Americans resented the subsequent influx of South Vietnamese refugees
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Relations with the USSR and China

Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger hoped to continue the Soviet- American detente. In Ford and Brezhnev agreed a SALT II agreement, but Congress was unwilling to ratify it. Americans turned against detente:

  • detente was associated with Nixon
  • in the Helisinki Agreement (1975), the West recognised concessions on human rights - American conservatives opposed this as 'appeasing' the Sovietsbut it encouraged agitation for human rights within the Soviet bloc
  • Americans perceived the Communists as having taken advantage of detente to build up their nuclear arsenal, increased their influence in Africa and Vietnam and be aggressive in Afghanistan
  • Americans were unhappy with SALT I because the Soviets had reached parity on multiple warheads

Soviets were also disillusioned with detente:

  • Helsinki Argeement had focused international attention on the lack of human rights in the Soviet bloc and encouraged unrest in Eastern Europe
  • Carter criticised their human rights record excluded them from middle east peace process 
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The Response to Crises in the Middle East, Iran an

The Middle East was volatile region due to Arab-Israeli hostility and one of Carter's few triumphs was to mastermind an Israeli-Egyptian detente in 1978.

By 1979 41% of Americans considered America 'in deep and serious trouble'

Rise to 64% by 1980 owed much to crises in Iran and Afghanistan

1979 - repressive pro-American Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamic fundermentalists

  • Iranian students resentful and fearful of US military and political support for the Shah, stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took 60 Americans hostage
  • Carter tried to negotiate their realse - stopped US purchases of Iranian oil and froze Iranian assets 
  • attempted military rescue in April 1980 was a poorly planned disaster 
  • Americans felt powerless and humiliated 
  • Carter's diplomacy secured the hostages' release but after he was no longer President
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The Response to Crises in the Middle East, Iran an

Afghanistan's government was pro-Soviet but faction-ridden

December 1979 - Soviets invaded in support of the more moderate faction because Afghanistan bordered the Soviet Union and the Soviets wanted to ensure it remained friendly 

Soon 100,000 Soviet tropps in Afghanistan 

America thought this represented a new Soviet expansionist phase and reacted:

  • Congress finally rejected SALT II
  • Carter stopped US exports to the USSR and participation in the Moscow Olympics
  • Carter increased defence expenditure and promised US intervention if the Soviets threatned Western oil intrests in the Middle East
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The impact of Civil Rights Legislation - Social st

Black American social staus in the South improved greatly after 1964 Civil Rights Act ended the segregation laws. 

  • 1970 - 31% of blacks and 55% of whites aged over 25 completed at least 4 years of high school by 1980 - 51% and 69% respectively 
  • 1970 - 4% of blacks and 11% of whites had completed 4 years of college by 1980 - 8% and 17%
  • Percentage of black children in segregated schools in the South fell from 68% to 8% during Nixon's presidency

De facto segregation in the Northern ghettos proved harder to combat than de jure segregation in the South. 1971 - Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg time for full implmentation of school desegrefation and specified busing as the way to achieve it

Busing had generated a white backlash:

  • Boston's public schools contained 45,000 whites in 1974 but 16,000 in 1987
  • 6% of the population moved to the suburbs to escape intergated school in the 1970s
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The impact of Civil Rights Legislation - Economic

After civil rights legislation of 1964-65 the federal government focused on promoting affirmative action in higher education and employment and inspired many officals in cities and universities to do likewise.

1980 around 1/3 of black Americans were middle class partly as a result of:

  • affirmative action that 'set-aside' a percentage of contracts to minority-owned businesses 
  • EEOC pressure to decrease discrimination in hiring 
  • affirmative action in unviersities 

However, affirmative action caused a white backlash in universities and employment. The Civil Rights legislation and affirmative action did not solve all black economic problems:

  • 1980, median black household income was only 60% of whites - similar to 1965 figures 
  • 1/3 of black Americans remained in poverty - 3x the proportion of whites
  • 33% of black Americans had low-skilled, low-paid jobs 
  • Average black earnings were half those of whites
  • Black infant mortality rate remained twice that of whites
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The impact of Civil Rights Legislation - Political

Voting Rights Act revolutionised black political status in the South; even Birmingham elected a black major (1979) However:

  • black Americans still struggled to win statewide elections; the sole black US Senator in 1970 was Edward William Brooke III from liberal MAssachusetts 
  • 1980 - black Americans constituted 12% of the population but 1% of America's elected officals
  • 20 black Americans in the US House of Representatives from 1973-80 represented predominantly black congrssional distritcts 

Supreme Court tried to assist black represntation ruling in Beer v. United States (1976) that no redrawing of political boundaries should decrease ethnic minority represntation and some states created predominantly black electoral districts to ensure the election of black officals.

However, Supreme Court weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act in City of Mobile v. Bolden (1980) which made it harder to challenge discriminatory voting laws - black American political inequality continued 

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Change and Continuity in the 'New South'

In the mid 20th century, the South was commonly percieved as America's most economically backward region.

1960s - media coverage of Southern white bigotry such as that demostrated by Bull Connor and his police force in Birmingham confirmed that perceotion.

1980 - MLK's friend Bayard Rustin declared that the South had been transformed by 1964-65 civil rights legislation.

1970s- the South led the nation in school desegregation and the decreased racial tension, lower wages and less powerful unions attracted more and more industry.

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Change and Continuity in the 'New South'

'New South' was reflected in Atlanta, Georgia. 1973, Maynard Jackson became Atlanta and Georgia's first black mayor.

8 years as mayor he promoted affirmative action and black Alantans made great progress:

  • The proportion of black public employess in proffesional postions rose from 19.2% to 42% between 1973 and 1978
  • The proportion of black managers rose from 13.5 % to 32.6%
  • The percentage of city contracts awarded to black firms rose by 25%

The 'New South' reflected in black migration back to the South

1975-80 - black Americans migrated to the South at twice the rate of white Americans

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The Great Migration

The South had changed since the Great Migration. Many 'pull' factors explained this growing black migration back to the South: 

1) The Great Migration to the North had proved disappointing to many black Americans, who had found themselves concentrated in crime- ridden ghettos

  • de facto segregation was less pronounced than in other regions
  • racial violence had decreased 
  • there was less crime and more job oppourtunities than in the North
  • more black Americans held office in the South than in any other region

2) Many of those who had participated in the Great Migration felt an affinity with the culture of the South - greater whne relations were living in the South

3) The South had a more temperate climate than the North and Midwest

  • Black Americans constituted 27% of Georgia's voters only 3.7% of the state elected officals
  • 1980 - 9 of Georgia's 23 majority-black countries still lacked black elected officals
  • 1/3 of black Atlantans remained below the poverty line, compared 7% of white Atlantans
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The position of the USA as a Superpower

After 1945 the USA was by far world's most powerful nation. By 1980 - many Americans felt humiliated by the: 

  • loss of Vietnam to Communism 
  • Iranian hostage - taking 
  • realisation that while Americans saw their country as a peace - loving democracy that genorously assisted other nations, others often perceived it as agressive
  • Soviet nuclear and naval parity and expansionism 

Although America remained the world's most powerful nation, it had lost massive lead of 1945 over other powers. Polls revealed Americans felt vulnerable:

  • 54% thought America's world postion 'fair' or 'poor'
  • 62% felt America was 'becoming weaker'
  • 81% considered America in serious trouble 
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The Extent of Economic Change

The Post- war economic boom was over and America was struggling:

  • expensive Vietnam War and welfare programmes had contributed to a federal budget deficit and inflation
  • Higher fuel costs made manufactured goods less competitive and increased the cost of living
  • American manufacturing industries had declined.
  • 1980 - 8.2 million were unemployed. In the manufacturing city of Detroit 24% were unemployed : automobile industry jobs had fallen from 940,000 in 1978 to 500,000 in 1982
  • 1981 - Japanese companied had 23% of the American car market. Over 25% of America's $40 billion trade deficit was due to Japan's trade surplus - damaged the dollar
  • American car companies continued producing 'gas guzzlers' even as petrol prices rocketed and Japan made smaller more economic cars.
  • Chrysler needed a controversial $1.5 billion government bailout in 1980
  • Many American companies used cheaper foregin companies for parts or moved to countries with lower labour costs

America remained the world's wealthiest nation with a GNP far higher than that of its nearest rivals

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The Extent of Social Change

Post- war America had seemed a stable, cohesive society in which:

  • 2/3 of Americans lived in uprecedented affluence 
  • black Americans were safely segregated by law in the South and by residence in the North
  • gender inequality was accepted as normal

By 1980 - there had been considerable change:

  • Johnson had focused national attention on poverty but only alleviated some of it 
  • De jure segregation had ended but de facto segregation continued and busing had revealed continuing racism
  • 1/3 of black Americans remained below the poverty line, but affirmaitve action had increased the black middle class
  • Number of elected black officals and women had grown but was still not proportionate to the population - 1980 only 16 women in the House and none in the Senate
  • More women worked and gender inequality was being combatted but women's wages averaged 62% of men's and men held more top jobs
  • Women had gained reproductive rights, but social conservatives threatened them
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The Reasons for Reagan's Victory in the Presidenti

  • Only 18% rated Carter a 'very strong leader'. Most considered him incapable of handling American's economic and international problems 
  • 47% of voters stayed at home. Most were poor and/or unemployed - usually Democrat - Carter uninspiring
  • Reagan was the 'great communicator' - when debating with Carter he came across as warmer and more optimistic. Reagan struck a chord with voters when he asked if they felt better off after 4 years of Carter
  • Social conservatives voted for Reagan because he:
    • expressed disgust with protests, drug-taking, sexual liberalistion, feminism, abortion, the ERA and unmarried mothers on welfare
    • opposed the Supreme Court's 1962 ruling against school prayer and criticised the federal courts not allowing the teaching of creationism (an esitmated 5 million evangelical Christians who had never voted before voted for Reagan)
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