Political Climate of 1970s Essay

The epoch of the 1970s marked the approaching apogee of the Cold War. This was the decade of the growing opposition between two superpowers, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) and the United States (the US), which in the 1970s was spread worldwide. In fact, any conflict, either political or military, could occur under the sanction and control of the two superpowers. At the same time, the political situation in the US was also susceptible to considerable changes under the impact of Civil Rights movements of 1950s-1960s and political problems within the ruling elite of the US. In such a way, the policy of the 1970s was considerably affected by the Cold War in both domestic and international context.

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First of all, the war in Vietnam which started in the late 1960s dramatically affected the development of the US and political climate of the 1970s. In fact, this war had a profound impact not only on the US society but on the image of the US in the world at large. In this respect, the military intervention of the US in Vietnam, which apparently violated the sovereignty of this developing country, undermined the positive image of the US, especially among developing countries (Norton, 1999). Moreover, the military operation dehumanized absolutely the war and caused numerous protests against the US actions worldwide.

However, the opposition to the war was probably the strongest in the US. In such a situation, the end of the war in Vietnam had significant social and political effects on American society. In fact, the opposition of American society to the war practically forced the government of the US to stop this war that proved the power of ordinary Americans and their ability to influence politically important decisions that affected the life of all citizens of this country and even the entire world. In such a situation, the public opinion became a powerful tool in hands of American politicians which perfectly realized that any manipulations with the public opinion could bring political dividends to them.

In this respect, the Watergate scandal may be viewed as a perfect example proving the power of ordinary Americans and, on the other hand, the possibility of political forces in the US to use this tool to defeat its opponents. At the same time, the Watergate scandal was one of the most important events in the 1970s in the US because it undermined consistently the belief of American people in their government they elected (Degregorio, 2005). In other words, the Watergate scandal would be a real threat to the US democracy, if it failed to punish Nixon and the political power he represented for his crime. On the other hand, Americans became more skeptical in relation to their government, which had not been trustworthy anymore.

Nevertheless, the outcome of this scandal was a perfect evidence of the power and ability of ordinary people to influence American government which was not “untouchable” anymore. In stark contrast, as it turned out, even the President is just one of Americans, an equal among equals.

However, the role of Nixon in the development of the US and international relations in the 1970s should not be underestimated. His policy differed considerably from the traditional policy of the US in the epoch of the Cold War. Traditionally, especially in 1950s–1960s, the US opposed to any regime which was viewed as a hostile, undemocratic, or communist (Foner, 2006). Nixon rejected this practice and conducted the policy which could be characterized as pragmatic and democratic principles were often irrelevant to this policy. To put it more precisely, Nixon supported regimes that were not democratic, such as the regime of Pinochet in Chile.

Furthermore, Nixon also attempted to develop normal relations with China, a communist state at the epoch. These efforts were absolutely unacceptable for eager supporters of basic human rights and democratic values as well as for supporters of McCarthyism because China was another communist and undemocratic state, where the ruling regime violated basic human rights. Nevertheless, Nixon was pragmatic and attempted to benefit from the conflict between two communist states, China and the USSR. In fact, supporting China, the US could increase their pressure on the USSR.

In such a way, Nixon demonstrated the ability of the US to ally even with the regimes hostile to the principles of democracy that revealed the major trend in political climate of the 1970s – to win by all possible means and regardless possible outcomes as long as the US can gain advantage in the Cold War.

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