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The Liberal Agenda and Domestic Policy: The 1960s, The 1960s in Retrospect
Antiwar protest, widespread respect, placidity, Warren Court, Cold War policies
The climate of reform that erupted in the 1960s continued into the 1970s, where movements for change met different fates. Feminism and environmentalism continued and prospered. The counterculture peaked and faded, although drug use exploded. In civil rights, the early goals of colorblindness ceded place to race consciousness and “identity politics,” or jousting for place among contending ethnicities. Overall, few great dreams that pervaded the fervent 1960s were achieved. Hopes for participatory democracy and an end to racism and patriarchy eluded realization.
Still, in domestic policy, the 1960s were an era of enduring change. Although the Vietnam War undercut the Great Society, Johnson’s programs increased justice and fought poverty. The Warren Court upheld individual rights. The civil rights movement ended legal segregation, registered black voters, battled race discrimination, engendered black pride, and vastly liberalized white attitudes. The spread of feminism forced reexamination of gender roles. Overall, reform movements of the 1960s expanded free expression, challenged tradition, blasted the placidity of the 1950s, and, for better or worse, dispelled the widespread respect for government that had prevailed since World War II. Antiwar protest was a vital part of this process. The Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s shattered Americans’ long-held faith in both the wisdom of the state and in Cold War policies of the 1950s.
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