Today, we face the all-too-familiar nightmare featuring a problematic president, a pandemic and resulting economic hardship, and a racist reckoning unseen since the 1960s.
But, there are two reasons for hope. If enough of us vote, that problematic president may soon begin to fade away even if, to adapt a phrase, “he does not go gentle into that good night.”
And, lest we forget, we have survived great turbulence in our country even in my adult lifetime and over a much longer period than four years.
I wrote about it in an Obamagram (January 8, 2009, #38 http://www.obamagrams.com/group-5/another-great-depression/) written during the financial crisis, also as a message of hope. If you read this section carefully, there are numerous messages buried in this recitation.
I think it very useful to remember what that dramatic period was really like. Think of all the dislocations and social changes we experienced – 4 major assassinations; 4 recessions; the civil rights movement; a presidential retirement; the only presidential resignation in history; the Vietnam War and the Great Society (“Guns and Butter”); the draft; OPEC and an oil embargo; hyper-inflation plus high unemployment and slow growth leading to “stagflation”; Iranian hostages; urban riots; the women’s movement; the environmental movement; and major stock market declines.
Although I come to this without the benefit of professional training as an historian or economist (as many of you will undoubtedly remind me), in my mind’s eye I imagine the trouble starting in 1963. Here is a chronology of the 20 years that followed:
1963 — JFK assassinated; LBJ assumed presidency; March on Washington.
1964 – the Civil Rights Act passed; LBJ defeated Goldwater, winning a full term.
1965 – Bloody Sunday in Selma; Voting Rights Act passed; Malcolm X assassinated; Medicare and Medicaid passed.
1966 — National Organization of Women established.
1967 — Supreme Court knocked down remaining anti-miscegenation laws in 17 states (Barack’s parents’ marriage in 1960 in Hawaii would have been illegal in over half of the states in the union.)
1968 — MLK assassinated; riots in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Watts, and elsewhere; LBJ declined to run for second term; RFK assassinated on night he ostensibly won Democratic presidential nomination; violent anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations at Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Nixon elected president; inflation exceeded 4% for first time in decades.
1969 – 11 month recession started.
1970 – first Earth day; EPA established; inflation exceeded 6%.
1971 – Nixon imposed wage and price controls.
1972 – Watergate break-in; Nixon re-elected anyway; Equal Rights Amendment approved by Congress (states failed to ratify it by 1979 deadline).
1973 – S&P 500 set record of 122; OPEC established and oil embargo started, leading to long lines at the pump; 16 month recession started.
1974 – Nixon resigned and Ford assumed presidency; S&P 500 bottoms out at 61, a 49% decline; inflation exceeds 12%.
1975 – Vietnam War ended; unemployment rate hit 9%.
1976 – Carter defeated Ford, the incumbent president.
1979 – the second oil crisis; Iran took 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.
1980 – Reagan defeated Carter, another incumbent president; hostages released on day of inauguration; 6 month recession; stagflation reached apex with “misery index” of 22% [employment rate (8%) plus inflation rate (14 %)], staggering compared to Nov. 2008 misery index of 8% [unemployment rate (7%) plus inflation rate (1%)]; prime rate hit record of almost 22%; after almost 7 years, the S&P exceeded its 1974 high.
1981 – 16 month recession started.
1982 – unemployment rate peaked at almost 11%; real GDP declined almost 2%.
Strange as it may seem, I take solace from this history — our country’s ability to absorb so many body blows for so long. We’ll get through our current nightmare, too.
But, first, we must all do our part and vote (if you haven’t already).
Please, as always, pass it along.