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Poll finds majority of GOPers long for 1950s. Gee, why is that?

Is it really any wonder why a party that boasts white supremacist lawmakers is nostalgic for the pre-Civil Rights Act era?


Ahh, the 1950s. The good ol’ days. Before all those Black "agitators" and that pesky Civil Rights Act of theirs got in the way of a good white man’s prosperity. A true golden age. When a man could come home from his job, kick his feet up and watch "Leave It to Beaver" or "Gunsmoke" while his wife cooked him a hot meal. 

Sounds wicked, right? 

A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests Republicans largely share this Pollyannaish view of old-timey America. According to PRRI, 66% of Republicans think the country is worse now than in the 1950s. That number is even higher among white evangelicals, 71% of whom think America was better off. Half of independents feel the country was better off in the ‘50s, according to the data, along with just 30% of Democrats. 

The data suggests an overwhelming majority of Republicans long for a time when white conservative Americans were engaging in widespread racist violence, and Americans in general were living significantly shorter lives, experiencing higher infant mortality rates, losing more children to death before age 5, graduating high school at a substantially lower rate and receiving significantly less education on average compared to Americans today. Oh —  and paying significantly higher taxes

Image: A family watches a television show where an elephant performs tricks.
Harold M. Lambert / Getty Images file

Sooo, the Republican … utopia? 

Gee, what could it be that Republicans truly liked about the 1950s? Could it be the lack of a federal law banning “discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin”?

I mean, if we went back to the 1950s, that would mean Republicans would never have heard that Martin Luther King Jr. quote so many of them claim to love so much. You know, the one about not judging people on the color of their skin?

Relatedly, a 2019 Bloomberg column by Noah Smith does an effective job of 1) dispelling myths about prosperity in the 1950s and 2) highlighting the racism underpinning those myths. 

Smith writes: 

Women and minorities are less likely to have a wistful view of the ’50s, and with good reason. Segregation was enshrined in law in much of the U.S., and de facto segregation was in force even in Northern cities. Black Americans, crowded into ghettos, were excluded from economic opportunity by pervasive racism, and suffered horrendously. Even at the end of the decade, more than half of black Americans lived below the poverty line.

The patriarchal, largely white Republican Party wants to take the country back to a time where white men and their allies were permitted to discriminate against marginalized groups. Their affinity for the 1950s is as clear a sign of this as you’ll find.