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Running Head: THE POLITICAL CLIMATE OF THE 1950S
The Political Climate of the 1950s
Natasha C. Stewart
Robin Greenberg M.A.
April 11, 2005
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With the dropping of the Atomic bomb that ended WWII and the beginning of the Cold War, there was an irony of stability and turmoil in the United States. The start of the 1950s brought about many changes, from the Red Scare and threat of the possible spread of communism in America, to changes in political movements, civil rights movements, and another possible war, there were many significant events and people during this time.
Joseph R. McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin with an enormous political agenda. With the fear of communism ignited by the Cold war, McCarthy and his supporters began to instill in the American people the fear that communism was taking root in the United States. In February 1950, McCarthy announced at a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that he had obtained a list of card-carrying American Communists in the State Department (Davidson et al., 2002). For the next several months, often referred to as the Red Scare, McCarthy led a committee that investigated various government agencies and questioned a large number of people about their political associations. It was later found that the McCarthy’s charges were unsubstantiated, but the effects of this “witch hunt” would impact the United States even after the charges had settled. One the first impacts of McCarthyism was the win of Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election. The McCarthy campaign, which has accused many democrats including Harry S. Truman of taking a liberal stance on communism, hurt many democrats in the election. The infringement of civil right on the American People was yet another impact of McCarthyism. By 1952, 32 states had laws requiring teachers to take oaths of loyalty and government loyalty boards were wanted to now personal details of their employees such
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as what newspaper they subscribed to and what music they owned (Davidson et al. 2002). It was not until hearings against those thought to have communist association were aired on ABC and the public had the opportunity to see the badgering and mockery of these proceedings that the McCarthy’s popularity fell quickly and the Red Scare receded as well.
The Eisenhower presidency pursued dynamic conservatism or modern republicanism in his new term. In his own words, Eisenhower declared “I will be conservative when it comes to money matter and liberal when it comes to human beings. Eisenhower was determined to cut and balance the budget, allow for government support of big businesses, and return federal functions back to local and state governments (Schultz, S. 1999). At the same time he increased social security, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage. During his first term he also supported such projects as the Highway Act which allowed for highways to be constructed between suburban areas and major cities. The point where Eisenhower’s modern republicanism began to falter was with his support of the Farm Policy which proposed lowering support payments to farmers so that they would not overproduce. Unfortunately farmers made up the majority of the Republican voting block, Democrats took a strong hold in both the House and Senate and Modern Republicanism did not go much beyond the Eisenhower presidency (Davidson et al. 2002).
Consumerism also incurred changes during the Eisenhower presidency. With the war bringing America out of the depression and the beginning of an era of prosperity, Americans began to embrace materialism. Corporations like General Motors, Ford, and
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Chrysler, known as the “Big Three” auto manufacturers epitomized the corporate culture of the 1950s (Davidson et al. 2002). The variety of cars and the features they possessed
had Americans buying cars in record numbers. Know as the culture of mobility, drive in burger joints, shopping centers, roadside motels,