How did the First Red Scare (1919-1920) help form a new American identity in terms of economics, society, and politics?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The First Red Scare helped change the United States politically, economically, and socially. The Red Scare came after the Progressive Era and World War I.  By 1920, Americans were looking for relief from dealing with problems in the country and throughout the world.  Thus, we began to turn inward.  This can be seen in politics, economics, and social interactions.

Politically, we wanted candidates that would emphasize dealing with the United States. Americans loved Warren Harding’s slogan of a “return to normalcy.”  Interestingly enough, normalcy wasn’t even a word at that time. What Harding meant to say was a return to normal.  Americans longed for a return to simpler times.  We were tired of dealing with problems within our country and throughout the world. Harding easily became President. We also embarked on a policy of limiting immigration in the 1920s.  The National Origins Act and the Emergency Quota Act were examples of laws that restricted immigration to the United States.

Economically, we really embraced the laissez-faire concept.  We believed that government should get out of the way of business. Our leaders supported policies that emphasized limited government involvement in the economy. We were tired of trying to fix all of the issues in business and the economy.  We now moved to a hands-off philosophy.

Socially, we also changed.  Women’s roles changed greatly.  They began to work in jobs outside of the home.  They began to smoke and drink in public.  They spoke their minds on contemporary issues.  They were very concerned about appearance and fashion.  People also had more leisure time due to labor saving inventions for household chores.  They went to movies, sporting events, and listened to the radio.  There were many social changes in the 1920s.

The First Red Scare was the final event of a series of events that led to changes in our country politically, economically, and socially.

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