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The Search for Order in an Era of Limits, 1973-1980

I. An Era of Limits

A. Energy Crisis

1. Once world’s leading producer, US became dependent on imported oil (Persian Gulf)

2. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’60 by newly freed oil-rich countries

3. Conflict b/w Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan politicized OPEC 67-73

a) 73 Yom Kippur War Egypt & Syria invaded Israel to regain territory lost in 67 - Israel won bc of American airlift

b) OPEC declared oil embargo 10/73 bc of America’s favoring Israel

4. Oil shortage caused panic in US

a) Ntl speed limit of 55 mph, ppl bought smaller, more efficient cars

b) Car sales fell & large #s of ppl employed by auto industry struggled

5. Shortage → inflation: prices of basic necessities rose by 20% in 74

B. Environmentalism

1. Energy crisis→ realization that earth’s resources aren’t limitless → environmentalism

a) Mvmt had historical precedent - Rachel Carson’s Silent Springexamined DDT

b) Santa Barbara oil spill, burning of Cuyahoga River, planned construction of airport in Everglades → first Earth Day

c) Congress passed National Environmental Policy Act, which created EPA (70ish) (1) Followed by Clean Air Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Water Pollution Control Act, Endangered Species Act (early 70s)

d) Corporations resented environmental regulations, environmentalism became divisive

2. Environmentalists warned against dangers of nuclear power plants (meltdown, waste)

a) 42 nuclear power plants in US by 74, 100 more planned

b) Fears were confirmed 3/79 - reactor core at Three Mile Islandclose to meltdown (1) Enabled environmentalists to win battle over nuclear energy

c) No new nuclear plants were authorized - today account for 20% of US energy

C. Economic Transformation

1. Government struggled w/long-term economic problems

a) Growing deficit & spiraling inflation bc of spending on Vietnam & Great Society

b) Robust industrial competition from West Germany & Japan,

c) Share of world trade dropped from 32% 55 to 18% 70 in continuing downward trend

d) US transitioned from industrial-manufacturing to postindustrial-service economy

e) Combo unemployment, stagnant consumer demand, & inflation stagflation (1) Resulted in decline in standard of living for Americans, no pres. Succeeded

2. Competitive foreign industries deindustrialization of American industries

a) Foreign steel flooded into US during 70s, put ppl out of work, still struggling

b) Manufacturing heartland of Northeast/Midwest became Rust Belt- abandoned plants

c) All industries shrank in 70s

3. Blue-collar workers lost jobs, unions fought to save them but lost members

D. Urban Crisis and Suburban Revolt

1. Nearly every major city struggled to pay bills in 70s bc of loss of residents to suburbs

a) NYC (financial capital) nearly went bankrupt in 1975


Suburbanization & economic crisis tax revolt- reversal of postwar public investment

a) Cali’s Proposition 13rolled back property taxes, capped future increases for present owners, required that all tax measures have ⅔s majority in legislature.

b) Inhibited public spending in most populous state, inspired tax revolts across country

c) Conservatives defined enduring issue of low taxes.

3. Income inequalities widened - divided into huge low-wage sector, narrow high-wage sector, narrow middle

II. Politics in Flux, 1973–1980

A. Watergateand Fall of a President

1. Watergate made history, led to reform, Reps becoming more conservative, voter apathy

a) 6/72 5 men connected to admin arrested for breaking into headquarters of Democratic National Committee at Watergate complex in Washington D.C.

b) Part of broad pattern of abuse of power by admin obsessed w/enemies

c) Nixon bribed burglars to keep quiet, instructed CIA to stop FBI investigation

d) 5/73 Senate Watergate committee began televised hearings, Nixon implicated

e) 6/74 House Judiciary Committee voted on articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, subverting Constitution

f) Nixon resigned 8/9/74

g) Vice President Gerald Ford sworn in, pardoned Nixon a month later

h) War Powers Actlimited pres’s ability to deploy forces w/o congressional approval,

i) Strengthened Freedom of Information Actgave citizens access to federal records

j) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act prohibited domestic wiretapping w/o warrant

2. Democratic progress w/post-Watergate reforms

a) 75 “Watergate babies,” joined House after 74 midterm elections

b) Democratic majorities eliminated HUAC, reduced # of votes needed to end filibuster, dismantled existing committee structure, passed Ethics in Government Act

c) Reforms actually made gov less efficient and more susceptible to special interests

d) Diffuse power structure gave lobbyists more places to exert influence

e) Parties grew more rigid, bi-partisanship became rare

3. Despite Democratic gains, liberalism failed to stop realignmentstarted w/Nixon

a) Unable to stop inflation or speed up economic growth

b) Conservatives took chance to articulate alternatives like deregulation & tax cuts

c) Power shifted toward West/South bc of deindustrialization & pop growth in Sun Belt

B. Jimmy Carter: The Outsider as President

1. Inexperienced, “down-home,” economic conservative, pledged to restore morality

a) Disdainful of Democratic establishment, relied on inexperienced Georgian advisers, soured relationships w/leaders

b) Deregulated airline, trucking, railroad industries stimulated competition & cut prices, but also drove firms out of business & hurt unionized workers.

c) Iranian Revolution cut oil supplies, gas prices jumped

III. Reform and Reaction in 1970s

A. Civil Rights in a New Era

1. Affirmative action designed to account for disadvantage of minorities

a) First advanced by JFK, refined by LBJ

b) Whites charged affirmative action “reverse discrimination”

c) Bakke v. University of Californiaupheld affirmative action in face of white suing while also calling it into question by rejecting quotas

d) Future court rulings & state referenda in 90s-2000s further limited affirmative action.

B. The Women’s Movement and Gay Rights

1. Women’s lib = v successful in early 70s

a) Established child-care facilities, created art mvmt, challenged all-male edu

b) Women’s health mvmt founded medical clinics, encouraged women to become physicians, educated women about their bodies

c) Founded antirape mvmt, established rape crisis centers, lobbied for rape law reform

2. Equal Rights Amendmentshowed promise but was halted by Phyllis Schlafly

a) Congress adopted amendment 72, 34 of 38 states ratified it

b) Phyllis Schlafly & STOP ERAadvocated traditional roles for women

3. Pursued reproductive rights thru legislative & judicial tracks

a) Lobbying slowly legalized abortion in a few states, mvmt turned to courts

b) Culminated in Roe v. Wade’73 - abortions performed during first trimester were

protected by right of privacy - transformed into constitutionally protected right

c) Polarized already divided public

d) Mobilized conservatives to seek Supreme Court reversal or legislative limitation

4. Harvey Milk mobilized “gay vote” & was powerful force for gay liberation

a) Mvmt achieved protection for gays seeking housing/employment

b) Milk mobilized “gay vote” into bloc & won city supervisor seat 77

c) Assassinated 78 w/San Fran’s mayor, George Moscone by Dan White

C. After Warren Court

1. Nixon’s newly conservative Burger Court refused to scale back liberal precedents…

a) even

advancing women’s rights, but excluded homosexuals

IV. The American Family on Trial

A. Working Families in Age of Deindustrialization

1. Stagnation of wages in 70s & 80s pushed women into workforce

a) B/w 73 & early 90s every income group’s (-10%) earnings declined, hit blue/pink-collar workers hardest

b) Americans became dependent on a two-income household

c) Women’s earnings made up for declining earning power (absence) of men in home

d) Women’s real income grew as they entered pro/skilled jobs

2. Trials of working class gained ntl attention w/“blue-collar blues” as plants closed

a) # of union-led strikes ↑ even as union membership dropped

b) Gained attention but little economic progress

c) Popular TV reflected blue-collar blues

(1) Roots ’77 explored AA survival/culture under oppressive system

d) Musicians from “hardscrabble” backgrounds became stars

e) Young working-class AA men developed breakdancing, rap music

B. Navigating Sexual Revolution


New sexual values & ethic transformed pop culture & society

a) By 60s sex before marriage & discussion had grown more socially acceptable (1) Introduction of birth control pill (2) Rise of baby-boomer–led counterculture (3) Influence of feminism

b) Emphasis on casual sex → double standard of male privilege v female innocence

c) Harassment = common in workplace, pornography marketed women as sex objects.

d) Optimism that new sexual ethic could free women from moral constraints

e) Called for revolution in values that would end exploitation & grant freedom

f) Pop culture in discussion (books sold well, Hollywood, ntwks exploited/criticized)

2. Marriage began to be defined by emotional connection

a) Pop worried that marriage was threatened by divorce rates/sex revolution

b) Therapeutic industry arose - both religious & secular

C. Religion in 1970s: The Fourth Great Awakening

1. Fourth Great Awakening sparked by Graham, secular liberalism 60s-70s

a) Evangelical Protestant churches: intimate, personal salvation, born again, literal scripture, colleges/seminaries

b) Billy Graham cofounded Youth for Christ ’45 & toured US+Euro preaching

c) Feared moral decay, turned to nonmainstream churches

d) “Televangelists” encouraged growth thru media/advertising

2. Evangelicals promoted family views thru books/seminars

a) Paternal nuclear family represented fundamental unit of society

b) Strengthening traditional family structure would ward off influences of an immoral society

c) Wherever one looked in 1970s and early 1980s, American families were under strain. Nearly everyone agreed that waves of social liberalism and economic transformation that swept over nation in 1960s and 1970s had destabilized society and, especially, family relationships.

d) But Americans did not agree about how to restabilize families. Indeed, different approaches to family would further divide country in 1980s and 1990s, as New Right would increasingly make “family values” a political issue.