The philosopher William Martin Joel once said, "the good ole days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems." Now that Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States, Buzz and I have been pondering to what era in American history Trump believes we should aim to return.
Many conservatives are fond of the good old days, so let's take a look back at eras to which we can return to make America great again.
The early days of the Republic.
At the time of the adoption of the Consitution in the late 1780s and early 1790s, political and civil rights weren't that great. Only White property owning males could vote. So if you were a woman or you didn't own property or were not white, voting to elect your leaders on federal, state, or local levels was not an option.
In 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Among other things, these laws allowed the President to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous or who were from a hostile nation. It also criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government.
The Antebellum Era
Prior to the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery or involuntary servitude, 3.9 million African Americans were slaves, and thus didn't have the rights given to the rest of us. American Indians, the "Americans" who greeted all of us when we got off the boat, weren't granted American citizenship until 1924.
The upcoming Industrial Age was dawning, so the rudimentary labor laws, like an eight hour work day, were still decades away. The Food and Drug Administration, which started regulating the food we eat and the conditions under which it was processed didn't come into existence until 1906.
The Roaring 20s
A lot of people look back to the 1920s as the good ole days, but things weren't that good. Women did get the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, but there was virtually no safety net, and Wall Street investors specialized in unregulated insider trading. The social safety, with Social Security, unemployment insurance, among other programs were a decade away.
If you wanted a beer or a scotch or even a glass of wine, forget it. The temperance advocates had amended the Constitution in 1919 to prohibit the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of intoxicating beverages. It wasn't until 1933 that the "noble experiment" ended with the passage of the 21st Amendment.
The "Happy Days" of the 1950s
Many people harken back to those idyllic times of the Cunningham family and the Eisenhower Era of the 1950s as a time when America was great. Well, again, if you weren't a White American, forget about equal rights in the South and many American cities.
The South began adopting Jim Crow laws beginning in the 1870s. African Americans were second class citizens. They had their own segregated and inferior schools, they were forced ride in the back of buses, they had their own water fountains, and were excluded from even being customers at many businesses. Violent crimes by Whites against African Americans were rarely prosecuted, and even when they were, the result was an acquittal by an all White jury.
Even in the North and the rest of the country, restrictive covenants in real estate deeds prohibited the sale of real property to African Americans, Jews, and many other minority groups. Chicago, New York, Boston and other Northern cities still had laws and policies that discriminated against minorities.
We were also engaged in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and since the Soviets developed the atomic bomb in 1949, the threat of nuclear war was an everyday fear. Elementary school students practicing get under their desks in Atomic attack drills.
Changes in laws in the 1960s greatly expanded individuals rights, and the safety net expanded, but we lived through some horrific events.
Our older citizens finally got government healthcare in the form of Medicare, so they actually could enjoy their golden years with better health. The Supreme Court greatly expanded individual rights in the area of rights of the accused, free speech, voting rights, and personal freedom. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, along with a laundry list of social safety net programs.
We lost President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King to the bullets of assassins. We were engaged in a war which would claim the lives of almost 60,000 young Americans, most of whom were brought into the Vietnam conflict via the military draft. Corporations continued to pollute the air, the land, and the entire environment, because the Environmental Protection Agency wasn't created until a few years into the Nixon administration.
The Reagan Years
Tax rates were actually higher during the Reagan years, especially for poorer Americans, than they are today. We were still spending billions and billions of dollars on a massive defense build up to defeat the Soviet menace, and the administration was illegally selling arms to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.
LBGT rights were still twenty years away. Whereas the Supreme Court cleared the way for interracial marriage in the 1960s, gays and lesbians would have to wait another couple of decades to marry the one they loved, or even visit them in a hospital or make medical decisions for their partners.
Buzz and I think America is pretty great right now, and looking back to a mythical bygone era of greatness is foolhardy. We should not look back for a greater America, but should look forward to a better, and dare we say, even greater America.
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