The Rise of Conservatism: Crash Course US History #41


Episode 41: Rise of Conservatism Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse
U.S. history and today we’re going to–Nixon?–we’re going to talk about the rise of conservatism.
So Alabama, where I went to high school, is a pretty conservative state and reliably sends
Republicans to Washington. Like, both of its Senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby,
are Republicans. But did you know that Richard Shelby used to be a Democrat, just like basically
all of Alabama’s Senators since reconstruction? And this shift from Democrat to Republican
throughout the South is the result of the rise in conservative politics in the 1960s
and 1970s that we are going to talk about today. And along the way, we get to put Richard
Nixon’s head in a jar. Stan just informed me that we don’t actually
get to put Richard Nixon’s head in a jar. It’s just a Futurama joke. And now I’m
sad. So, you’ll remember from our last episode
that we learned that not everyone in the 1960s was a psychedelic rock-listening, war-protesting
hippie. In fact, there was a strong undercurrent of conservative thinking that ran throughout
the 1960s, even among young people. And one aspect of this was the rise of free
market ideology and libertarianism. Like, since the 1950s, a majority of Americans had
broadly agreed that “free enterprise” was a good thing and should be encouraged
both in the U.S. and abroad. Mr. Green, Mr. Green, and also in deep space
where no man has gone before? No, MFTP. You’re thinking of the Starship
Enterprise, not free enterprise. And anyway, Me From The Past, have you ever
seen a more aggressively communist television program than “The Neutral Zone” from Star
Trek: The Next Generation’s first season? I don’t think so.
intro Alright so, in the 1950s a growing number
of libertarians argued that unregulated capitalism and individual autonomy were the essence of
American freedom. And although they were staunchly anti-communist, their real target was the
regulatory state that had been created by the New Deal. You know, social security, and
not being allowed to, you know, choose how many pigs you kill, etc.
Other conservatives weren’t libertarians at all but moral conservatives who were okay
with the rules that enforced traditional notions of family and morality. Even if that seemed
like, you know, an oppressive government. For them virtue was the essence of America.
But both of these strands of conservatism were very hostile toward communism and also
to the idea of “big government.” And it’s worth noting that since World War
I, the size and scope of the federal government had increased dramatically.
And hostility toward the idea of “big government” remains the signal feature of contemporary
conservatism. Although very few people actually argue for shrinking the government. Because,
you know, that would be very unpopular. People like Medicare.
But it was faith in the free market that infused the ideology of the most vocal young conservatives
in the 1960s. They didn’t receive nearly as much press
as their liberal counterparts but these young conservatives played a pivotal role in reshaping
the Republican Party, especially in the election of 1964.
The 1964 presidential election was important in American history precisely because it was
so incredibly uncompetitive. I mean, Lyndon Johnson was carrying the torch
of a wildly popular American president who had been assassinated a few months before.
He was never going to lose. And indeed he didn’t. The republican candidate,
Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, was demolished by LBJ.
But the mere fact of Goldwater’s nomination was a huge conservative victory. I mean, he
beat out liberal Republican New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. And yes, there were liberal
Republicans. Goldwater demanded a harder line in the Cold
War, even suggesting that nuclear war might be an option in the fight against communism.
And he lambasted the New Deal liberal welfare state for destroying American initiative and
individual liberty. I mean, why bother working when you could just enjoy life on the dole?
I mean, unemployment insurance allowed anyone in America to become a hundredaire.
But it was his stance on the Cold War that doomed his candidacy. In his acceptance speech,
Goldwater famously declared, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
Which made it really easy for Johnson to paint Goldwater as an extremist.
In the famous “Daisy” advertisement, Johnson’s supporters countered Goldwater’s campaign
slogan of “in your heart, you know he’s right” with “but in your guts you know
he’s nuts.” So in the end, Goldwater received a paltry
27 million votes to Johnson’s 43 million, and Democrats racked up huge majorities in
both houses of Congress. This hides, however, the significance of the election. Five of
the six states that Goldwater carried were in the Deep South, which had been reliably
democratic, known as the “Solid South,” in fact.
Now, it’s too simple to say that race alone led to the shift from Democratic to the Republican
party in the South because Goldwater didn’t really talk much about race.
But the Democrats, especially under LBJ, became the party associated with defending civil
rights and ending segregation, and that definitely played a role in white southerners’ abandoning
the Democrats, as was demonstrated even more clearly in the 1968 election.
The election of 1968 was a real cluster-Calhoun, I mean, there were riots and there was also
the nomination of Hubert Humphrey, who was very unpopular with the anti-war movement,
and also was named Hubert Humphrey, and that’s just what happened with the Democrats.
But, lost in that picture was the Republican nominee, Richard Milhous Nixon, who was one
of the few candidates in American history to come back and win the presidency after
losing in a previous election. How’d he do it?
Well, it probably wasn’t his charm, but it might have been his patience. Nixon was
famous for his ability to sit and wait in poker games. It made him very successful during
his tour of duty in the South Pacific. In fact, he earned the nickname “Old Iron Butt.”
Plus, he was anti-communist, but didn’t talk a lot about nuking people. And the clincher
was probably that he was from California, which by the late 1960s was becoming the most
populous state in the nation. Nixon won the election, campaigning as the
candidate of the “silent majority” of Americans who weren’t anti-war protesters,
and who didn’t admire free love or the communal ideals of hippies.
And who were alarmed at the rights that the Supreme Court seemed to be expanding, especially
for criminals. This silent majority felt that the rights
revolution had gone too far. I mean, they were concerned about the breakdown in traditional
values and in law and order. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
Nixon also promised to be tough on crime, which was coded language to whites in the
south that he wouldn’t support civil rights protests. The equation of crime with African
Americans has a long and sordid history in the United States, and Nixon played it up
following a “Southern strategy” to further draw white Democrats who favored segregation
into the Republican ranks. Now, Nixon only won 43% of the vote, but if
you’ve paid attention to American history, you know that you ain’t gotta win a majority
to be the president. He was denied that majority primarily by Alabama
Governor George Wallace, who was running on a pro-segregation ticket and won 13% of the
vote. So 56% of American voters chose candidates
who were either explicitly or quietly against civil rights.
Conservatives who voted for Nixon hoping he would roll back the New Deal were disappointed.
I mean, in some ways the Nixon domestic agenda was just a continuation of LBJ’s Great Society.
This was partly because Congress was still in the hands of Democrats, but also Nixon
didn’t push for conservative programs and he didn’t veto new initiatives. Because
they were popular. And he liked to be popular. So in fact, a number of big government “liberal”
programs began under Nixon. I mean, the environmental movement achieved success with the enactment
of the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board
were created to make new regulations that would protect worker safety and make cars
safer. That’s not government getting out of our
lives, that’s government getting into our cars.
Now, Nixon did abolish the Office of Economic Opportunity, but he also indexed social security
benefits to inflation and he proposed the Family Assistance Plan that would guarantee
a minimum income for all Americans. And, the Nixon years saw some of the most
aggressive affirmative action in American history. LBJ had begun the process by requiring
recipients of federal contracts to have specific numbers of minority employees and timetables
for increasing those numbers. But Nixon expanded this with the Philadelphia
plan, which required federal construction projects to have minority employees. He ended
up attacking this plan after realising that it was wildly unpopular with trade unions,
which had very few black members, but he had proposed it.
And when Nixon had the opportunity to nominate a new Chief Justice to the Supreme Court after
Earl Warren retired in 1969, his choice, Warren Burger was supposed to be a supporter of small
government and conservative ideals, but, just like Nixon, he proved a disappointment in
that regard. Like, in Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenbug Board
of Education, the court upheld a lower court ruling that required busing of students to
achieve integration in Charlotte’s schools. And then the Burger court made it easier for
minorities to sue for employment discrimination, especially with its ruling in Regents of the
University of California v. Bakke. This upheld affirmative action as a valid governmental
interest, although it did strike down the use of strict quotas in university admissions.
Now, many conservatives didn’t like these affirmative action decisions, but one case
above all others had a profound effect on American politics: Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to have an abortion in the first trimester
of a pregnancy as well as a more limited right as the pregnancy progressed. And that decision
galvanized first Catholics and then Evangelical Protestants.
And that ties in nicely with another strand in American conservatism that developed in
the 1960s and 1970s. Let’s go to the ThoughtBubble. Many Americans felt that traditional family
values were deteriorating and looked to conservative republican candidates to stop that slide.
They were particularly alarmed by the continuing success of the sexual revolution, as symbolized
by Roe v. Wade and the increasing availability of birth control.
Statistics tend to back up the claims that traditional family values were in decline
in the 1970s. Like, the number of divorces soared to over one million in 1975 exceeding
the number of first time marriages. The birthrate declined with women bearing 1.7 children during
their lifetimes by 1976, less than half the figure in 1957. Now, of course, many people
would argue that the decline of these traditional values allowed more freedom for women and
for a lot of terrible marriages to end, but that’s neither here nor there.
Some conservatives also complained about the passage in 1972 of Title IX, which banned
gender discrimination in higher education, but many more expressed concern about the
increasing number of women in the workforce. Like, by 1980 40% of women with young children
had been in the workforce, up from 20% in 1960.
The backlash against increased opportunity for women is most obviously seen in the defeat
of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1974, although it passed Congress easily in 1972. Opponents
of the ERA, which rather innocuously declared that equality of rights under the law could
not be abridged on account of sex, argued that the ERA would let men off the hook for
providing for their wives and children, and that working women would lead to the further
breakdown of the family. Again, all the ERA stated was that women and men would have equal
rights under the laws of the United States. But, anyway, some anti-ERA supporters, like
Phyllis Schlafly claimed that free enterprise was the greatest liberator of women because
the purchase of new labor saving devices would offer them genuine freedom in their traditional
roles of wife and mother. Essentially, the vacuum cleaner shall make you free. And those
arguments were persuasive to enough people that the ERA was not ratified in the required
¾ of the United States. Thanks, ThoughtBubble. Sorry if I let my personal
feelings get in the way on that one. Anyway, Nixon didn’t have much to do with the continuing
sexual revolution; it would have continued without him because, you know, skoodilypooping
is popular. But, he was successfully reelected in 1972,
partly because his opponent was the democratic Barry Goldwater, George McGovern.
McGovern only carried one state and it wasn’t even his home state. It was Massachusetts.
Of course. But even though they couldn’t possibly lose,
Nixon’s campaign decided to cheat. In June of 1972, people from Nixon’s campaign broke
into McGovern’s campaign office, possibly to plant bugs. No, Stan, not those kinds of
bugs. Yes. Those. Now, we don’t know if Nixon actually knew
about the activities of the former employees of the amazingly acronym-ed CREEP, that is
the Committee for the Reelection of the President. But this break in at the Watergate hotel eventually
led to Nixon being the first and so far only American president to resign.
What we do know is this: Nixon was really paranoid about his opponents, even the ones
who appealed to 12% of American voters, especially after Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon
Papers to the New York Times in 1971. So, he drew up an enemies list and created
a special investigative unit called the plumbers whose job was to fix toilets. No, it was to
stop leaks. That makes more sense. I’m sorry, Stan, it’s just by then the
toilets in the White House were over 100 years old, I figured they might need some fixing,
but apparently no. Leaking. Nixon also taped all of the conversations
in the Oval Office and these tapes caused a minor constitutional crisis.
So, during the congressional investigation of Watergate, it became known that these tapes
existed, so the special prosecutor demanded copies.
Nixon refused, claiming executive privilege, and the case went all the way to the Supreme
Court, which ruled in U.S. v. Nixon that he had to turn them over. And this is important
because it means that the president is not above the law.
So, what ultimately doomed Nixon was not the break in itself, but the revelations that
he covered it up by authorizing hush money payments to keep the burglars silent and also
instructing the FBI not to investigate the crime.
In August of 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that articles of impeachment be
drawn up against Nixon for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. But the real crime,
ultimately, was abuse of power, and there’s really no question about whether he was guilty
of that. So, Nixon resigned. Aw man, I was thinking I was going to get
away without a Mystery Document today. The rules here are simple.
I guess the author of the Mystery Document, and lately I’m never wrong.
Alright. Today I am an inquisitor. I believe hyperbole
would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith
in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and
be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”
Aw. I’m going to get shocked today. Is it Sam Ervin? Aw dang it! Gah!
Apparently it was African American congresswoman from Texas, Barbara Jordan. Stan, that is
much too hard. I think you were getting tired of me not being
shocked, Stan, because it’s pretty strange to end an episode on conservatism with a quote
from Barbara Jordan, whose election to Congress has to be seen as a huge victory for liberalism.
But I guess it is symbolic of the very things that many conservatives found unsettling in
the 1970s, including political and economic success for African Americans and women, and
the legislation that helped the marginalized. I know that sounds very judgmental, but on
the other hand, the federal government had become a huge part of every American’s life,
maybe too huge. And certainly conservatives weren’t wrong
when they said that the founding fathers of the U.S. would hardly recognize the nation
that we had become by the 1970s. In fact, Watergate was followed by a Senate
investigation by the Church Committee, which revealed that Nixon was hardly the first president
to abuse his power. The government had spied on Americans throughout
the Cold War and tried to disrupt the Civil Rights movement. And the Church Commission,
Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, Vietnam all of these things revealed a government that
truly was out of control and this undermined a fundamental liberal belief that government
is a good institution that is supposed to solve problems and promote freedom.
And for many Conservatives these scandals sent a clear signal that government couldn’t
promote freedom and couldn’t solve problems and that the liberal government of the New
Deal and the Great Society had to be stopped. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next week.
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don’t forget to be awesome.

UK Labour Party Political Broadcast – Sep 1964



the now father is an election broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party the choice we are making in this election will affect every family and every member of every family let's get right down to the problems that's practically all of its face today first is the problem of making ends meet our conservative opponents have spent a great deal of money on advertising on telling you about the prosperity they say they have given you their happiness you've done it often in spite of them and in very many cases it's only been possible through long hours of overtime and because of why is going out to work of course our standard of living is higher than it was 5 or 10 or 20 years ago so don't to be that's natural it's true every industrial comes but if there isn't a great deal less in Britain than in most others effect these conservatives simply can't deny and to be fair to them they haven't tried it but what does our standard living depend on it depends on how much is coming into the home which is mainly a question of wages and salary and it depends too on how much goes out the government which now tries to take credit for your prosperity I spent most of his time fighting to keep wages down remember the waves fees paid for remember Selwyn Lloyd telling us that we shall be bankrupt if they didn't put up prescription charges for all the expansionist that they just couldn't afford to pay nurses a decent way yet the same Chancellor could find money for the circuits fair remember how the teachers civil servants social workers and only a few weeks ago the postman have had to struggle to get reasonable wages remember how conservative ministers have said flatly that if anyone pressed for higher wages the government would dry up the supply of money so that unemployment would result and in fact the direct result of Selwyn Lloyd's cuts was a sharp right unemployment and it's taken three years and an election to get the unemployment figures back to where they were then now they're claiming the credit for the higher income that you have earned but there's another side to the problem too it's not just a question of income it's what a family has to spend out of their engine and the first charge on every household is the rent or the mortgage payment for those who are buying their own house and with that goes rapes and if you own your own house the heavy costs of house maintenance and repairs higher rents have been deliberate government policy we have the rent a rising rents swelling the incomes of property companies and driving thousands of tenants from their home this is still going on and it'll get worse unless something is done we shall repeal the rent X restore security of tenure and see that rents are fixed at a fair level which will help people seeking to buy a home and reduce the mortgage payments they have to make the government as a matter of policy have raised interest rate and this is why council house rents and Building Society mortgage repayments and rates have gone up then we have the problem of continually rising prices me milk bread very soon groceries rising fair children's clothes new shoes and shoe repairs as well these things have just been talking about effects within the knowledge and day-to-day experience of every one of it why is it then that after 13 years of unusually favorable world economic condition for Britain the Tory government have simply failed to cope with these growing problems at any rate the facts of the conservative record are not in dispute and now I'm going to ask Christopher Mayfield to illustrate just for a minute or two some of the things that have been happening in the past we've often used charts and diagrams to set out the facts of the conservative record we've made them very accurate and they've never been challenged and now we're glad to see non-labor newspapers doing the same and reinforcing many of the points you'd be making ourselves The Guardian has just published a chart comparing the rising living standards of different countries over the last 10 years that's Britain there arrived of 25 percent a quarter look how much less that is another quite representative countries like the Netherlands Sweden the wealthy country France Italy Germany and Japan looking at this chart it seems absurd that the Conservatives should be making the rise in our standard of living at one of their main election issues at the present time the Guardian of course only showed a few countries but unfortunately if we compare ourselves with other larger groups of countries the results are equally disappointing you may have seen our program last month in which we showed that it needs simply kept up with the rate of advance of the 14 other countries of Western Europe and a conservative rule we would now be producing extra budget services worth eight thousand million pounds a year that's the equivalent of four pounds ten a week for every employed person in the country we've costed the Conservatives top dough program and it costs at all four pounds 10 a week now The Guardian had also just published a chart on housing this shows that in United Kingdom next United Kingdom there we're now spending about 3 percent of our total production on housing about the same as Japan but much less from the United States France Sweden Germany Italy Switzerland if we've devoted a larger proportion of our resources to housing if they have we'd be right on top of our housing problem today and then there's education well I'd like to present you with the latest facts in the famous hog report but mr. Hogg of course has declined to never see the factories report until after polling day meantime we have to make do with other official reports I have the Newsome report here on secondary schools it shows about school buildings as a whole one fifth only are up to standard two-fifths have some serious deficiencies and the remaining two-fifths have many serious deficiencies and effects about the balance of payments the Board of Trade is more forthcoming than the Ministry of Education and it's chart the latest official charge of the board of trade shows the gap in our chain those large columns show the gap between our exports and imports the month by which they are planing to pay our way in the world look how the gap grew in 1960 it was after that we had the paid pause in the unemployment and look how it's growing again today we are getting into debt today at a rate of between one and two million pounds a day and if the chart doesn't speak for itself today's Daily Mail I have here it says our trading deficit is described even officially as massive and is larger than at any time since the war exports to being disappointingly imports to high and so on now these are just a few that we will show many more I need four tasks just a few facts to set against the Conservatives election propaganda how can we get these things right how can we get Britain ahead again it's nice to feel when we lose some international contests that we're such sporting losses but it is about time we started winning anyway good luck to our team in Tokyo but in the international economic league aren't we getting a bit sick of being told it sound be done how is it going to be paid for the Conservatives out for a start we might well ask them that question after 12 years in office they've suddenly lost when worked out a whole series of promises on all those issues which for years have been saying the nation couldn't afford you know I think the Conservatives are done a very valuable service in this election in admitting frankly that their programs cannot be fulfilled unless we get a steady 4% increase in production that's all very well but what they don't tell you is that this 4% is nearly double the rate they actually achieved during the last 13 years judged on their record the tories modernization plan is a phony it can't be achieved without the steady expansion which just has not happened under three successive Tory government why even the election boom is petering out after only a few months and the prosperity they're talking about they're getting on the slate borrowing abroad if they were allowed to go on like this the country would soon be informed with all that means all the experts agree on this as you saw him Christopher makers talked a minute ago so I must warn you whoever wins this election is going to be faced with very grave economic difficulties right away of course a government determined to master the crisis could cope with it but I must tell you in order to pay for the houses the schools the pension to improve living standards we've got to have a steadily expanding economy and the story stop though stop is not the way to do it there's much more to do than raising the money it's a question of physical resources and how we use them take housing like everything else it means planning it means Drive and that's what we haven't had they've just drive Lee announced an increased housing program after 13 years and they forgot to plan the brakes to get rid of the swamp schools schools without even the minimum needed for good teachers the school is described in the report mr. Quintin Hogg wants to keep from you till after the election this means visit bulldozers to clear them away bricks and mortar or timber and concrete and glass to build a new school that's why I keep emphasizing the production that they fail to achieve so here we have it planning work priority there's nothing mysterious about it the problem is how do we as a national family allocate our housekeeping budget in such a way as to see that individual families are getting the best out of life I was talking about housing just now we can only solve this problem if we set aside more of our resources to this job than we've been doing if we make it a number-one priority instead of letting it trail behind less essential but of course much more profitable projects such as building luxury office blocks is a nice money-making speculation and then social security it's not the government any government labor or Tory which provides pensions the British people as a family has to make provision for those who are in need to look after the older members giving them a chance as of right not as a charity not as a donation to live in their retirement in dignity and comfort the widow's the sixth the disabled if a family's income Rises it doesn't spend it all it makes provision for the future by taking out insurance policies it provides more generously for the father or mother living in retirement and this is what we're going to do as an eight we've said clearly how we're going to do it and in our future election broadcast my colleagues will be coming along to show exactly what we propose to do and how we're going to do it it's just a matter of common sense and of common humanity deciding which things are important which things must be done first but it does mean having a government a government which isn't afraid to take decisions a government which won't sit back and let the money make it the takeover bid is the tycoon shape our future the government which is concerned with the national interest the interested mothers and fathers and individual families government of the people yes but we believe in bringing in all the people not just a privileged few it's a tremendously exciting time to be living in the scientific revolution is now making it possible for the first time in world history to provide all the people with the high living standard the economic security the cultural values which in the past have been enjoyed by only a small wealthy minority and as we look further ahead it means giving all our children the fullest chance to develop the talents that are in me to get ahead to have a fair chance of getting to the top because it's our children's future that lies at the heart of this election they have no vote and it's of them that we have to think when we go to the polls on October the 15th that was an election broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party