US History (General)

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What is a similarity between today and the 1960s?

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Many similarities exist between the 1960s and now, but one of the most prominent ones is the reactionary nature of the eras. Weary of the civil rights movement, Equal Rights Amendment, and hippies, Americans reacted to the free-spirited 1960s by electing a "law and order" man, Richard Nixon, to the presidency. Similarly, Donald Trump took advantage of an angry base and became the next president after the first black president left office.

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There are many similarities between the 1960s and the present day. Perhaps a good way to look at these commonalities is to look at the aftermath of that turbulent decade, which partly explains how we arrived here today.

After the turmoil and radicalism of the 1960s, including the race riots in Watts, women pushing for an equal rights amendment, and hippies running amok in the streets, Americans were looking for stability in the 1968 election. When the Democrats imploded at their 1968 convention, the road was clear for Richard Nixon to win the White House. The “law and order” candidate had become president, and while the spirit of the 1960s lived on somewhat, a backlash had begun—not only against the civil rights movement but also against women, hippies, and other groups that had, in the eyes of Nixon supporters, undermined America’s greatness.

The civil rights gained in the decade, however, would not be lost. Martin Luther King Jr.’s claim that the arc of history “bends toward justice” became reality in 2008 when Barack Obama became the first black man to be elected president. But the backlash began swiftly afterward, as an angry and energized right wing prevented him from enacting several platforms the Democratic Party was keen to make law, most notably healthcare reform.

The reaction to the first black man elected president led, indirectly, to a populist like Donald J. Trump rising to power. Similar to Nixon winning the office by tapping into ordinary Americans yearning for hippies, women, and black people to retreat to the sidelines, Trump rode the frustrations of disenfranchised working-class white men all the way to the White House.

Trump never explicitly said that Obama made America less great because he was a black man, but he had always projected him as an outsider—even, for example, promoting the birther conspiracy, that Obama was not an American citizen but a Kenyan one. Trump campaigned as a unifier, as someone who would make America great again. Nixon, too, offered hope to a divided America—an America divided not only by social strife but also by the ongoing trauma of the war in Vietnam.

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The 1960s was a time in which people began investigating and protesting the status quo with regard to the relationships governed by race and gender in our country. There were protests and calls for legislative and societal change to give African Americans and women more rights and greater equality. Many would argue that these calls for change are still going on today. For example, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s continues in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement that protests police brutality against African Americans. The women's rights movement of the 1960s continues in the Me Too movement, in which women have stepped forward to speak about their experiences of sexual abuse. The revolutions of the 1960s continue in the call for equality for African Americans and women today.

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We are beset by many of the same problems that faced our country in the 1960s. A polarization that began during that era between conservative and liberal views of the world continues to divide the nation. We are also again involved in an "endless war," and racism continues to be a problem.

The conservative/liberal divide continues to plague politics and makes compromise difficult. In the 1960s, Richard Nixon spoke of a "silent majority" of Americans who supported the war in Viet Nam and conservative values while a vocal minority opposed the war and wanted social change. Today, the fault lines are the same, although the power has flipped; and many say a majority of Americans want progressive change, such as universal health care, which, it is argued, is blocked by a vocal minority through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

The new "endless war" is in Afghanistan, and if it has not incited the vehement protests caused by Viet Nam, there is a divide between those who would like to spend more on defense and those who support increased social program spending, or, conversely, take a more libertarian view and wish for the government to have less involvement in world affairs.

Racism continues to be a problem, and some would argue that racist elements in our country have become more vocal. Often, there is a stark-divide today similar to that of those who supported Martin Luther King versus the racist presidential candidate George Wallace in the the 1960s.

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There are some similarities between today and the 1960s. One of the similarities is in the area of politics.

The 1960s saw a significant upheaval in the political arena. Because of the Vietnam War, people began to doubt the government. What people were seeing and what they were hearing didn’t seem to be the same thing. People started to believe the government wasn’t telling them the truth about the events in the Vietnam War. This credibility gap was a factor in many of the anti-war protests that occurred. These protests centered on our involvement in Vietnam and on the government’s policies in Vietnam. Some of the protests turned violent. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with our government.

Today, there also seems to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with our government. People are upset about the lack of action occurring in Congress. Representing the wishes of the political party seems more important than the development of good policy. The rise in popularity of candidates not associated with the political system seems to reflect this dissatisfaction. Donald Trump has become very popular by criticizing our government leaders. Bernie Sanders has gained popularity by appearing to be a non-establishment candidate. There also has been an increase in the number of protests at some of the campaign events. Some of these protests have involved physical confrontation. There is a significant fear this physical violence may increase. To some people, it reminds them of the events of the 1960s.

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