Topic 3: Social and political change, 1973–80

  • Created by: Wintonia
  • Created on: 24-04-22 18:08



  • discovery of a burglary at the Watergate building - Democratic Party's presidential campaign headquarters
  • linked burglaries to illegal political activities by Nixon White House
    • bugging
    • harassment by FBI
  • Nixon inner circle - Plumbers created to stop any leaks
  • Committee to Re-elect the President - CREEP, illegal activities
  • destroyed Nixon's position as president, damaged reputation of Presidency
  • Nixon resigned from office August 9 1974 - cemented the growing political disillusionment in America, lack of faith and trust in presidency
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Ford and Carter

Ford and Carter


  • more informal and open
  • barely won his own party's nomination for presidency in ‘76 and only narrowly beat Reagan (gov. Of Cali) 
  • pardoned Nixon - irreparably damaged reputation
  • only 38% of those eligible voted
  • christened 'Bozo the Clown' by media
  • 76% believed he lacked presidential qualities


  • also rejected excessive formality
  • micromanagment of gov
  • unable to establish productive relationship with congress
  • Iran Hostage Crisis failures
  • by 1980, lowest ever presidential approval ratings
  • only 18% had a 'lot of confidence' in Carter
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  • 'Silent Spring' by Rachel Carson, 1962 - adverse effects of pollution and insecticides 
  • Clean Air Act 1970, Endangered Species Act 1973, Toxic Substances Control Act 1976, Alaska Lands Law 1980 - doubled acreage of land set aside for national parks and wildlife refuges, National Wilderness Preservation System 1964
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1970 - asked car manufacturers to cut down on exhaust emissions
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 1970
  • 1978 - Love Canal, near Niagara Falls, was full of foul-smelling industrial waste, and nearby residents suffered from chromosomal damage linked to the pollution - led to a senate inquiry, New York State spending $30 million to clean up the canal
  • March 1979 - most serious nuclear accident in American history took place at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania - nuclear reactor at a power station nearly exploded, and 10,000 people nearby fled their homes - no new nuclear power stations built
  • Plan to build Tellico Dam on Little Tennessee River was opposed by environmentalists, argued its construction would threaten wildlife which could become extinct if the dam was built - used Endangered Species Act, got US Supreme Court to declare against the proposed dam in 1978. However, dam was still built, Congress voted for a rider to the Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act ordering the Tennessee Valley Authority to complete the dam
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  • 1977 - Inflation was at 5%, Carter took office
  • 1978 - Inflation at 10% a year
  • 1968-78 - cost of living doubled
  • 1981 - interest rates reached 20%
    • drop in investments and house buying
  • 1973-81 - real incomes fell by 2% each year
  • 1975 - Stagflation - inflation at 11%, unemployment at 9% - family incomes and living standards fell
  • Traditionally, wealthiest part of the country was the north-east, but it moved to include areas formerly associated with agriculture instead of manufacturing
  • Inflation meant that family incomes fell, as well as living standards. The stagflation caused sluggish growth in the economy.
  • 1971, Nixon attempted to remedy inflation by imposing a 90-day wage and price freeze.
    • Attempted to boost American exports by taking the dollar off the gold standard, devaluing the currency
    • Resulted in a short-term improvement (just long enough to get Nixon reelected in 1972) but did nothing to address the tangled roots of the problem.
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  • rising unemployment and inflation, household debt rose rapidly - foreclosures by banks, greater homelessness
  • stagflation brought increasing poverty levels
  • decrease in institutions for the mentally ill, many former residents ended up on the streets
  • continuing urban renewal policies, many inner-city ‘skid-row’ hotels that had housed the exceptionally poor were demolished
    • People who formerly obtained shelter there struggled to find alternative accommodation.
  • Rising unemployment led some people into depression, despair and life on the streets. Budget cuts and lower welfare benefits contributed to the sense of hopelessness.
  • number of homeless women increased because of declining marriage rates and the increased number of single mothers. The lack of support from a partner and feeling that the authorities were unsympathetic led many to simply give up and live on the streets.
  • The mechanisation of industries, in a bid to increase productivity, increased unemployment. In 1951, manufacturing provided 46% of jobs - fell to 24% in 1977.
  • Proposition 13 in Calfornia - reduced state taxes by 57% - saved taxpayers money, but had serious negative impact on welfare services
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Oil Crisis

  • Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War 1973 - mainly Arabic ‘Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) started oil embargo on the US
    • Ended in 1974 – oil had gone from $3 per barrel to $12 per barrel.
  • Out of fuel - people not being able to get to work, get to school, transportation.
  • Oil used in industrial production, food transportation, used for heating. 
  • 1973, oil $3 dollars a barrel - 1979, $34 dollars a barrel
  • 13 June 1979, 58% of USA’s petrol stations closed due to lack of petrol
  • US GNP dropped by 2.5% in first 3/4s of 1973
  • export trade deficit = Importing more goods than it exported - more money going out than coming in.
  • foreign competition, less American products were being purchased due to the foreign imports, many smaller firms were put out of business, manufacturing labour force reduced by around 10%
    • Imported cars had better fuel consumption, by 1974, USA’s 3 biggest car manufacturers had laid off 224,000 workers
  • 1979 - second oil shock after Iranian revolution
  • inflation soared to 10%, stagflation
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Government Response to Economic Crises

  • WIN - Whip Inflation Now, Plea for Americans to be better shopper, spend less, policies to limit inflation were voluntary, not compulsory - required more radical response from government
    • Inflation did drop, but unemployment went up
  • Carter - Cut government spending, cut taxes, used public works programmes to get the USA out of economic recession
    • Public Works Act of 1977 - introduced stimulus package, $4 billion public world programme, enlargement of other social policies
    • Deregulated trucking and airline industries
    • Supported the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates
  • Crisis of Confidence speech - Cost him 20 points of approval rating, said that the problem was the people, not the economic issues, said Americans had lost ‘can do’ attitude, called for renewable of spirit
    • Showed Carter was out of touch
  • Planned to solve America's reliance on oil, invest in nuclear development
    • failed, accident on Three Mile Island
    • Huge anti-nuclear energy movement
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Business Interests in Sports

  • Pete Rozelle - influential in expansion of marketing and television broadcasting of American Football, highly influential in sports industry
    • Built up the wealth and prestige of American football
    • Expanded the television audience
    • Presided over the creation of the Super Bowl
    • Helped push for legislation so that football leagues could negotiate direct contracts with broadcasters
    • Negotiated a merger of the NFL and AFL
  • Increase in television contracts, strong relationship between beer companies and sports developed – Coors sponsored the NHL stadium. Anheuser-Busch – the company that brews Budweiser – was a key sponsor of the NFL
  • American Football, Basketball, Baseball, Ice Hockey and Golf all saw huge rises in professionalism due to increased revenue.
  • 14 Jan 1973, the Super Bowl VII was watched on tv by 53 million viewers, and the advertising cost during the match was $88,000 per 30-second ad
  • 1980 Super Bowl XIV, tv audience had risen to 76 million, and the 30-second ad cost was $222,000
  • 1979, NBA signed a lucrative contract with ESPN, which showed highlights of all major sports and aided to the popularity of the NBA with television audiences
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Fragmentation of Popular Music

  • 1973-1980 - major change in popular music
    • Dance music, development of disco and club music
    • Progressive rock → developed from rock bands of 60s
    • Tamla Motown northern black music developed into soul and funk
    • Rebellious genres - punk and new wave
    • 1979, hip hop
  • Disco and dance music were played at increasingly popular discotheques, Saturday Night Fever, 1977 - highpoint of disco dance music craze, Bee Gees became international stars
  • Progressive rock → took rock music and experimented with elements of classical and opera
    • Heavily influenced by British bands; Pink Floyd, Queen, ELO - American bands; Grand Funk Railroad, Kansas
  • Punk rock - main influence from Britain, Sex Pistols: rebellious, irreverent, aimed to shock
  • Rise in popularity of northern-based black American music, inspiration from artists like James Brown, ‘Funky’ form of soul
    • Sly and the Family Stone, Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire
    • Electronic, psychedelic sounds, drug culture
  • More rebellious version developed in rundown area of South Bronx in NYC from 1979 - hip hop, combined traditional forms of black music with rap music
  • Folk-pop music also popular, Bob Dylan, Joan Baes, Carly Simon - Strong folk roots, links to protest movements of 60s and 70s
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Contradictions in Film and Television

  • Blaxploitation - new genre, almost entirely black casts, often set in crime-ridden inner city ghettos, included private detectives, drug dealers, revenge, and black characters and communities are the heroes and subjects of the films
  • Social Consciousness - All in the Family (1971–79), WW2 veteran and blue-collar worker Archie Bunker ranting at black people, feminists, homosexuals and hippies. All the 1960s tensions were covered in this ‘ground-breaking’ series: abortion, sexuality, the Vietnam War, racism and women’s liberation. 
  • Sex - Charlie’s Angels (1976-81), One critic dismissed it as ‘excuse to show 60 minutes of suggestive poses by walking, talking pinup girls.’
    • One of the stars Fawcett-Majors stated when the show got to number 1, “it could only be because none of us wear a bra.”
  • Violence - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974, People tormented by a chainsaw-wielding serial killer - lots of violence, horror movies - increasing crime rate and violence shown on tv, emerging slasher genre, particularly depicts violence against women in the ‘final girl’ trope
  • Scandals - The Parallax View (1974), Discussed similar topic to All The President’s Men (in a fictional scenario) - told the story of a political reporter investigating the assassination of a president - topical due since the Watergate Scandal was unfolding across America at the time
  • Escapism - Star Wars (1977), drew from 1940s film serials and presented a more black and white struggle between good and evil at the end of a cynical decade for sci-fi
  • Sci-Fi - Soylent Green (1973), Downbeat - set in future world of poverty, environmental disaster, ghettoisation, women reduced to status of slaves
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Developments in News Media

  • 1973-1980 - wide-ranging newspaper industry, local and regional newspapers followed by national
  • 1973 → daily circulation of all newspapers was 26 million, rose to 32 million in 1980
  • Washington Post - most associated with national events, national recognition from helping uncover the Watergate scandal
    • Book and film - All the President’s Men, about reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Most Americans received news from national television networks; CBS - Evening News, NBC - Nightly News, ABC - World News Tonight, also produced morning and evening news, coverage of significant events
    • Fall of Saigon in 1975, Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979
  • In depth news coverage - CBS’s 60 Minutes - Led war in several investigative journalism innovations - hidden cameras, ‘gotcha journalism’
  • Increased popularity of ‘happy talk’ - additional meaningless comments inserted into news programmes, highly informal conversational style between journalists
    • Newsmen were becoming personalities, physical appearance and facility with banter becoming more important than journalistic skills and news itself
  • Dominance of national networks broken in June 1980 - Ted Turner set up Cable Network News (CNN) - Constant up-to-the-minute news coverage
  • Expansion of investigative journalism - Encouraged countless journalists to seek career-making scandals
  • Some believed journalists played essential role in maintaining democracy, but also fear that war and Watergate had given press exaggerated sense of its own importance in politics
  • Increased importance of previously marginalised groups in the news
    • Women more prominent in the programme content (1973 ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match was televised)
    • NOW campaigned for more women on television and development of special reports on current issues in the 1970s, increased opportunities for women
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