Calvin Coolidge, Grace Coolidge and Senator Charles Curtis.
Library of Congress
comparison / power

Donald Trump and the Return of the 1920s

We are again caught between nationalists longing for an imagined past, and activists invoking ideals the nation has not attained.
There is no period of American history that so pervasively demonstrated the power of ethno-nationalism to suppress pluralist differences as that following the Russian Revolution, the end of the First World War, and then continuing through much of the 1920s. There are many broad parallels between this era and our own. In both historical moments, there is a rising racial nationalism that takes hold of a significant (and demographically similar) portion of the country. Following the 1920s, Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership during the Depression and a massive labor movement—which, at least, in its ideals (if often not its practice) extolled the social solidarity of Americans of all races, ethnicities, and religions—renewed civic nationalism. So, too, did the total mobilization on behalf of prosecuting the Second World War. But civic nationalism, too, was still flawed by institutional racism, and dependent upon extra-national enemies—first German and Japanese totalitarianism and then Soviet communism—to somewhat unify the American political culture. What might we expect to, first, culminate, and, then, follow, the moment of Trump?
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