A SHORT HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC TO BETTER UNDERSTAND 2020
The American Revolution spawned other revolutions and the overthrow of European monarchies. Success against the most powerful empire in the world led to the creation of a new government rooted in a constitutional republic with a democratic tradition. Officially, the U.S. Constitution and subsequent Bill of Rights enshrined unprecedented freedom and opportunity for its citizens; a beacon of hope and a model for humans globally.
This new nation faced challenges in its growth but was also blessed with an abundance of resources, an expansive land mass with natural borders for protection from other countries and fair enough weather to allow for significant agricultural output. Throughout its history, the United States sought to expand it’s national goals domestically and internationally with success. From attacks by Barbary pirates in the early 19th century threatening trade to the second war for independence against Great Britain (War of 1812), the United States remained formidable although not yet a world power.
Rapid industrialization coupled with domestic strife over the extension of slavery dominated the mid-nineteenth century culminating in the Civil War. The results were a demonstration of technological prowess but a fractured social fabric. Postwar, the Republican Party sought an end to slavery and race-based discrimination legally while the Democratic Party sought to further disenfranchise freedmen and women through the Jim Crow laws and legal segregation supported by the K.K.K.
Late 19th century population growth fueled by immigration led to industrial expansion unparalleled globally. Economic growth was rampant as the Industrial Revolution led to a larger capitalist elite class and a rapidly growing industrial worker base. The development of labor unions led to organized success for many urban workers.
It was not until the Spanish-American war in 1898 that US positioning globally became apparent- the successful deployment of the two ocean Navy and military success on land demonstrated not only hemispheric hegemony, but the ability to deploy a global military. Subsequent wars in the Philippines and the projection of U.S. naval might as evidenced by Teddy Roosevelt’s dispatch of the Great White Fleet showcased not only American technology, but its willingness to protect its interest and model its power.
By 1917, Europe was the site of stalemated world war and America’s official neutrality came to an end. It was not only material assistance but fresh American troops trained for battle in the trenches that helped turn the tide in 1918, ending the First World War. President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to avoid future wars largely failed as his 14 point plan centered on a League of Nations that failed to failed to attract Senate support and was weakly executed in Europe postwar. Twenty years later, Nazi aggression and Axis cohesion precipitated the Second World War which would end the Great Depression and secure the nation’s title as a world superpower. In the interim period, the United States experienced unprecedented growth during the Roaring 20s ,both culturally and economically, as advances in science and technology and the right to vote for women showcased a positive time for most Americans. Unfortunately, history has shown us that the excesses of the 1920s in part caused the Great Depression that dominated the 1930s.
The Great Depression was a time of unprecedented poverty and national adversity. National unemployment rose to an average of 25% and the breakdown of the traditional family unit for many citizens highlighted a decade of struggle. It was World War II, brought to America’s door after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that awoke the American spirit, created massive employment opportunities and cemented the unifying goal of defeating totalitarianism. The scope of the bravery and efforts of American servicemen and supporting citizenry, has shown the ideals of freedom, dedication, perseverance, ingenuity as well as mental and physical toughness can prevail over a dedicated enemy.
As soon as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were defeated in 1945, the Cold War began, highlighting the ideological struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. This tension was exacerbated by the development of nuclear weapons and a race to develop more deadly weapons both terrestrially, and in space . During the 1950’s, the United States not only met this new enemy head-on, but developed one of the most comprehensive, domestic growth plans in her history. From the construction of highways, to the development of suburbs in order to meet the need of a baby boom, the hard work of most Americans led to a period of economic growth and an increased standard of living for the majority of citizens.
Social and political turmoil in the 1960s were a setback in the American path for prosperity, but fortunately, positive developments such as a Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act were accomplished by 1965, essentially eradicating any vestiges of regional, systemic racism.
American involvement in Vietnam saw short-term gains before an ultimate withdrawal due to a civilian-led strategy with public opinion and not military strategy serving as the chief decision maker. Population growth fueled by a new wave of immigration further propelled the growth of cities and suburbs in the 1970s. While the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam closed the door on one conflict, political scandals such as Watergate and the Iranian hostage situation dragged down a nation consumed with economic issues tied to dependency on oil, rampant price inflation and employment challenges.
Fortunately, the 1980s brought massive changes similar to what America witnessed in the 1950s, with the defeat of the Soviets in the Cold War as the most important. Economic and military expansion, coupled with reduced taxes helped fuel growth that would catapult the technology and internet boom of the 1990s. Budget deficits and national debt rose while individual prosperity was a realistic goal for most citizens. The most terrifying event that would shake America to its core occurred on 9-11-2001. The resulting War on Terror, loss of civil liberties stemming from passage of the Patriot Act and development of the Department of Homeland Security created significant changes. America’s foreign policy would be guided by military deployments with a significant impact on families and domestic concerns over airport security and the loss of personal freedoms. Despite these obstacles, American unity was on par with the challenges posed by World War II, at least initially.
Cracks in national unity became more evident between 2010 and 2016 as political and social divides became more pronounced. Racial healing emblematic in the Obama election turn to fracture as the president (Obama) himself created racial tension and support for movements such as Black Lives Matter. By the second Obama administration, excessive media bias and anti-conservatism was common. By 2016, criticism of newly elected President Donald Trump furthered the tension in the nation and dampened successes by his Administration since his election.
This is a short history of the Republic which brings us to 2020. In part 3, we will examine the facts of 2020. Subscribe to get updates!