“As the 1900’s gave way to the new millennium, it became increasingly clear that a new era in American (and world) history had begun. The old era had been dominated by the Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. The new era was defined by the rise of a new global economy…the ways in which the world’s peoples lived, worked, and governed themselves. Global communication, trade, and capital flow all grew rapidly…” (Griffith, Baker 531). The United States rose to being the most powerful military supremacy nation in the world due to Reagan and Bush’s destruction of the Cold War, bridging the 80’s into the new 90’s. George Bush’s CIA and ambassadorial experience provided Americas key to our foreign policy negotiations, aiding in our nations leadership over the world. This defeat and new era caused our domestic and social society within America into a state of confusion and caused Americans to question what role they would play in this new society.
“Not only did the Cold War define America’s stance in the world, dictating foreign policy choices from southeast Asia to Latin America; it defined the contours of domestic politics as well,” (Chafe 549). How can we believe now after September 11, that we still or always have had leadership or supremacy in this world? How could the heart of our country be damaged so much affecting our nation as a whole? This recent tragedy damaged the core of our patriotism changing foreign and domestic policy after the 90’s. During the 90’s, a time of new cultural expression and power, the US was willing to use any economic, political, or military force necessary to uphold the new global system.
After the Reagan legacy, President Bill Clinton created the “New Democrats,” which, “sought to replace the party’s older industrial and agricultural bases with a new, if unwieldy, coalition of women, minorities, social liberals, and technological progressives,” (Griffith/Baker 533). In looking at Chapter 14 in Griffith/Bakers Major Problems in American History Since 1945 and Chapter 16 and the Epilogue in Chafe’s The Unfinished Journey, we will consider the new goals and values of both the US’s domestic and foreign policies, and find that although positive changes have taken place since 1945, the US still is yet to live in a society free of homelessness, poverty, and crime reflected by the tenacious power of race, class, and gender blocking the path toward independent freedom.
Throughout American history, the issue of freedom has always prevailed and equality of everyone wasn’t brought up until the early to mid 1900’s. The peoples dependence and underlying trust within the government to withhold and protect has put our society on a roller coaster of trust, distrust, and betrayal.
“…the Nixon presidency and his foreign policy breakthroughs with China and Russia had barely taken hold before the devastating constitutional crisis of Watergate occurred, threatening to undermine the very structure of the American political system and people’s confidence in it. Followed quickly by the nations first defeat in war…” (Chafe 497).
Busch had decided not to respond to much of the conflicts happening with Gorbachev, because if he had, it could have created greater instability, more violence, and a stronger likelihood of counter democratic action, such as the Soviet Union. Busch in causing the two-superpower leaders to arrive at a new arms control treaty that promised the reduction of nuclear weapons arsenals of the world. Busch’s only major error was quickly recovered by quickly becoming Yaltsin’s allies, beginning a new coalition where both world powers would enforce world peace. After “Desert Storm,” the US entered a prolonged recession causing confusion amongst Americans because Busch didn’t care about domestic policies.
Because of Busch’s carelessness of domestic policies, it reflected upon the public not caring about domestic policies nor within the government. The new young light in America was created by the new elections. Clinton bringing a new young light to society during the election of 1992 believed that through the idealism during the sixties were those which should be reflected upon now during the 90’s. Clinton’s ideas were: investing to create new jobs, supporting new technology, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and creating a new partnership between management and labor to increase American productivity and competitiveness in world markets. The major political campaigns were advancing with technological advances with campaign’s portrayed through the amazing new power of talk-show journalism.
Ross Perot’s ideals, opposite of Clinton’s, were expressed through talk-show journalism shaping political dialogue and activity. Many talk show hosts provided a direct outlet for politicians to reach the American’s at home through television. The political wars went on and with Clinton winning the democratic election. This allowed Americans to dig themselves out of their deepest problems by re-imagining themselves and fulfilling their dreams. Clinton was faced with issues similar to Franklin Roosevelt, “…in the midst of the Great Depression, they were in many ways far more complicated and intractable, calling upon the same breadth and depth of leadership skills that FDR had deployed in the 1930’s,” (Chafe 512).
As one magazine wrote, “‘what excites people about Clinton, is precisely the degree to which he speaks to their hunger for meaning and purpose, their half conscious and often inchoate desire to transcend the selfishness and meaningless of materialistic and narcissistic society,'” (Chafe 511). Clinton’s gay policy in the war, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” were looked at as actions profoundly alienating liberals and gays. His next policy, national Healthcare, failed to the Republicans criticizing and ultimately causing his policy to disintegrate.
This was Clinton’s down and thought it was over until the American society regained confidence with him when he passed a bill which caused restrictions on free access to handguns and assault weapons. He also created the Americorps, a young group of people volunteering to work among Americas disadvantaged populations. Finally touching up on domestic policies, the American society gained faith in him.
The 1994 elections were different and Clinton was on his way to coming back. He wanted to represent a Democratic smaller government. Richard Norris guiding Clinton, made him invulnerable to the issues of high taxes, crime, welfare, federal budget, and affirmative action which Republicans could use against him. Clinton defined positions that would seem reasonable to the middle-class voters and also portray the Republicans as radicals seeking to overturn 60 years of progress and advance his own agenda on issues that cut in his direction such as education, the environment, and women’s rights. Clinton proved to the public that the Republicans mainly Dole was a threat to the middle class stability, and eventually won the election exclaiming, “the era of big government is over.” The voters decision was for a divided government, “not for one party over another. Only by ensuring that one party could balance and counter the other, they seemed to be saying, could the nation be protected from moving too far either toward liberalism and big government on the one hand, or toward conservatism and the end of entitlements on the other,” (Chafe 527).
Americans wanted politicians to proceed down a middle path, not straying to either side too far.
Although race had been dealt with by the government, it still defined power, control, status, economic opportunity, and freedom. This issue has improved dramatically, but race has always been “the central theme” to American history. It has been so much misconstrued, “that the issue of racial discrimination had disappeared as a matter of public concern, convinced that there was no longer a reason to think of blacks and whites as having different life chances…”(Chafe 528). Los Angeles embodied most of the multiracial demographic complexity which is where many blacks were suppressed although given still given supposed equal rights opportunities.
One example being the AIDS virus. Treatment was available to the suppressed society, but weren’t able to afford the medication. The Rodney King incident was appalling and the only way to describe the verdict was what Chafe wrote, “It was as though the jury had taken a hallucinogenic drug that altered totally what others saw as reality – and the drug was race,” (Chafe 529). The police officers caught on tape for the beating got off because of whites ruling the jury. O.J. being convicted of murder and having a black jury was pleaded not guilty. Benjamin Barber brings up a point of political futures neither being democratic.
“…the forces of Jihad and the forces of McWorld operate with equal strength in opposite directions, the one driven by parochial hatreds, the other by universalizing markets, the one re-creating ancient subnational and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without. They have one thing in common: neither offers much hope to citizens looking for practical ways to govern themselves democratically,” (Griffith/Baker 542).
September 11 brought forth something America had never faced before, an attack on our home ground. Since this attack the society has been more conservative, realizing that America is not this leadership nation that watches over the world, but is just as suseptable to attack as anyone else is. This attack has brought all families closer and brought out American patriotism from within. The attack has put American flags on Football players helmets as well as all sports jerseys. What are we supposed to believe from the media, articles saying that information being portrayed to us is false and defying. Although we have gone through a roller coaster of events both ups and downs, America has always recovered and adapted to the changes in front of us.
“The Progressive Policy Institute believes that the latter is true and that the challenge now is to learn how to manage and govern in an era of sustained and constant innovation and adaptation,” (Griffith/Baker 536). The 90’s was a major turning point in America being the end of the old millenium and the start of a new one, allowing us to look at what is needed to be done both in domestic and foreign policy for this world and our society to go on. “…the 1990’s embodied a summing-up of what had occurred in the preceding decades, as if the country were searching to find some way through the maelstrom of conflicting currents to a final sense of direction that might represent a new consensus on how to proceed,” (Chafe 498).