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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Rise of Conservatism: Crash Course US History #41

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Episode 41: Rise of Conservatism

Hi, Im John Green, this is CrashCourse U.S. history and today were going to--Nixon?--were

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 Alabamas 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 Nixons head in a jar.

Stan just informed me that we dont actually get to put Richard Nixons head in a jar.

Its just a Futurama joke. And now Im sad.

So, youll 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 thatfree 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. Youre thinking of the Starship Enterprise, not free enterprise.

And anyway, Me From The Past, have you ever seen a more aggressively communist television

program thanThe Neutral Zonefrom Star Trek: The Next Generations first season?

I dont 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 werent 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 ofbig government.”

And its worth noting that since World War I, the size and scope of the federal government

had increased dramatically. And hostility toward the idea ofbig 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 didnt 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 didnt. The republican candidate, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, was demolished

by LBJ. But the mere fact of Goldwaters 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 famousDaisyadvertisement, Johnsons

supporters countered Goldwaters campaign slogan ofin your heart, you know hes

rightwithbut in your guts you know hes nuts.”

So in the end, Goldwater received a paltry 27 million votes to Johnsons 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 theSolid South,”

in fact. Now, its too simple to say that race alone

led to the shift from Democratic to the Republican party in the South because Goldwater didnt

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 southernersabandoning 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 thats

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. Howd he

do it? Well, it probably wasnt 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 nicknameOld Iron Butt.” Plus, he was anti-communist, but didnt

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 thesilent majorityof

Americans who werent anti-war protesters, and who didnt 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 wouldnt 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 aSouthern strategyto further

draw white Democrats who favored segregation into the Republican ranks.

Now, Nixon only won 43% of the vote, but if youve paid attention to American history,

you know that you aint 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 LBJs Great Society. This was partly because Congress was still

in the hands of Democrats, but also Nixon didnt push for conservative programs and

he didnt veto new initiatives. Because they were popular. And he liked to be popular.

So in fact, a number of big governmentliberalprograms 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.

Thats not government getting out of our lives, thats 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 Charlottes 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 didnt 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 womans 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. Lets 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

thats 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 didnt 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 wasnt

even his home state. It was Massachusetts. Of course.

But even though they couldnt possibly lose, Nixons campaign decided to cheat. In June

of 1972, people from Nixons campaign broke into McGoverns campaign office, possibly

to plant bugs. No, Stan, not those kinds of bugs. Yes. Those.

Now, we dont 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.

Im sorry, Stan, its 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 theres

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 Im 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. Im 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 its 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 Americans life, maybe too huge.

And certainly conservatives werent 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 couldnt promote freedom and couldnt solve problems

and that the liberal government of the New Deal and the Great Society had to be stopped.

Thanks for watching, Ill see you next week. Woah! Crash Course is made with the help of

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can do this. And as we say in my hometown, dont forget to be awesome.

The Description of The Rise of Conservatism: Crash Course US History #41