U.S. History/American Liberla consensus (1930s-60s)
3) Many historians argue that a broad “liberal consensus” dominated politics from the 1930s
through the 1960s. Regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in power, national
politics tilted toward the moderate Left during this period. Explain the basic tenets of this midcentury
liberal consensus, as well as why Americans were able to reach such a consensus, and
then examine three major challenges it faced over the period from the 1930s through the 1960s.
How effective was the liberal consensus at dealing with these challenges? Overall, do you think
it was up to the task of guiding the U.S. through the first couple postwar decades, or did it fail to
adequately deal with the major problems of the era?
From the time the Great Depression started in 1929, until 1968, Liberalism was quite popular in American Politics. The only Republican President elected during this period was Eisenhower, who was a war hero and who also rejected many of the traditional Republican policy positions.
Much of the policy could be seen as a rejection of the capitalist industrialization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when conditions for the working man deteriorated and a small group of very wealthy industrialists and bankers controlled most of the nation's wealth. Liberal politicians passed laws giving workers greater power and thus leading to a better standard of living for a growing middle class. They also implemented welfare policies to help the poorest in the country from unnecessary suffering. Liberals also advanced civil rights for minorities.
As the economy grew during this era, and most of the new benefits distributed more to the poor and middle classes, most Americans were happy with this arrangement. This consensus seemed to fall apart in the mid to late 1960s during Lyndon Johnson's administration. The Civil Rights Acts, forcing white private citizens to associate more with blacks caused a great backlash, particularly in the South. Southern States which had been solidly Democratic since the beginning of the Republic, moved to the Republican Party. At the same time, many of Johnson's anti-poverty programs created what was perceived as a lazy wasteful welfare class which was a drain on society and cost working people greatly. This perception pushed many working class voters to more conservative politicians as well.