The 1960s in America: Crash Course US History #40


Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
US History and today we’re gonna talk about the 1960s.
Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Great. The decade made famous by the narcissists who lived through
it. Hey, Me From the Past, finally you and I agree
about something wholeheartedly. But while I don’t wish to indulge the baby-boomers’
fantasies about their centrality to world history, the sixties were an important time.
I mean, there was the Cold War, Vietnam, a rising tide of conservatism (despite Woodstock),
racism. There were the Kennedy’s and Camelot, John,
Paul, George, and to a lesser extent, Ringo. And of course, there was also Martin Luther
King Jr. intro
So, the 1960s saw people organizing and actively working for change both in the social order
and in government. This included the student movement, the women’s movement, movements
for gay rights, and a push by the courts to expand rights in general.
But, by the end of the 1960s, the anti-war movement seemed to have overshadowed all the
rest. So as you’ll no doubt remember from last
week, the civil rights movement began in the 1950s if not before, but many of its key moments
happened in the sixties. And this really began with sit-ins that took
place in Greensboro North Carolina. Black university students walked into Woolworths
and waited at the lunch counters to be served, or, more likely, arrested.
After 5 months of that, those students eventually got Woolworths to serve black customers.
Then, in 1961 leaders from the Congress On Racial Equality launched Freedom Rides to
integrate interstate buses. Volunteers rode the buses into the Deep South where they faced
violence including beatings and a bombing in Anniston AL.
But despite that, those freedom rides also proved successful and eventually the ICC desegregated
interstate buses. In fact, by the end of the 60s over 70,000
people had taken part in demonstrations, from sit-ins, to teach-ins, to marches.
But they weren’t all successful. Martin Luther King’s year-long protests in Albany,
GA didn’t end discrimination in the city. And it took JFK ordering federal troops to
escort James Meredith to class for him to attend the University of Mississippi.
The University of Mississippi: America’s fallback college. Sorry, I’m from Alabama.
So, the Civil Rights movement reached its greatest national prominence in 1963 when
Martin Luther King came to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, where there had been
more than 50 racially-motivated bombings since WWII.
Television brought the reality of the Jim Crow South into people’s homes as images
of Bull Connor’s police dogs and water cannons being turned on peaceful marchers, many of
them children, horrified viewers and eventually led Kennedy to endorse the movement’s goals.
Probably should mention that John F. Kennedy was president of the United States at the
time, having been elected in 1960. He was assassinated in 1963 leading to Lyndon Johnson.
Alright, politics over. Anyway, in response to these peaceful protests,
Birmingham jailed Martin Luther King where he wrote one of the great letters in American
history (doesn’t have a great name): Letter from Birmingham Jail.
1963 also saw the March on Washington, the largest public demonstration in American history
up to that time where King gave his famous speech, “I have a Dream.”
King and the other organizers called for a civil rights bill and help for the poor, demanding
public works, a higher minimum wage, and an end to discrimination in employment.
Which eventually, in one of the great bright spots in American history, did sort of happen
with the Civil Rights Act. So, one reason American history teachers focus
on the Civil Rights Movement so much is that it successfully brought actual legislative
change. After being elected president, John F. Kennedy
was initially cool to civil rights, but to be fair, the Cold War occupied a lot of his
time, what with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs and whatnot.
But the demonstrations of 1963 pushed John F. Kennedy to support civil rights more actively.
According to our dear friend, the historian Eric Foner, “Kennedy realized that the United
States simply could not declare itself the champion of freedom throughout the world while
maintaining a system of racial inequality at home.”[1]
So that June he appeared on TV and called on Congress to pass a law that would ban discrimination
in all public accommodations. And then he was assassinated. Thanks, Lee
Harvey Oswald. Or possibly someone else. But probably Lee Harvey Oswald.
So then, Lyndon Johnson became president and he pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. The law prohibited discrimination in employment,
schools, hospitals, and privately owned public places like restaurants, and hotels and theaters,
and it also banned discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Civil Rights Act was a major moment in American legislative history, but it hardly
made the United States a haven of equality. So, Civil Rights leaders continued to push
for the enfranchisement of African Americans. After Freedom Summer workers registered people
in Mississippi to vote, King launched a march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in January,
1965. And television swayed public opinion in favor
of the demonstrators. Thank you, TV, for your one and only gift to humanity. Just kidding.
Battlestar Galactica. So, in 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights
Act, which gave the federal government the power to oversee voting in places where discrimination
was practiced. In 1965, Congress also passed the Hart-Cellar
Act, which got rid of national origin quotas and allowed Asian immigrants to immigrate
to the United States. Unfortunately the law also introduced quotas on immigrants from
the Western Hemisphere. Lyndon Johnson’s domestic initiatives from
1965 through 1967 are known as the Great Society, and it’s possible that if he hadn’t been
responsible for America escalating the war in Vietnam, he might have been remembered,
at least by liberals, as one of America’s greatest presidents.
Because the Great Society expanded a lot of the promises of the New Deal, especially in
the creation of health insurance programs, like Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid
for the poor. He also went to War on Poverty. Never go to
war with a noun. You will always lose. Johnson treated poverty as a social problem,
rather than an economic one. So instead of focusing on jobs or guaranteed income, his
initiatives stressed things like training. That unfortunately failed to take into account
shifts in the economy away from high wage union manufacturing jobs toward more lower-wage
service jobs. [2] Here’s what Eric Foner had to say about
Johnson’s domestic accomplishments: “By the 1990s […] the historic gap between whites
and blacks in education, income, and access to skilled employment narrowed considerably.
But with deindustrialization and urban decay affecting numerous families and most suburbs
still being off limits to non-white people, the median wealth of white households remained
ten times greater than that of African Americans, and nearly a quarter of all black children
lived in poverty.” While Congress was busy enacting Johnson’s
Great Society programs, the movement for African American freedom was changing. Let’s go
to the ThoughtBubble. Persistent poverty and continued discrimination
in the workplace, housing, education, and criminal justice system might explain the
shift away from integration and toward black power, a celebration of African American culture
and criticism of whites’ oppression. 1964 saw the beginnings of riots in city ghettoes,
for instance, mostly in Northern cities. The worst riots were in 1965 in Watts, in
southern California. These left 35 people dead, 900 injured, and $30 million in damage.
Newark and Detroit also saw devastating riots in 1967. In 1968 the Kerner Report blamed
the cause of the rioting on segregation, poverty, and white racism.
Then there’s Malcolm X, who many white people regarded as an advocate for violence, but
who also called for self-reliance. It’s tempting to see leadership shifting from King
to X as the civil rights movement became more militant, but Malcolm X was active in the
early 1960s and he was killed in 1965, three years before Martin Luther King was assassinated
and before all the major shifts in emphasis towards black power.
Older Civil Rights groups like CORE abandoned integration as a goal after 1965 and started
to call for black power. The rhetoric of Black Power could be strident, but its message of
black empowerment was deeply resonant for many. Oakland’s Black Panther Party did
carry guns in self-defense but they also offered a lot of neighborhood services. But the Black
Power turned many white people away from the struggle for African American freedom, and
by the end of the 1960s, many Americans’ attention had shifted to anti-war movement.
Thanks, ThoughtBubble. So it was Vietnam that really galvanized students even though many
didn’t have to go to Vietnam because they had student deferments. They just really,
really didn’t want their friends to go. The anti-war movement and the civil rights
movement inspired other groups to seek an end to oppression. Like, Latinos organized
to celebrate their heritage and end discrimination. Latino activism was like black power, but
much more explicitly linked to labor justice, especially the strike efforts led by Cesar
Chavez and the United Farm Workers. The American Indian Movement, founded in 1968,
took over Alcatraz to symbolize the land that had been taken from Native Americans. And
they won greater tribal control over education, economic development, and they also filed
suits for restitution. And in June of 1969, after police raided a
gay bar, called the Stonewall Inn, members of the gay community began a series of demonstrations
in New York City, which touched off the modern gay liberation movement.
Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are pretty simple.
I read the Mystery Document, guess the author, I’m either right or I get shocked.
Alright, what have we got here. If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee
that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals
or by public officials [I already know it!], it is surely only because our forefathers,
despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem. Rachel Carson! Silent Spring. YES. I am on
such a roll. Silent Spring was a massively important book
because it was the first time that anyone really described all of the astonishingly
poisonous things we were putting into the air and the ground and the water.
Fortunately, that’s all been straightened out now and everything that we do and make
as human beings is now sustainable. What’s that? Oh god.
The environmental movement gained huge bipartisan support and it resulted in important legislation
during the Nixon era, including the Clean Air and Water Acts, and the Endangered Species
Act. And yes, I said that environmental legislation was passed during the Nixon administration.
But perhaps the most significant freedom movement in terms of number of people involved and
long-lasting effects was the American Feminist movement.
This is usually said to have begun with the publication of Betty Friedan’s book The
Feminine Mystique, which set out to describe “the problem that has no name.” Turns
out the name is “misogyny.” [3] Friedan described a constricting social and
economic system that affected mostly middle class women, but it resonated with the educated
classes and led to the foundation of the National Organization of Women in 1966.
Participation in student and civil rights movements led many women to identify themselves
as members of a group that was systematically discriminated against.
And by “systemic,” I mean that in 1963, 5.8% of doctors were women and 3.7% of lawyers
were women and fewer than 10% of doctoral degrees went to women. They are more than
half of the population. While Congress responded with the Equal Pay
Act in 1963, younger women sought greater power and autonomy in addition to legislation.
Crucially, 60s-era feminists opened America to the idea that the “personal is political,”
especially when it came to equal pay, childcare, and abortion.
Weirdly, the branch of government that provided most support to the expansion of personal
freedom in the 1960s was the most conservative one, the Supreme Court. The Warren Court handed
down so many decisions expanding civil rights that the era has sometimes been called a rights
revolution. The Warren court expanded the protections
of free speech and assembly under the First Amendment and freedom of the press in the
New York Times v. Sullivan decision. It struck down a law banning interracial marriage in
the most appropriately named case ever, Loving v. Virginia.
And although this would become a lightning rod for many conservatives, Supreme Court
decisions greatly expanded the protections of people accused of crimes.
Gideon v. Wainwright secured the right to attorney, Mapp v. Ohio established the exclusionary
rule under the Fourth Amendment, and Miranda v. Arizona provided fodder for Channing Tatum
in his great movie, 21 Jump Street, insuring that he would always have to say to every
perp, “You have the right to remain silent.” But you can’t silence my heart, Channing
Tatum. It beats only for thee. But, the most innovative and controversial
decisions actually established a new right where none had existed in the constitution.
Griswold v. Connecticut, dealt with contraception, and Roe v. Wade, guaranteed a woman’s right
to an abortion (at least in the first trimester). And those two decisions formed the basis of
a new right, the right to privacy. Protests, the counter culture, and the liberation
movements continued well into the early 1970s, losing steam with the end of the Vietnam war
and America’s economy plunging into the toilet. For many, though, the year 1968 sums
up the decade. 1968 began with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam,
which stirred up the anti-war protests. Then racial violence erupted after the assassination
of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Then, anti-war demonstrators as well as some
counter culture types arrived in large numbers at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago
where they were set upon by police and beaten in what was later described as a “police
riot.” 1968 also saw the Prague Spring uprising in
Czechoslovakia crushed by the Soviets. And student demonstrators were killed by the police
in Mexico City where the Olympics were held and Parisian students took to the streets
in widespread protests against, you know, France.
All this unrest scared a lot of people who ended up voting for Richard Nixon and his
promises to return to law and order. Ultimately, like any decade or arbitrary historical
“age,” the 60s defies easy categorization. Yes, there were hippies and liberation movements,
but there were also reactions to those movements. On this one, I’m just gonna leave it up
to Eric Foner to summarize the decade’s legacy:
“[The 1960s] made possible the entrance of numerous members of racial minorities into
the mainstream of American life, while leaving unsolved the problem of urban poverty. It
set in motion a transformation of the status of women. It changed what Americans expected
from government – from clean air and water to medical coverage in old age.
And at the same time, it undermined confidence in national leaders. Relations between young
and old, men and women, and white and non-white, along with every institution in society, changed
as a result.” But there’s one last thing I want to emphasize.
All of this wasn’t really the result of, like, a radical revolution. It was the result
of a process that had been going on for decades. I mean, arguably a process that had been going
on for hundreds of years. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you next week.
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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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And I am slowly spinning, I’m slowly spinning, I’m slowly spinning. Thank you again for
your support. I’m coming back around. I can do this. And as we say in my hometown,
don’t forget to be awesome.