Posted: August 6th, 2022

M5 Discussion 15: Final Reflection

The purpose of this discussion is to reflect on and share the things you have learned in this class.

Instructions

  1. Think about your learning experiences over the entire class. Identify something that made you go “wow” in this class- what surprised or impressed or shocked you? Try not to repeat a “wow” you wrote about earlier.
  2. Describe why this thing stood out to you.  Use quotes from your readings and research to support your observations. Make sure to use your primary sources!
  3. Include an illustration from the period and make sure you caption the illustration.
  4. Share two or three new words you’ve learned from this module 5, and the definitions.
  5. Your Wow statement should be at least 100-150 words, not including the citations.

The American Yawp : The Recent Past
New York City, before September 11, 2001, showing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

New York City, before September 11, 2001, showing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. [Public Domain via Library of Congress.}

I. American Politics before September 11, 2001

The conservative Reagan Revolution lingered over the presidential election of 1988. At stake was the legacy of a newly
empowered conservative movement, a movement that would move forward with Reagan’s vice president, George H. W.
Bush, who triumphed over Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis with a promise to continue the conservative work that
had commenced in the 1980s.

The son of a U.S. senator from Connecticut, George H. W. Bush was a World War II veteran, president of a successful oil
company, chair of the Republican National Committee, director of the CIA, and member of the House of Representatives
from Texas. After failing to best Reagan in the 1980 Republican primaries, he was elected as his vice president in 1980 and
again in 1984. In 1988, Michael Dukakis, a proud liberal from Massachusetts, challenged Bush for the White House.

Dukakis ran a weak campaign. Bush, a Connecticut aristocrat who had never been fully embraced by movement
conservatism, particularly the newly animated religious right, nevertheless hammered Dukakis with moral and cultural
issues. Bush said Dukakis had blocked recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Massachusetts schools and that he was a
“card-carrying member” of the ACLU. Bush meanwhile dispatched his eldest son, George W. Bush, as his ambassador to the
religious right.1 Bush also infamously released a political ad featuring the face of Willie Horton, a Black Massachusetts man
and convicted murderer who raped a woman being released through a prison furlough program during Dukakis’s tenure as
governor. “By the time we’re �nished,” Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater, said, “they’re going to wonder whether Willie
Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”2 Liberals attacked conservatives for perpetuating the ugly “code word” politics of the old
Southern Strategy—the underhanded appeal to white racial resentments perfected by Richard Nixon in the aftermath of civil
rights legislation. 3 Buoyed by such attacks, Bush won a large victory and entered the White House.

Bush’s election signaled Americans’ continued embrace of Reagan’s conservative program and further evidenced the utter
disarray of the Democratic Party. American liberalism, so stunningly triumphant in the 1960s, was now in full retreat. It was
still, as one historian put it, the “Age of Reagan.”4

The Soviet Union collapsed during Bush’s tenure. Devastated by a stagnant economy, mired in a costly and disastrous war in
Afghanistan, confronted with dissident factions in Eastern Europe, and rocked by internal dissent, the Soviet Union
crumbled. Soviet leader and reformer Mikhail Gorbachev loosened the Soviet Union’s tight personal restraints and
censorship (glasnost) and liberalized the Soviet political machinery (perestroika). Eastern Bloc nations turned against their
communist organizations and declared their independence from the Soviet Union. Gorbachev let them go. Soon, the Soviet
Union unraveled. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned his of�ce, declaring that the Soviet Union no longer existed. At
the Kremlin—Russia’s center of government—the new tricolor �ag of the Russian Federation was raised.5

The dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the world’s only remaining superpower. Global capitalism
seemed triumphant. Observers wondered if some �nal stage of history had been reached, if the old battles had ended and a
new global consensus built around peace and open markets would reign forever. “What we may be witnessing is not just the
end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such,” wrote Francis
Fukuyama in his much-talked-about 1989 essay, “The End of History?”6 Assets in Eastern Europe were privatized and
auctioned off as newly independent nations introduced market economies. New markets were rising in Southeast Asia and
Eastern Europe. India, for instance, began liberalizing its economic laws and opening itself up to international investment in
1991. China’s economic reforms, advanced by Chairman Deng Xiaoping and his handpicked successors, accelerated as
privatization and foreign investment proceeded.

The post–Cold War world was not without international con�icts, however. When Iraq invaded the small but oil-rich nation
of Kuwait in 1990, Congress granted President Bush approval to intervene. The United States laid the groundwork for
intervention (Operation Desert Shield) in August and commenced combat operations (Operation Desert Storm) in January
1991. With the memories of Vietnam still fresh, many Americans were hesitant to support military action that could expand
into a protracted war or long-term commitment of troops. But the Gulf War was a swift victory for the United States. New
technologies—including laser-guided precision bombing—amazed Americans, who could now watch twenty-four-hour live
coverage of the war on the Cable News Network (CNN). The Iraqi army disintegrated after only a hundred hours of ground

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011630565/

combat. President Bush and his advisors opted not to pursue the war into Baghdad and risk an occupation and insurgency.
And so the war was won. Many wondered if the “ghosts of Vietnam” had been exorcised.7 Bush won enormous popular
support. Gallup polls showed a job approval rating as high as 89 percent in the weeks after the end of the war.8

During the Gulf War, the Iraqi military set fire to Kuwait’s oil fields, many of which burned for
months Photograph of oil well fires outside Kuwait City. March 21, 1991.

During the Gulf War, the Iraqi military set �re to Kuwait’s oil �elds, many of which burned for months Photograph of oil well �res outside Kuwait City. March 21, 1991. [Public Domain via

Wikimedia.]

President Bush’s popularity seemed to suggest an easy reelection in 1992, but Bush had still not won over the New Right, the
aggressively conservative wing of the Republican Party, despite his attacks on Dukakis, his embrace of the �ag and the
pledge, and his promise, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” He faced a primary challenge from political commentator Patrick
Buchanan, a former Reagan and Nixon White House advisor, who cast Bush as a moderate, as an unworthy steward of the
conservative movement who was unwilling to �ght for conservative Americans in the nation’s ongoing culture war. Buchanan
did not defeat Bush in the Republican primaries, but he in�icted enough damage to weaken his candidacy.9

Still thinking that Bush would be unbeatable in 1992, many prominent Democrats passed on a chance to run, and the
Democratic Party nominated a relative unknown, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Dogged by charges of marital in�delity and
draft dodging during the Vietnam War, Clinton was a consummate politician with enormous charisma and a skilled political
team. He framed himself as a New Democrat, a centrist open to free trade, tax cuts, and welfare reform. Twenty-two years
younger than Bush, he was the �rst baby boomer to make a serious run at the presidency. Clinton presented the campaign as
a generational choice. During the campaign he appeared on MTV, played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show, and told
voters that he could offer the United States a new way forward.

Bush ran on his experience and against Clinton’s moral failings. The GOP convention in Houston that summer featured
speeches from Pat Buchanan and religious leader Pat Robertson decrying the moral decay plaguing American life. Clinton
was denounced as a social liberal who would weaken the American family through both his policies and his individual moral
character. But Clinton was able to convince voters that his moderated southern brand of liberalism would be more effective
than the moderate conservatism of George Bush. Bush’s candidacy, of course, was perhaps most damaged by a sudden
economic recession. As Clinton’s political team reminded the country, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Clinton won the election, but the Reagan Revolution still reigned. Clinton and his running mate, Tennessee senator Albert
Gore Jr., both moderate southerners, promised a path away from the old liberalism of the 1970s and 1980s (and the landslide
electoral defeats of the 1980s). They were Democrats, but conservative Democrats, so-called New Democrats. In his �rst
term, Clinton set out an ambitious agenda that included an economic stimulus package, universal health insurance, a
continuation of the Middle East peace talks initiated by Bush’s secretary of state James A. Baker III, welfare reform, and a
completion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to abolish trade barriers between the United States,
Mexico, and Canada. His moves to reform welfare, open trade, and deregulate �nancial markets were particular hallmarks of
Clinton’s Third Way, a new Democratic embrace of heretofore conservative policies.10

With NAFTA, Clinton reversed decades of Democratic opposition to free trade and opened the nation’s northern and
southern borders to the free �ow of capital and goods. Critics, particularly in the Midwest’s Rust Belt, blasted the agreement
for opening American workers to competition by low-paid foreign workers. Many American factories relocated and set up
shops—maquilas—in northern Mexico that took advantage of Mexico’s low wages. Thousands of Mexicans rushed to
the maquilas. Thousands more continued on past the border.

If NAFTA opened American borders to goods and services, people still navigated strict legal barriers to immigration. Policy
makers believed that free trade would create jobs and wealth that would incentivize Mexican workers to stay home, and yet
multitudes continued to leave for opportunities in el norte. The 1990s proved that prohibiting illegal migration was, if not
impossible, exceedingly dif�cult. Poverty, political corruption, violence, and hopes for a better life in the United States—or
simply higher wages—continued to lure immigrants across the border. Between 1990 and 2010, the proportion of foreign-
born individuals in the United States grew from 7.9 percent to 12.9 percent, and the number of undocumented immigrants
tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2. While large numbers continued to migrate to traditional immigrant destinations—California,
Texas, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois—the 1990s also witnessed unprecedented migration to the American
South. Among the fastest-growing immigrant destination states were Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and North
Carolina, all of which had immigration growth rates in excess of 100 percent during the decade.11

In response to the continued in�ux of immigrants and the vocal complaints of anti-immigration activists, policy makers
responded with such initiatives as Operation Gatekeeper and Hold the Line, which attempted to make crossing the border
more prohibitive. The new strategy “funneled” immigrants to dangerous and remote crossing areas. Immigration of�cials

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Operation_Desert_Storm_22

hoped the brutal natural landscape would serve as a natural deterrent. It wouldn’t. By 2017, hundreds of immigrants died
each year of drowning, exposure, and dehydration.13

Clinton, meanwhile, sought to carve out a middle ground in his domestic agenda. In his �rst weeks in of�ce, Clinton reviewed
Department of Defense policies restricting homosexuals from serving in the armed forces. He pushed through a compromise
plan, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, that removed any questions about sexual orientation in induction interviews but also required that
gay military personnel keep their sexual orientation private. The policy alienated many. Social conservatives were outraged
and his credentials as a conservative southerner suffered, while many liberals recoiled at continued antigay discrimination.

In his �rst term, Clinton also put forward universal healthcare as a major policy goal, and �rst lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
played a major role in the initiative. But the push for a national healthcare law collapsed on itself. Conservatives revolted, the
healthcare industry �ooded the airwaves with attack ads, Clinton struggled with congressional Democrats, and voters
bristled. A national healthcare system was again repulsed.

The midterm elections of 1994 were a disaster for the Democrats, who lost the House of Representatives for the �rst time
since 1952. Congressional Republicans, led by Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Dick Armey,
offered a policy agenda they called the Contract with America. Republican candidates from around the nation gathered on
the steps of the Capitol to pledge their commitment to a conservative legislative blueprint to be enacted if the GOP won
control of the House. The strategy worked.

Social conservatives were mobilized by an energized group of religious activists, especially the Christian Coalition, led by Pat
Robertson and Ralph Reed. Robertson was a television minister and entrepreneur whose 1988 long shot run for the
Republican presidential nomination brought him a massive mailing list and a network of religiously motivated voters around
the country. From that mailing list, the Christian Coalition organized around the country, seeking to in�uence politics on the
local and national level.

In 1996 the generational contest played out again when the Republicans nominated another aging war hero, Senator Bob
Dole of Kansas, but Clinton again won the election, becoming the �rst Democrat to serve back-to-back terms since Franklin
Roosevelt. He was aided in part by the amelioration of conservatives by his signing of welfare reform legislation, the Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which decreased welfare bene�ts, restricted eligibility, and
turned over many responsibilities to states. Clinton said it would “break the cycle of dependency.”13

Clinton presided over a booming economy fueled by emergent computing technologies. Personal computers had skyrocketed
in sales, and the Internet became a mass phenomenon. Communication and commerce were never again the same. The tech
boom was driven by business, and the 1990s saw robust innovation and entrepreneurship. Investors scrambled to �nd the
next Microsoft or Apple, suddenly massive computing companies. But it was the Internet that sparked a bonanza. The dot-
com boom fueled enormous economic growth and substantial �nancial speculation to �nd the next Google or Amazon.

Republicans, defeated at the polls in 1996 and 1998, looked for other ways to undermine Clinton’s presidency. Political
polarization seemed unprecedented and a sensation-starved, post-Watergate media demanded scandal. The Republican
Congress spent millions on investigations hoping to uncover some shred of damning evidence to sink Clinton’s presidency,
whether it be real estate deals, White House staf�ng, or adultery. Rumors of sexual misconduct had always swirled around
Clinton. The press, which had historically turned a blind eye to such private matters, saturated the media with Clinton’s sex
scandals. Congressional investigations targeted the allegations and Clinton denied having “sexual relations” with Monica
Lewinsky before a grand jury and in a statement to the American public. Republicans used the testimony to allege perjury. In
December 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president. It was a wildly unpopular step. Two thirds of
Americans disapproved, and a majority told Gallup pollsters that Republicans had abused their constitutional authority.
Clinton’s approval rating, meanwhile, jumped to 78 percent.14 In February 1999, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate by a
vote that mostly fell along party lines.

The 2000 election pitted Vice President Albert Gore Jr. against George W. Bush, the twice-elected Texas governor and son of
the former president. Gore, wary of Clinton’s recent impeachment despite Clinton’s enduring approval ratings, distanced
himself from the president and eight years of relative prosperity. Instead, he ran as a pragmatic, moderate liberal. Bush, too,
ran as a moderate, claiming to represent a compassionate conservatism and a new faith-based politics. Bush was an
outspoken evangelical. In a presidential debate, he declared Jesus Christ his favorite political philosopher. He promised to
bring church leaders into government, and his campaign appealed to churches and clergy to get out the vote. Moreover, he
promised to bring honor, dignity, and integrity to the Oval Of�ce, a clear reference to Clinton. Utterly lacking the political
charisma that had propelled Clinton, Gore withered under Bush’s attacks. Instead of trumpeting the Clinton presidency, Gore
found himself answering the media’s questions about whether he was suf�ciently an alpha male and whether he had invented
the internet.

Few elections have been as close and contentious as the 2000 election, which ended in a deadlock. Gore had won the popular
vote by 500,000 votes, but the Electoral College hinged on a contested Florida election. On election night, the media called
Florida for Gore, but then Bush made late gains and news organizations reversed themselves by declaring the state for Bush
—and Bush the probable president-elect. Gore conceded privately to Bush, then backpedaled as the counts edged back
toward Gore yet again. When the nation awoke the next day, it was unclear who had been elected president. The close
Florida vote triggered an automatic recount.

Lawyers descended on Florida. The Gore campaign called for manual recounts in several counties. Local election boards,
Florida secretary of state Kathleen Harris, and the Florida supreme court all weighed in until the U.S. Supreme Court stepped
in and, in an unprecedented 5–4 decision in Bush v. Gore, ruled that the recount had to end. Bush was awarded Florida by a
margin of 537 votes, enough to win him the state and give him a majority in the Electoral College. He had won the presidency.

In his �rst months in of�ce, Bush fought to push forward enormous tax cuts skewed toward America’s highest earners. The
bursting of the dot-com bubble weighed down the economy. Old political and cultural �ghts continued to be fought. And then
the towers fell.

 

II. September 11 and the War on Terror

On the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen operatives of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization hijacked four passenger
planes on the East Coast. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York
City at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 9:03. American
Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western façade of the Pentagon at 9:37. At 9:59, the South Tower of the World Trade
Center collapsed. At 10:03, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a �eld outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, brought down by
passengers who had received news of the earlier hijackings. At 10:28, the North Tower collapsed. In less than two hours,
nearly three thousand Americans had been killed.

Ground Zero six days after the September 11th attacks showing the wreckage of the fallen
buildings.

Ground Zero six days after the September 11th attacks showing the wreckage of the fallen buildings. [Public Domain via Wikimedia, ]

The attacks stunned Americans. Late that night, Bush addressed the nation and assured the country that “the search is under
way for those who are behind these evil acts.” At Ground Zero three days later, Bush thanked �rst responders for their work.
A worker said he couldn’t hear him. “I can hear you,” Bush shouted back, “The rest of the world hears you. And the people who
knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

President Bush addresses rescue workers at Ground Zero. 2001.

President Bush addresses rescue workers at Ground Zero. 2001. [Public Domain via FEMA Photo Library.]

American intelligence agencies quickly identi�ed the radical Islamic militant group al-Qaeda, led by the wealthy Saudi Osama
bin Laden, as the perpetrators of the attack. Sheltered in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the country’s Islamic government, al-
Qaeda was responsible for a 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and a string of attacks at U.S. embassies and military
bases across the world. Bin Laden’s Islamic radicalism and his anti-American aggression attracted supporters across the
region and, by 2001, al-Qaeda was active in over sixty countries.

Although in his presidential campaign Bush had denounced foreign nation-building, he populated his administration with
neoconservatives, �rm believers in the expansion of American democracy and American interests abroad. Bush advanced
what was sometimes called the Bush Doctrine, a policy in which the United States would have the right to unilaterally and
preemptively declare war on any regime or terrorist organization that posed a threat to the United States or to U.S. citizens.
It would lead the United States into protracted con�icts in Afghanistan and Iraq and entangle the United States in nations
across the world. Journalist Dexter Filkins called it a Forever War, a perpetual con�ict waged against an amorphous and
undefeatable enemy.15 The geopolitical realities of the twenty-�rst-century world were forever transformed.

The United States, of course, had a history in Afghanistan. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 to
quell an insurrection that threatened to topple Kabul’s communist government, the United States �nanced and armed anti-
Soviet insurgents, the Mujahideen. In 1981, the Reagan administration authorized the CIA to provide the Mujahideen with
weapons and training to strengthen the insurgency. An independent wealthy young Saudi, Osama bin Laden, also fought with
and funded the Mujahideen. And they began to win. Afghanistan bled the Soviet Union dry. The costs of the war, coupled with
growing instability at home, convinced the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989.16

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/September_17_2001

https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/images/38873

Osama bin Laden relocated al-Qaeda to Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban in 1996. Under Bill Clinton, the
United States launched cruise missiles at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for al-Qaeda bombings on American
embassies in Africa.

After September 11, with a broad authorization of military force, Bush administration of�cials made plans for military action
against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. What would become the longest war in American history began with the launching of
Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Air and missile strikes hit targets across Afghanistan. U.S. Special Forces
joined with �ghters in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Major Afghan cities fell in quick succession. The capital, Kabul, fell
on November 13. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives retreated into the rugged mountains along the border of Pakistan in
eastern Afghanistan. The American occupation of Afghanistan continued.

As American troops struggled to contain the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Bush administration set its sights on Iraq. After the
conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991, American of�cials established economic sanctions, weapons inspections, and no-�y
zones. By mid-1991, American warplanes were routinely patrolling Iraqi skies and coming under periodic �re from Iraqi
missile batteries. The overall cost to the United States of maintaining the two no-�y zones over Iraq was roughly $1 billion a
year. Related military activities in the region added almost another $500 million to the annual bill. On the ground in Iraq,
meanwhile, Iraqi authorities clashed with UN weapons inspectors. Iraq had suspended its program for weapons of mass
destruction, but Saddam Hussein fostered ambiguity about the weapons in the minds of regional leaders to forestall any
possible attacks against Iraq.

In 1998, a standoff between Hussein and the United Nations over weapons inspections led President Bill Clinton to launch
punitive strikes aimed at debilitating what was thought to be a developed chemical weapons program. Attacks began on
December 16, 1998. More than two hundred cruise missiles �red from U.S. Navy warships and Air Force B-52 bombers �ew
into Iraq, targeting suspected chemical weapons storage facilities, missile batteries, and command centers. Airstrikes
continued for three more days, unleashing in total 415 cruise missiles and 600 bombs against 97 targets. The number of
bombs dropped was nearly double the number used in the 1991 con�ict.

The United States and Iraq remained at odds throughout the 1990s and early 2000, when Bush administration of�cials began
championing “regime change.” The Bush administration publicly denounced Saddam Hussein’s regime and its alleged
weapons of mass destruction. It began pushing for war in the fall of 2002. The administration alleged that Hussein was trying
to acquire uranium and that it had aluminum tubes used for nuclear centrifuges. Public opinion was divided. George W. Bush
said in October, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the �nal proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the
form of a mushroom cloud.”17 The administration’s push for war was in full swing. Protests broke out across the country and
all over the world, but majorities of Americans supported military action. On October 16, Congress passed the Authorization
for Use of Military Force Against Iraq resolution, giving Bush the power to make war in Iraq. Iraq began cooperating with UN
weapons inspectors in late 2002, but the Bush administration pressed on. On February 6, 2003, Secretary of State Colin
Powell, who had risen to public prominence as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State during the Persian Gulf War in 1991,
presented allegations of a robust Iraqi weapons program to the UN. Protests continued.

The �rst American bombs hit Baghdad on March 20, 2003. Several hundred thousand troops moved into Iraq and Hussein’s
regime quickly collapsed. Baghdad fell on April 9. On May 1, 2003, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, beneath a banner
reading Mission Accomplished, George W. Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”18 No
evidence of weapons of mass destruction were ever found. And combat operations had not ended, not really. The Iraqi
insurgency had begun, and the United States would spend the next ten years struggling to contain it.

Despite George W. Bush’s ill-conceived photo op under a Mission Accomplished banner in May
2003, combat operations in Iraq continued for years. Image shows that banner on the USS
Lincoln
with a row of sailors in white dress uniform

Despite George W. Bush’s ill-conceived photo op under a Mission Accomplished banner in May 2003, combat operations in Iraq continued for years. Image shows that banner on the USS

Lincoln with a row of sailors in white dress uniforms [Public Domain via Wikimedia.]

Efforts by various intelligence gathering agencies led to the capture of Saddam Hussein, hidden in an underground
compartment near his hometown, on December 13, 2003. The new Iraqi government found him guilty of crimes against
humanity and he was hanged on December 30, 2006.

 

III. The End of the Bush Years

The War on Terror was a centerpiece in the race for the White House in 2004. The Democratic ticket, headed by
Massachusetts senator John F. Kerry, a Vietnam War hero who entered the public consciousness for his subsequent

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/USS_Abraham_Lincoln_%28CVN-72%29_Mission_Accomplished

testimony against it, attacked Bush for the ongoing inability to contain the Iraqi insurgency or to �nd weapons of mass
destruction, the revelation and photographic evidence that American soldiers had abused prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison
outside Baghdad, and the inability to �nd Osama bin Laden. Moreover, many enemy combatants who had been captured in
Iraq and Afghanistan were “detained” inde�nitely at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “Gitmo” became infamous
for its harsh treatment, inde�nite detentions, and torture of prisoners. Bush defended the War on Terror, and his allies
attacked critics for failing to “support the troops.” Moreover, Kerry had voted for the war—he had to attack the very thing
that he had authorized. Bush won a close but clear victory.

The second Bush term saw the continued deterioration of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Bush’s presidency would take
a bigger hit from his perceived failure to respond to the domestic tragedy that followed Hurricane Katrina’s devastating hit
on the Gulf Coast. Katrina had been a category 5 hurricane. It was, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, “the storm we
always feared.”19

New Orleans suffered a direct hit, the levees broke, and the bulk of the city �ooded. Thousands of refugees �ocked to the
Superdome, where supplies and medical treatment and evacuation were slow to come. Individuals died in the heat. Bodies
wasted away. Americans saw poor Black Americans abandoned. Katrina became a symbol of a broken administrative system,
a devastated coastline, and irreparable social structures that allowed escape and recovery for some and not for others.
Critics charged that Bush had staffed his administration with incompetent supporters and had further ignored the displaced
poor and Black residents of New Orleans.20

Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest and more destructive hurricanes to hit American soil in
U.S. history. It nearly destroyed New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as cities, towns, and rural areas
across the Gulf Coast. It sent hundreds of thousands of refugees to near-by cities like Houston,
Texas, where they temporarily resided in massive structures like the Astrodome. Photograph, shows
rows and rows of cots with refugees.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest and more destructive hurricanes to hit American soil in U.S. history. It nearly destroyed New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as cities, towns, and rural

areas across the Gulf Coast. It sent hundreds of thousands of refugees to near-by cities like Houston, Texas, where they temporarily resided in massive structures like the Astrodome.

Photograph, shows rows and rows of cots with refugees. September 1, 2005. [Public Domain via Wikimedia.]

Immigration, meanwhile, had become an increasingly potent political issue. The Clinton administration had overseen the
implementation of several anti-immigration policies on the U.S.-Mexico border, but hunger and poverty were stronger
incentives than border enforcement policies were deterrents. Illegal immigration continued, often at great human cost, but
nevertheless fanned widespread anti-immigration sentiment among many American conservatives. Many immigrants and
their supporters, however, fought back. 2006 saw waves of massive protests across the country. Hundreds of thousands
marched in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and tens of thousands marched in smaller cities around the country. Legal
change, however, went nowhere. Moderate conservatives feared upsetting business interests’ demand for cheap, exploitable
labor and alienating large voting blocs by sti�ing immigration, and moderate liberals feared upsetting anti-immigrant groups
by pushing too hard for liberalization of immigration laws.

Afghanistan and Iraq, meanwhile, continued to deteriorate. In 2006, the Taliban reemerged, as the Afghan government
proved both highly corrupt and incapable of providing social services or security for its citizens. Iraq only descended further
into chaos as insurgents battled against American troops and groups such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq
bombed civilians and released video recordings of beheadings.

In 2007, twenty-seven thousand additional U.S. forces deployed to Iraq under the command of General David Petraeus. The
effort, “the surge,” employed more sophisticated anti-insurgency strategies and, combined with Sunni efforts, paci�ed many
of Iraq’s cities and provided cover for the withdrawal of American forces. On December 4, 2008, the Iraqi government
approved the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, and U.S. combat forces withdrew from Iraqi cities before June 30, 2009.
The last U.S. combat forces left Iraq on December 18, 2011. Violence and instability continued to rock the country.

Opened in 2005, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, is the largest Islamic
center in the United States. Photograph, 2008

Opened in 2005, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, is the largest Islamic center in the United States. Photograph, 2008. [Public Domain via Wikimedia.]

 

IV. The Great Recession

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katrina-14461

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Islamic_Center_of_America

The Great Recession began, as most American economic catastrophes began, with the bursting of a speculative bubble.
Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, home prices continued to climb, and �nancial services �rms looked to
cash in on what seemed to be a safe but lucrative investment. After the dot-com bubble burst, investors searched for a secure
investment rooted in clear value, rather than in trendy technological speculation. What could be more secure than real
estate? But mortgage companies began writing increasingly risky loans and then bundling them together and selling them
over and over again, sometimes so quickly that it became dif�cult to determine exactly who owned what.

Decades of �nancial deregulation had rolled back Depression-era restraints and again allowed risky business practices to
dominate the world of American �nance. It was a bipartisan agenda. In the 1990s, for instance, Bill Clinton signed the
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, repealing provisions of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial and investment banks,
and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit-default swaps—perhaps the key �nancial mechanism
behind the crash—from regulation.

Mortgages had been so heavily leveraged that when American homeowners began to default on their loans, the whole
system collapsed. Major �nancial services �rms such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers disappeared almost overnight. In
order to prevent the crisis from spreading, the federal government poured billions of dollars into the industry, propping up
hobbled banks. Massive giveaways to bankers created shock waves of resentment throughout the rest of the country. On the
right, conservative members of the Tea Party decried the cronyism of an Obama administration �lled with former Wall Street
executives. The same energies also motivated the Occupy Wall Street movement, as mostly young left-leaning New Yorkers
protested an American economy that seemed overwhelmingly tilted toward “the one percent.”21

The Great Recession only magni�ed already rising income and wealth inequalities. According to the chief investment of�cer
at JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, “pro�t margins have reached levels not seen in decades,” and
“reductions in wages and bene�ts explain the majority of the net improvement.”22 A study from the Congressional Budget
Of�ce (CBO) found that since the late 1970s, after-tax bene�ts of the wealthiest 1 percent grew by over 300 percent. The
“average” American’s after-tax bene�ts had grown 35 percent. Economic trends have disproportionately and objectively
bene�ted the wealthiest Americans. Still, despite political rhetoric, American frustration failed to generate anything like the
social unrest of the early twentieth century. A weakened labor movement and a strong conservative bloc continue to stymie
serious attempts at reversing or even slowing economic inequalities. Occupy Wall Street managed to generate a fair number
of headlines and shift public discussion away from budget cuts and toward inequality, but its membership amounted to only a
fraction of the far more in�uential and money-driven Tea Party. Its presence on the public stage was �eeting.

The Great Recession, however, was not. While American banks quickly recovered and recaptured their steady pro�ts, and
the American stock market climbed again to new heights, American workers continued to lag. Job growth was slow and
unemployment rates would remain stubbornly high for years. Wages froze, meanwhile, and well-paying full-time jobs that
were lost were too often replaced by low-paying, part-time work. A generation of workers coming of age within the crisis,
moreover, had been savaged by the economic collapse. Unemployment among young Americans hovered for years at rates
nearly double the national average.

 

V. The Obama Years

Barack Obama became the first African American elected to the presidency. In this official White
House photo from May, 2009, 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia said, “I want to know if my hair is just
like yours.” Image shows Obama bending over so the boy can feel his hair.

In 2008, Barack Obama became the �rst African American elected to the presidency. In this of�cial White House photo from May, 2009, 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia said, “I want to know

if my hair is just like yours.” Image shows Obama bending over so the boy can feel his hair. [Public Domain via The White House via Flickr.]

By the 2008 election, with Iraq still in chaos, Democrats were ready to embrace the antiwar position and sought a candidate
who had consistently opposed military action in Iraq. Senator Barack Obama had only been a member of the Illinois state
senate when Congress debated the war actions, but he had publicly denounced the war, predicting the sectarian violence
that would ensue, and remained critical of the invasion through his 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate. He began running for
president almost immediately after arriving in Washington.

A former law professor and community activist, Obama became the �rst African American candidate to ever capture the
nomination of a major political party.23 During the election, Obama won the support of an increasingly antiwar electorate.
When an already fragile economy �nally collapsed in 2007 and 2008, Bush’s policies were widely blamed. Obama’s opponent,
Republican senator John McCain, was tied to those policies and struggled to �ght off the nation’s desire for a new political
direction. Obama won a convincing victory in the fall and became the nation’s �rst African American president.

P050809PS-0264

President Obama’s �rst term was marked by domestic affairs, especially his efforts to combat the Great Recession and to
pass a national healthcare law. Obama came into of�ce as the economy continued to deteriorate. He continued the bank
bailout begun under his predecessor and launched a limited economic stimulus plan to provide government spending to
reignite the economy.

Despite Obama’s dominant electoral victory, national politics fractured, and a conservative Republican �rewall quickly arose
against the Obama administration. The Tea Party became a catchall term for a diffuse movement of �ercely conservative and
politically frustrated American voters. Typically whiter, older, and richer than the average American, �ush with support from
wealthy backers, and clothed with the iconography of the Founding Fathers, Tea Party activists registered their deep
suspicions of the federal government.24 Tea Party protests dominated the public eye in 2009 and activists steered the
Republican Party far to the right, capturing primary elections all across the country.

Obama’s most substantive legislative achievement proved to be a national healthcare law, the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt had striven to pass national healthcare reform and
failed. Obama’s plan forsook liberal models of a national healthcare system and instead adopted a heretofore conservative
model of subsidized private care (similar plans had been put forward by Republicans Richard Nixon, Newt Gingrich, and
Obama’s 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney). Beset by conservative protests, Obama’s healthcare reform narrowly passed
through Congress. It abolished pre-existing conditions as a cause for denying care, scrapped junk plans, provided for state-
run healthcare exchanges (allowing individuals without healthcare to pool their purchasing power), offered states funds to
subsidize an expansion of Medicaid, and required all Americans to provide proof of a health insurance plan that measured up
to government-established standards (those who did not purchase a plan would pay a penalty tax, and those who could not
afford insurance would be eligible for federal subsidies). The number of uninsured Americans remained stubbornly high,
however, and conservatives spent most of the next decade attacking the bill.

Meanwhile, in 2009, President Barack Obama deployed seventeen thousand additional troops to Afghanistan as part of a
counterinsurgency campaign that aimed to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Meanwhile, U.S. Special
Forces and CIA drones targeted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. In May 2011, U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land Forces (SEALs)
conducted a raid deep into Pakistan that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The United States and NATO began a phased
withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011, with an aim of removing all combat troops by 2014. Although weak militarily, the
Taliban remained politically in�uential in south and eastern Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda remained active in Pakistan but shifted its
bases to Yemen and the Horn of Africa. As of December 2013, the war in Afghanistan had claimed the lives of 3,397 U.S.
service members.

Former Taliban fighters surrender their arms to the government of the Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound in May 2012.
Image shows a row of guns on a table with the rebels wearing head wraps and shawls.

Former Taliban �ghters surrender their arms to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound in May 2012.

Image shows a row of guns on a table with the rebels wearing head wraps and shawls. [Public Domain via Wikimedia.]

 

VI. Stagnation

In 2012, Barack Obama won a second term by defeating Republican Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
However, Obama’s inability to control Congress and the ascendancy of Tea Party Republicans stunted the passage of
meaningful legislation. Obama was a lame duck before he ever won reelection, and gridlocked government came to represent
an acute sense that much of American life—whether in politics, economics, or race relations—had grown stagnant.

The economy continued its halfhearted recovery from the Great Recession. The Obama administration campaigned on little
to speci�cally address the crisis and, faced with congressional intransigence, accomplished even less. While corporate pro�ts
climbed and stock markets soared, wages stagnated and employment sagged for years after the Great Recession. By 2016,
the statistically average American worker had not received a raise in almost forty years. The average worker in January 1973
earned $4.03 an hour. Adjusted for in�ation, that wage was about two dollars per hour more than the average American
earned in 2014. Working Americans were losing ground. Moreover, most income gains in the economy had been largely
captured by a small number of wealthy earners. Between 2009 and 2013, 85 percent of all new income in the United States
went to the top 1 percent of the population.25

But if money no longer �owed to American workers, it saturated American politics. In 2000, George W. Bush raised a record
$172 million for his campaign. In 2008, Barack Obama became the �rst presidential candidate to decline public funds

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Former_Taliban_fighters_return_arms

(removing any applicable caps to his total fund-raising) and raised nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for his campaign.
The average House seat, meanwhile, cost about $1.6 million, and the average Senate Seat over $10 million.26 The Supreme
Court, meanwhile, removed barriers to outside political spending. In 2002, Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold had
crossed party lines to pass the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, bolstering campaign �nance laws passed in the aftermath of
the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. But political organizations—particularly PACs—exploited loopholes to raise large sums
of money and, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that no limits could be placed on political spending
by corporations, unions, and nonpro�ts. Money �owed even deeper into politics.

The in�uence of money in politics only heightened partisan gridlock, further blocking bipartisan progress on particular
political issues. Climate change, for instance, has failed to transcend partisan barriers. In the 1970s and 1980s, experts
substantiated the theory of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. Eventually, the most in�uential of these panels,
the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 1995 that there was a “discernible human
in�uence on global climate.” 27 This conclusion, though stated conservatively, was by that point essentially a scienti�c
consensus. By 2007, the IPCC considered the evidence “unequivocal” and warned that “unmitigated climate change would, in
the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.”28

Climate change became a permanent and major topic of public discussion and policy in the twenty-�rst century. Fueled by
popular coverage, most notably, perhaps, the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, based on Al Gore’s book and
presentations of the same name, addressing climate change became a plank of the American left and a point of denial for the
American right. American public opinion and political action still lagged far behind the scienti�c consensus on the dangers of
global warming. Conservative politicians, conservative think tanks, and energy companies waged war to sow questions in the
minds of Americans, who remain divided on the question, and so many others.

Much of the resistance to addressing climate change is economic. As Americans looked over their shoulder at China, many
refused to sacri�ce immediate economic growth for long-term environmental security. Twenty-�rst-century relations with
China remained characterized by contradictions and interdependence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China
reinvigorated its efforts to modernize its country. By liberating and subsidizing much of its economy and drawing enormous
foreign investments, China has posted massive growth rates during the last several decades. Enormous cities rise by the day.
In 2000, China had a GDP around an eighth the size of U.S. GDP. Based on growth rates and trends, analysts suggest that
China’s economy will bypass that of the United States soon. American concerns about China’s political system have persisted,
but money sometimes matters more to Americans. China has become one of the country’s leading trade partners. Cultural
exchange has increased, and more and more Americans visit China each year, with many settling down to work and study.

By 2016, American voters were fed up. In that year’s presidential race, Republicans spurned their political establishment and
nominated a real estate developer and celebrity billionaire, Donald Trump, who, decrying the tyranny of political correctness
and promising to Make America Great Again, promised to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants and bar Muslim
immigrants. The Democrats, meanwhile, �irted with the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from
Vermont, before ultimately nominating Hillary Clinton, who, after eight years as �rst lady in the 1990s, had served eight
years in the Senate and four more as secretary of state. Voters despaired: Trump and Clinton were the most unpopular
nominees in modern American history. Majorities of Americans viewed each candidate unfavorably and majorities in both
parties said, early in the election season, that they were motivated more by voting against their rival candidate than for their
own. 29 With incomes frozen, politics gridlocked, race relations tense, and headlines full of violence, such frustrations only
channeled a larger sense of stagnation, which upset traditional political allegiances. In the end, despite winning nearly three
million more votes nationwide, Clinton failed to carry key Midwestern states where frustrated white, working-class voters
abandoned the Democratic Party—a Republican president hadn’t carried Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, for instance,
since the 1980s—and swung their support to the Republicans. Donald Trump won the presidency.

Political divisions only deepened after the election. A nation already deeply split by income, culture, race, geography, and
ideology continued to come apart. Trump’s presidency consumed national attention. Traditional print media and the
consumers and producers of social media could not help but throw themselves at the ins and outs of Trump’s norm-smashing
�rst years while seemingly refracting every major event through the prism of the Trump presidency. Robert Mueller’s
investigation of Russian election-meddling and the alleged collusion of campaign of�cials in that effort produced countless
headlines. Meanwhile, new policies en�amed widening cultural divisions. Border apprehensions and deportations reached
record levels under the Obama administration, but Trump pushed even farther. He pushed for a massive wall along the
border to supplement the fence built under the Bush administration. He began ordering the deportation of so-called
Dreamers—students who were born elsewhere but grew up in the United States—and immigration of�cials separated
refugee-status-seeking parents and children at the border. Trump’s border policies heartened his base and aggravated his
opponents. But while Trump en�amed America’s enduring culture war, his narrowly passed 2017 tax cut continued the
redistribution of American wealth toward corporations and wealthy individuals. The tax cut exploded the federal de�cit and
further exacerbated America’s widening economic inequality.

 

VII. New Horizons

Americans looked anxiously to the future, and yet also, often, to a new generation busy discovering, perhaps, that change was
not impossible. Much public commentary in the early twenty-�rst century concerned the millennials, the new generation that
came of age during the new millennium. Commentators, demographers, and political prognosticators continued to ask what
the new generation will bring. Time’s May 20, 2013, cover, for instance, read Millennials Are Lazy, Entitled Narcissists Who
Still Live with Their Parents: Why They’ll Save Us All. Pollsters focused on features that distinguish millennials from older
Americans: millennials, the pollsters said, were more diverse, more liberal, less religious, and wracked by economic insecurity.
“They are,” as one Pew report read, “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened
by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry—and optimistic about the future.”30

Millennial attitudes toward homosexuality and gay marriage re�ected one of the most dramatic changes in the popular
attitudes of recent years. After decades of advocacy, American attitudes shifted rapidly. In 2006, a majority of Americans still
told Gallup pollsters that “gay or lesbian relations” was “morally wrong.”31 But prejudice against homosexuality plummeted
and greater public acceptance of coming out opened the culture–in 2001, 73 percent of Americans said they knew someone
who was gay, lesbian, or bisexual; in 1983, only 24 percent did. Gay characters—and in particular, gay characters with depth
and complexity—could be found across the cultural landscape. Attitudes shifted such that, by the 2010s, polls registered
majority support for the legalization of gay marriage. A writer for the Wall Street Journal called it “one of the fastest-moving
changes in social attitudes of this generation.”32

Such change was, in many respects, a generational one: on average, younger Americans supported gay marriage in higher
numbers than older Americans. The Obama administration, meanwhile, moved tentatively. Refusing to push for national
interventions on the gay marriage front, Obama did, however, direct a review of Defense Department policies that repealed
the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in 2011. Without the support of national politicians, gay marriage was left to the courts.
Beginning in Massachusetts in 2003, state courts had begun slowly ruling against gay marriage bans. Then, in June 2015, the
Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Nearly two thirds of
Americans supported the position.33

While liberal social attitudes marked the younger generation, perhaps nothing de�ned young Americans more than the
embrace of technology. The internet in particular, liberated from desktop modems, shaped more of daily life than ever before.
The release of the Apple iPhone in 2007 popularized the concept of smartphones for millions of consumers and, by 2011,
about a third of Americans owned a mobile computing device. Four years later, two thirds did.34.

Together with the advent of social media, Americans used their smartphones and their desktops to stay in touch with old
acquaintances, chat with friends, share photos, and interpret the world—as newspaper and magazine subscriptions dwindled,
Americans increasingly turned to their social media networks for news and information.35 Ambitious new online media
companies, hungry for clicks and the ad revenue they represented, churned out provocatively titled, easy-to-digest stories
that could be linked and tweeted and shared widely among like-minded online communities,36 but even traditional media
companies, forced to downsize their newsrooms to accommodate shrinking revenues, fought to adapt to their new online
consumers.

The ability of individuals to share stories through social media apps revolutionized the media landscape—smartphone
technology and the democratization of media reshaped political debates and introduced new political questions. The easy
accessibility of video capturing and the ability for stories to go viral outside traditional media, for instance, brought new
attention to the tense and often violent relations between municipal police of�cers and African Americans. The 2014 death
of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, focused the issue, and over the following years videos documenting the deaths of
Black men at the hands of police of�cers circulated among social media networks. It became a testament to the power of
social media platforms such as Twitter that a hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, became a rallying cry for protesters and
counterhashtags, #alllivesmatter and #policelivesmatter, for critics.37

Just weeks after seventeen students were murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
Florida, more than two million Americans across the country participated in the March for Our Lives
demonstration to advocate for more effective gun control laws. Several Stoneman Douglas students
emerged as prominent national activists in the wake of the shooting. This photo of the
demonstration, taken from the Newseum in Washington D.C., captures a graphic on the exterior of
the museum listing five protections of the First Amendment: Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly,
Petition.

Just weeks after seventeen students were murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, more than two million Americans across the country participated in the March

for Our Lives demonstration to advocate for more effective gun control laws. Several Stoneman Douglas students emerged as prominent national activists in the wake of the shooting. This

photo of the demonstration, taken from the Newseum in Washington D.C., captures a graphic on the exterior of the museum listing �ve protections of the First Amendment: Religion,

Speech, Press, Assembly, Petition. [Public Domain via Phil Roeder via Flickr]

Another social media phenomenon, the #MeToo movement, began as the magni�cation of and outrage toward the past
sexual crimes of notable male celebrities before injecting a greater intolerance toward those accused of sexual harassment
and violence into much of the rest of American society. The sudden zero tolerance re�ected the new political energies of
many American women, sparked in large part by the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. The day after Trump’s
inauguration, between �ve hundred thousand and one million people descended on Washington, D.C., for the Women’s
March, and millions more demonstrated in cities and towns around the country to show a broadly de�ned commitment
toward the rights of women and others in the face of the Trump presidency.

As issues of race and gender captured much public discussion, immigration continued on as a potent political issue. Even as
anti-immigrant initiatives like California’s Proposition 187 (1994) and Arizona’s SB1070 (2010) re�ected the anxieties of
many white Americans, younger Americans proved far more comfortable with immigration and diversity (which makes sense,
given that they are the most diverse American generation in living memory). Since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society liberalized
immigration laws in the 1960s, the demographics of the United States have been transformed. In 2012, nearly one quarter of
all Americans were immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants. Half came from Latin America. The ongoing
Hispanicization of the United States and the ever-shrinking proportion of non-Hispanic whites have been the most talked
about trends among demographic observers. By 2013, 17 percent of the nation was Hispanic. In 2014, Latinos surpassed
non-Latino whites to become the largest ethnic group in California. In Texas, the image of a white cowboy hardly captures the
demographics of a minority-majority state in which Hispanic Texans will soon become the largest ethnic group. For the nearly
1.5 million people of Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, for instance, where most residents speak Spanish at home, a full three fourths
of the population is bilingual.38 Political commentators often wonder what political transformations these populations will
bring about when they come of age and begin voting in larger numbers.

 

VIII. Conclusion

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought neither global peace nor stability, and the attacks of September 11, 2001, plunged
the United States into interminable con�icts around the world. At home, economic recession, a slow recovery, stagnant wage
growth, and general pessimism infected American life as contentious politics and cultural divisions poisoned social harmony.
And yet the stream of history changes its course. Trends shift, things change, and events turn. New generations bring with
them new perspectives, and they share new ideas with new technologies. Our world is not foreordained. It is the product of
history, the ever-evolving culmination of a longer and broader story, of a larger history, of a raw, distinctive, American Yawp.

 

 IX. Reference Material

This chapter was edited by Michael Hammond, with content contributions by Eladio Bobadilla, Andrew Chadwick, Zach
Fredman, Leif Fredrickson, Michael Hammond, Richara Hayward, Joseph Locke, Mark Kukis, Shaul Mitelpunkt, Michelle
Reeves, Elizabeth Skilton, Bill Speer, and Ben Wright.

Recommended citation: Eladio Bobadilla et al., “The Recent Past,” Michael Hammond, ed., in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph
Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018).

 

Recommended Reading

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New Press, 2012.
Canaday, Margot. The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2011.
Carter, Dan T. From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963–1994. Baton
Rouge: LSU Press, 1996.

March for Our Lives

Cowie, Jefferson. Capital Moves: RCA’s 70-Year Quest for Cheap Labor.  New York: New Press, 2001.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Metropolitan, 2001.
Evans, Sara. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century’s End. New York: Free Press, 2003.
Gardner, Lloyd C. The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present. New York:
Free Press, 2008.
Hinton, Elizabeth. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.
Hollinger, David. Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism. New York: Basic Books, 1995.
Hunter, James D. Culture Wars: The Struggle to De�ne America. New York: Basic Books, 1992.
Meyerowitz, Joanne. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2004.
Mittelstadt, Jennifer. The Rise of the Military Welfare State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.
Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Walmart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2009.
Nadasen, Premilla. Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Osnos, Evan. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
2014.
Packer, George. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2005.
Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge,
MA: Belknap Press, 2013.
Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Houghton Mif�in Harcourt, 2001.
Stiglitz, Joseph. Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. New York: Norton, 2010.
Taylor, Paul. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown. New York: Public
Affairs, 2014.
Wilentz, Sean. The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.
Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf, 2006.

 

Notes

1. Bill Minutaglio, First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty (New York: Random House, 1999), 210–224.
2. Roger Simon, “How a Murderer and Rapist Became the Bush Campaign’s Most Valuable Player,” Baltimore Sun,

November 11, 1990.
3. See especially Dan T. Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution,

1963–1994 (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1996), 72–80.
4. Sean Wilentz, The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008 (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).
5. James F. Clarity, “End of the Soviet Union,” New York Times, December 26, 1991.
6. Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” National Interest (Summer 1989).
7. William Thomas Allison, The Gulf War, 1990–91 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 145, 165.
8. Charles W. Dunn, The Presidency in the Twenty-�rst Century (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011), 152.
9. Robert M. Collins, Transforming America: Politics and Culture During the Reagan Years (New York: Columbia

University Press, 2009), 171, 172.
10. For Clinton’s presidency and the broader politics of the 1990s, see James T. Patterson, Restless Giant: The United

States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); and Wilentz, Age of Reagan.
11. Patterson, Restless Giant, 298–299.
12. United Nations International Organization for Migration, “Migrant Deaths Remain High Despite Sharp Fall in US-

Mexico Border Crossings in 2017,” press release, February 6, 2018. https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/02/1002101.
13. Carolyn Skorneck, “Final Welfare Bill Written,” Washington Post, July 30, 1996, A1.
14. Frank Newport, “Clinton Receives Record High Job Approval Rating,” Gallup, December 24,

1998. http://news.gallup.com/poll/4111/clinton-receives-record-high-job-approval-rating-after-impeachment-
vot.aspx).

15. Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Vintage Books, 2009).
16. See, for instance, Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Knopf, 2006).
17. Thomas R. Mockaitis, The Iraq War: A Documentary and Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2012), 26.
18. Judy Keen, “Bush to Troops: Mission Accomplished,” USA Today, June 5, 2003. 
19. Bruce Nolan, “Katrina: The Storm We’ve Always Feared,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 30, 2005.

20. Douglas Brinkley, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (New York:
HarperCollins, 2006).

21. On the Great Recession, see Joseph Stiglitz, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World
Economy (New York: Norton, 2010); and Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (New York:
Norton: 2010).

22. Harold Meyerson, “Corporate America’s Chokehold on Wages,” Washington Post, July 19, 2011.
23. Thomas J. Sugrue, Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,

2012).
24. Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated,” New York Times,

April 14, 2010; Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American
History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

25. Kerry Close, “The 1% Pocketed 85% of Post-Recession Income Growth,” Time, June 16,
2016. http://time.com/money/4371332/income-inequality-recession/. See also Justin Wolfers, “The Gains from the
Economic Recovery Are Still Limited to the Top One Percent,” New York Times, January 27,
2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/upshot/gains-from-economic-recovery-still-limited-to-top-one-
percent.html. 

26. Julia Queen and Christian Hilland, “2008 Presidential Campaign Financial Activity Summarized: Receipts Nearly
Double 2004 Total,” Federal Election Commission, June 8,
2009. http://www.fec.gov/press/press2009/20090608PresStat.shtml; Andre Tartar and Eric Benson, “The Forever
Campaign,” New York Magazine (October 14, 2012). http://nymag.com/news/politics/elections-2012/timeline-2012-
10/.

27. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2014).

28. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Global and
Sectoral Aspects (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

29. Philip Bump, “A Quarter of Americans Dislike Both Major-Party Presidential Candidates,” Washington Post, July 14,
2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-�x/wp/2016/07/14/a-quarter-of-americans-dislike-both-major-
party-presidential-candidates/?tid=a_inl; Aaron Zitner and Julia Wolfe, “Trump and Clinton’s Popularity Problem,” Wall
Street Journal, May 24, 2016. http://graphics.wsj.com/elections/2016/donald-trump-and-hillary-clintons-popularity-
problem/.

30. Paul Taylor, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown (New York: Public
Affairs, 2014).

31. “Gay and Lesbian Rights,” Gallup, December 5–7, 2003. http://www.gallup.com/poll/1651/gay-lesbian-rights.aspx.
32. Janet Hook, “Support for Gay Marriage Hits All-Time High,” Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2015.
33. Ibid.
34. Monica Anders, “Technology Device Ownership: 2015,” Pew Research Center, October 29,

2015. http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/02/22/smartphone-ownership-and-internet-usage-continues-to-climb-in-
emerging-economies/.

35. Monica Anderson and Andrea Caumont, “How Social Media Is Reshaping News,” Pew Research Center, September 24,
2014. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/24/how-social-media-is-reshaping-news/.

36. See, for instance, Nicholas G. Carr’s 2010 The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize
�nalist.

37. Bijan Stephen, “Social Media Helps Black Lives Matter Fight the Power,” Wired (November
2015). http://www.wired.com/2015/10/how-black-lives-matter-uses-social-media-to-�ght-the-power/. 

38. U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year
Estimates. https://fact�nder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/16_1YR/S1601/0500000US48061|0500000US48215.

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