Historian Penny Lewis argues that the split over Vietnam during the late 1960s and early 1970s between “elite doves” and “reactionary hardhats” was more a stereotype than a reality. In other words, the idea that the anti-war movement was dominated by wealthy, privileged elites, and opposed by the working-class was not entirely accurate.
Despite this, politicians such as George Wallace and Richard Nixon tapped into this stereotype for political advantage. Wallace and Nixon both appealed to working-class Americans by portraying themselves as defenders of traditional American values against a perceived elite, liberal establishment.
Their message resonated with white working-class Americans who felt increasingly alienated from the Democratic Party, which they perceived as catering to the interests of African Americans, young people, and other groups associated with the counterculture.
This antagonism towards the Democratic Party among white working-class Americans had deeper roots than just the Vietnam War. It was also fueled by economic and social changes that had been taking place in the country since the 1950s, such as deindustrialization, automation, and increasing economic inequality.
The Democratic Party could have potentially prevented this emerging political realignment by better addressing the concerns of working-class Americans and offering an alternative vision for the country. However, this would have required significant changes to the party’s platform and strategy, which would have been difficult given the entrenched interests and divisions within the party.
One thought on “Week 10”
Hi Lauren, it’s a bit weird to think of working-class americans, with their traditional routines/beliefs, as being “alienated” when they did have the republican party catering more to their needs/beliefs. But it’s true, the democratic party did focus more on counterculture groups as you’ve stated. And maybe the republicans did focus more of their energy on the wealthier, white families, leaving these middle americans out.