The ‘Roaring Twenties’: Still A Model for Republican Government

Republicans tend to idealize the role of government in the 1920s — “laissez faire” or “hands off,” with self-reliant people innovating and creating wealth in free markets. Democrats tend to idealize the role of government in the 1930s — creating a social safety net when the free market fails, offering a helping hand, compassion and social justice. This is an over-simplification of the two decades that continue to shape political thought in the U.S.

First, let’s examine the Roaring Twenties from Crash Course:

“John Green teaches you about the United States in the 1920s. They were known as the roaring 20s, but not because there were lions running around everywhere. In the 1920s, America’s economy was booming, and all kinds of social changes were in progress — Hollywood, flappers, jazz,… the Charleston, the many Republican presidents of the 1920s, laissez-faire capitalism, jazz, consumer credit, the resurgent Klan, and all kinds of other stuff.” Transcript.

This documentary mentions the Steelworkers Strike of 1919 and early 1920, primarily in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana; the Seattle General Strike of more than 65,000 workers in 1919; the Boston Police Strike of 1919, in which they complained they could not live on a $21 a week salary. With the police on strike, the city was defenseless, and hoodlums had a field day, with widespread looting. Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge declares “there’s no right to strike against the public safety, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.” He brings in the national guard, the strikers are fired and replaced with an entirely new police force. In the public mind, these strikes are connected to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and threatening other countries of Europe.

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer under Woodrow Wilson. The Palmer Raids arrest more than 5,000 people.

Americans in 1920 were exhausted by the vast changes and social turmoil in the country and the world. In this climate, the Republican nominee for the presidency in the election of 1920, Warren G. Harding, the governor of Ohio, promised a “return to normalcy.” Harding has no plan, purpose or mission for the country other than to be liked.

Resources:

The Roaring Twenties was characterized by great highs: https://www.commonlit.org/texts/the-r…

However, the Roaring Twenties ended with the country’s most tragic low, the Great Depression: https://www.commonlit.org/texts/the-g…

Why the 2010s Remind Us of the 1920s: “America is again caught between nationalists longing for the glories of an imagined past, and activists invoking ideals the nation has never yet attained.” By RICHARD YESELSON in The Atlantic.

1919

Eight Months of ‘Race Riots’ in 1919: Retrospectives 100+ Years Later

1930s

The Trauma of 1932: Hungry and Starving During the Great Depression

FDR Resolved Question of US Economy: Mixed, Neither Rigidly Capitalist Nor Fully Socialist

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