What was the impact of the radio on politics in the 1920's?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For the most part, the radio is not used as a political instrument of the decade.  The technology was so new that it was more consumer based and for more commercial uses, such as listening to music broadcast, than anything else.  Its political inventiveness is not really seen in full force until President Roosevelt employs the radio as part of his drive to reclaim America from the clutches of the Great Depression.  His "Fireside Chats" were the first real and substantive use of the radio for both political measures and as an extension of his desire to bridge the gap between political institutions and the people.

Yet, the use of the radio was prominent in the administration of President Calvin Coolidge.  His inauguration was the first to be broadcast on radio.  President Coolidge also used the radio as the first President to deliver a speech on it.  In these ways, Coolidge demonstrated a unique ability to be able to understand the power of technology for politicians before others recognized it.  Yet, for the most part, the radio was not seen as a political instrument during the 1920s.  Like so many other elements, it was seen as a cultural force, one shaping the cultural really through the broadcast of music, subjugating politics to the "roar" of the 1920s time period.


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