U.S. History 1877-Present America Essay

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And finally the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2000 on Bush v. Gore was a disaster in any number of ways, but chiefly for the unresolved constitutional crisis that it represented.

The problem with the Spanish-American War is that it did not plausibly involve any realistic U.S. interests, and there was no reason to enter it. The reality is that the rest of Europe was engaged in a scramble for colonial territories, and while Spain still had a number of them (including Cuba and the Philippines) the Spanish country as a whole was weak and crumbling. Yet there was no immediate cause for war: the pretense that the battleship Maine was sunk by the Spanish has long since been debunked, and indeed serves the same function as Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction." In reality, the motives for war were purely financial, and the campaign for war was a well-managed media strategy, largely promoted by the "yellow journalism" newspapers that felt that war stories would appeal to the turn-of-the-century American public. But the long-term results of the war were disastrous, since America basically attempted to become a colonizing power just as colonialism was coming into disrepute. The fact that America had started as colonies should have meant the country was aware of the injustices of a colonial system.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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The use of Communism as a fake menace was a staple of American political rhetoric well before Senator McCarthy's day -- the Haymarket Riot was an attempt to place blame on progressive political organizers, and the raids conducted after World War One by attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer were perhaps even more illegal than anything McCarthyism accomplished. However, the real function of McCarthyism was to conduct a witch hunt in American public life, and ruin the careers of people -- also effectively stigmatizing progressive politics for a long stretch afterwards. The most troubling aspect of McCarthyism, however, was that it was brought down by nobody except McCarthy himself. If McCarthy had not overreached by going after the U.S. Army -- which proved to be a crucial miscalculation -- he might have continued his red-baiting until he had effectively forced America into becoming a right-wing one-party totalitarian state, the inverted mirror image of his imaginary enemies.

Finally the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Bush v. Gore in 2000 was a scandal in any number of ways, but chief among them was the Constitutional crisis that this decision represented. Because the justices split purely along party lines, the decision essentially politicized the Supreme Court, which was not to the benefit of the legal system. But moreover, there was no valid reason to delay the recount in Florida -- which ultimately found Al Gore had won the popular vote there too -- and merely underscored the bizarre elitist character of the Electoral College as being an element of the U.S. Constitution like the three-fifths compromise, a relic of a bygone era. As a result, America ended up with a president who had been installed by a bunch of judges appointed by his dad and his dad's boss -- the fact that his presidency was so disastrous should not be a surprise.

In conclusion, these three events all damaged the public life of the United States in various ways. The Spanish-American War turned warfare into a profiteering activity that could be conducted by coercing the public with propaganda campaigns. McCarthyism demonized political opinion in what should ideally be a tolerant and pluralist society. And the elevation of George W. Bush to the presidency ultimately damaged America's status in the eyes of the world, and its legal system, and ultimately its economy, even if it did give us the most charming amateur painter on the world stage since Adolf Hitler. The fact that Bush essentially revived the worst excesses of the Spanish-American War with his Iraq invasion, and of McCarthyism with his PATRIOT Act, demonstrate how all of these tendencies in American life are still with us. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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