The war at home

“Hardhats vs Elite Doves” is a book written by Penny Lewis that analyzes the dynamics of the labor movement in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s. The book focuses on two major factions within the labor movement: the hardhats and the elite doves.

The Hardhats consisted of working class white men that were predominantly employed in construction and manufacturing industries, they were known for their mostly conservative views and their loyalty to the Democratic Party. They were active supporters of the Vietnam war and were known to be hostile toward African Americans and other left wing activists. The Elite Doves on the other hand, were mostly middle class and were deeply affiliated with the civil rights movement and the Democratic Party. They included Lawyers and union officials who were focused on the civil rights movement along with anti war sentiments.

Politicians like George Wallace and Richard Nixon of the Republican party tried to appeal to many Hardhats by being pro war. George Wallace made many speeches detailing how white Americans lost some of their freedoms to foreigners and anti war protesters. Richard Nixon focused on pleasing what he called the, “silent majority” of Americans who supported the Vietnam war. Both men tapped into the stereotype of the hardhat worker as a symbol for American patriotism.

Many Hardhats also believed that many of the younger generation of Americans did not understand the harsh realities of the world. This tied in to many Hardhats hating the Anti War movement as most of the protesters behind the movement were college students and a part of the younger generation. The hardhats, being made up of older blue collar Americans, resented the younger generation and their beliefs. With the increase in popularity of the hardhats, it is no wonder that the political climate of the time began to shift. Conservatives began to flip from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. This surge in new found support would create a red wave in politics that would eventually spill over into the 1980s. However I believe that the Democratic Party could have prevented this from happening by trying to appeal to blue collar Americans like the hardhats a lot more, similar to how Wallace and Nixon of the Republican Party attracted many hardhats. However this could lead to a slippery slope and could cause problems for other supporters of the Democratic Party such as the elite doves who commonly advocated for social justice and anti war. If leaders of the Democratic Party would shift their views to those more in line with the hardhats, then the would lose support of the elite doves as the two unions believed in ideas that were quite literally opposite from one another. I believe that it was inevitable for one of these factions to split off into another party, two factions with differing ideas simply could not exist within one party. It is difficult to imagine two groups with different opinions on abortion voting for the same party existing today. Back then it was surprising that pro war and anti war supporters voted for the same party. Overall, the changing political landscape in the 1960s and 1970s was inevitable.

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