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Obama and Tom Bradley in Historical Context

There has been a lot of talk about Barack Obama and poll results that show him with a significant lead over John McCain in this year’s presidential election campaign being comparable the Tom Bradley’s run for Governor of California in 1982. Tom Bradley was ahead in pre election polls and lost that election. Many people believe that the reason for the gap between the polls and the election result for Mr. Bradley was due to white voters saying they would vote for Bradley when responding to the questioning of pollsters and then changing their mind when voting privately. The sole basis for the comparison is the fact that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Bradley are black. This seems an overly simplistic basis for making a meaningful comparison.I think that the issue of the “Bradley effect” needs to be understood in a social historical context to evaluate what meaning this idea holds in the present point at which we stand in history.

To me the tenor of the times seem much different today than how I remember them in 1982. I put together and reviewed a timeline of political history, war, civil and women’s rights, income tax rates, population racial makeup, and radio, TV, and PC household penetration. In a broad sense the modern political consciousness that our society is animating break down into three long cycles.

The first cycle is from 1929 to 1952 the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and the Korean War. This is the formative period that profoundly influenced my parents and was part of the political values and beliefs they passed to me.

The second cycle was the 1953 through 1973, characterized by the great accomplishments of the civil and women’s rights movement and the mistaken and divisive Viet Nam war. I was born in 1953 and much of my political awareness was formed through my experience of these years. I remember the teachers crying when they told us president Kennedy had been shot and then sending us home for the rest of the day because it seemed they didn’t know what else to do. I saw the police turn the hoses and the dogs on the black civil rights protesters, I felt disgusted, ashamed, and angry. Looking back now that was all in one year, 1963. I was 13 when the riots erupted in watts, 1966, my parents reassured me that that section of LA was some distance from our home in Pasadena and that we would probably be OK. It was still frightening to see it on TV. I remember being bussed to my first day of school across town and seeing black kids up close for the first time that was in 1966.

Then the year of two more assassinations I was older, 15, in 1968 when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were gunned down. What an awful year. I can’t even remember how it all felt. I remember the images I saw on T.V. they were shocking. There were also the images of the Viet Nam War on T.V. all the time. This was the year the draft lottery started and it would end up affecting everyone I knew. The war was getting on everyone’s nerves, particularly the young men who were now facing an involuntary tour if duty in a war no one wanted. Between 68 and 73 a lot of the older boys in my neighborhood went to Nam and either came back or didn’t. I was subject to the last draft lottery in 1973, I got a great number and breathed a huge sigh of relief. At the end of this period I think everyone was exhausted.

The third period is the Regan ascendancy characterized by big business dominance, white male backlash against the success of the civil and women’s rights movement, and the emergence of the environmental movement. When viewed in its political context the failure of Tom Bradley to win election and become the first black Governor of California occurred at the beginning of the Regan era and was related to a cyclical change U.S. political culture. The loss of prestige of white males during the preceding cycle of the civil and women’s right movement period set the stage for a reaction and it was lead by the Republican party. This was foreshadowed by the political strategy of Richard Nixon and brilliantly executed by Ronald Regan. The most obvious sign of this strategy is the fact that the two major pieces of civil rights legislation passed during this period were passed by Democratic congresses over the veto of Regan and George H.W. Bush. Entering this period. Bradley lost his first bid for the Governors office at the beginning of this period while the horrors, triumphs, and shift of social status were fresh in the general public memory. I can understand why some white voters might have felt uneasy saying to a pollster that they were not going to vote for Bradley, saying they would, but then voting for the white Republican instead out of a lingering feeling that they had been blamed for terrible institutional racism in which they played no part. I can’t imagine the same scenario in today’s cultural climate at the end of the Regan revolution and in a circumstance where the images of the 60’s civil rights movement and institutional racism are a distant memory, not something just lived through and still resonating in the public memory, as they were when Mr. Bradley first ran for Governor of California.

There are clear signs that the end of the Regan period is at hand. This period will be a moving away, as opposed to a moving into, the dynamics that shaped the Regan era and the fact that Obama is black will not be perceived the same way that Bradley’s blackness was and therefore it will not have the same effect. I imagine that the next cycle will be formed on the economic front by the failure of unbridled capitalism and the reality of the constraint imposed on the industrial revolution by global man made rapid climate change. On the social side of the equation the generation that did not live through the 1953 to 1973 social revolution grew up with all the rights acquired during those years but without a direct experience of them to react to. The Republican appeal to 60’s reactionary sentiment is very weak with this generation and is at the turning point where the numbers will keep working against this on a generational level.

It looks like we are at the end of a long socioeconomic period that began with the crash of 1929 and ended with FDR and slowly reversed through the mid 60’s when the 91% top tax rate established under FDR went to 70% under Johnson, then 50% in Regan’s first term, then down to it’s 35% low under G.W. Bush in 2003 in the same year he began the war in Iraq. I think the top tax rate is a good indicator of the relative power of the rich over the government and it is at a historic high that cannot be sustained forever in a democracy. What remains to be seen about this long cycle is how the constraint of the environment will effect the coming adjustment.

The shorter cycle of advancing civil rights is poised for a recovery as well but I think this cycle will be different. I think this cycle will be a human rights cycle based on respect for all people and our common interests. If this potential in us is unleashed through an Obama presidency and combined with our common need to survive our own effect on our environment we could be looking at a new kind of cycle leading us into a new age of political progress.

It is really time for something new and Obama is perfectly positioned at the pivot point to take advantage of it. We should stop worrying about the Bradley effect and focus on the positive actions that are part of a historical pivot that we can’t fully appreciate until we see it in our collective rear view mirror. The main worry should be voter suppression and it seems the Obama campaign is ready for that, so let’s all have some fun getting out the vote and being part of history.

Year

Politics

War – Military Spending

Civil and Women’s Rights, Labor and the Environmental Movement

Income tax rate

low-top

Race %

white-black

Rural v. Urban

Radio-TV-PC

1929

H Hoover R

Great Depression begins

House; R+106

 

Labor; 1931 - Davis-Bacon Act provides for prevailing wages on publicly funded construction projects

1932 - Norris-LaGuardia Act prohibits federal injunctions in most labor disputes

1% - 24%

 

44% - 56%

 

1933

F Roosevelt D

House; R+2

 

FDR proposes New Deal programs to Congress

1934 - Upsurge in strikes, including national textile strike, which fails

4%- 63%

 

42% - 58%

65% - 0%

1935

F Roosevelt D

House; D+196

Social Security

 

Birth control information no longer legally classified as obscene

National Labor Relations Act and Social Security Act passed  Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) formed within AFL

1936 - AFL and CIO create labor's Non-Partisan League and help President Roosevelt win re-election to a second term

1937 - Auto Workers win sit-down strike against General Motors in Flint, Mich.  Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters wins contract with Pullman Co.

4% - 63%

 

41% - 59%

66% - 0%

1939

F Roosevelt D

House; D+246

Great Depression ends

Start WWII

 

4%- 79%

 

40% - 60%

 

1944

F Roosevelt D

Brenton Woods Agreement

 

 

23% - 91%

 

38% - 62%

84% - 0%

1945

FDR D, Truman D

House; D+51

Atom bomb 2 Japanese cities

End WWII

Death toll; Military 25 mil

Civilian 47 mil

Spending 963

 

23% - 91%

 

37% - 63%

84% - .5%

1950 - 1953

Truman D

House; D+36

Korean war

Spending 437

 

20% - 91%

89% - 11%

33% - 67%

94% - 45%

1954

Eisenhower R

Senate; R+1

House: R+8

402

SCOTUS in Brown v. Board of Educationrule that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, separate but equal rational shot down

20% - 91%

89% - 11%

33% - 67%

94% - 56%

1955

Eisenhower R

Senate; R+1

House: R+8

345

Emmett Tillmurdered.

Rosa Parkswon’t give up her buss seat

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

33% - 67%

94% - 65%

1956

Eisenhower R

Senate; D+1

House: D+29

320

 

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

32% - 68%

94%  - 72%

1957

Eisenhower R

Senate; D+2

House: D+29, D+33

322

SCLC foundedby King, Steele, Shuttlesworth

Little Rock 9, school integration in Arkansas

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

32% - 68%

94%  - 79%

1958

Eisenhower R

Senate; D+2

House: D+33

317

 

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

32% - 68%

94%  - 83%

1959

Eisenhower R

Senate; D+1, D+30

House: D+33, D+130

306

 

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

31% - 69%

94%  - 86%

1960

Eisenhower R

Senate; D+30

House: D+130

Viet Nam War (Military advisers)

Wollworth’s lunch countersit in

SNCCformed

Birth control pillsapproved by the FDA

20%- 91%

89% - 11%

31% - 69%

94%  - 87%

1961

J. Kennedy D

Senate; D+30, D+28

House: D+130, D+89

Viet Nam War

Bay of Pigs

Commission on the Status of Women documents work place discrimination

20%- 91%

88% - 11%

31% - 69%

94%  - 89%

1962

J. Kennedy D

Senate; D+28

House: D+89

Viet Nam War

Cuban Missile Crisis

James Meredithenrolls at University of Mississippi

Silent springRachel Carson

 

20%- 91%

88% - 11%

30% - 70%

94% - 90%

1963

J. Kennedy D

J. Kennedy assassinated

L Johnson D

Senate; D+32

House: D+83

Viet Nam War

Equal Pay Act

MLK jailed in Birmingham

Bull Connor turns dogs and hoses on civil rights protesters

Medgar Evarsmurdered

March on Washington “I have a dream”

16th street Baptist Churchbombing kills 4 young black girls

20%- 91%

88% - 11%

30% - 70%

95%-91%

1964

L Johnson D

Senate; D+32

House: D+83

Viet Nam War

Gulf of Tonken resolution,

The Civil Rights Act of 1964prohibits discrimination based on race or gender.

EEOC established

24th amendment eliminates poll tax

LBJ says“We have lost the South for a generation”

16%- 77%

88% - 11%

30% - 70%

95%-92%

1965

L Johnson D

Senate; D+36

House: D+155

Medicare and Medicaid

Viet Nam War First U.S. troops into Viet Nam to support 23,000 military advisors

March on Montgomery, 50 marchers hospitalized “bloody Sunday”

Voting rights Actpassed

Watts riots in Los Angeles

Executive Order 11246, affirmative action in government contracting

School integration by bussingin my city, Pasadena

SCOTUS rule Griswold v. Connecticut contraceptive use between married couples legal

14%- 70%

88% - 11%

29% - 71%

99% - 93%

1966

L Johnson D

Senate; D+36

House: D+155

Viet Nam War

Black Panther Partyfounded

NOW founded

14%- 70%

88% - 11%

29% - 71%

99%  - 93%

1967

L Johnson D

Senate; D+36, D+28

House: D+155, D+60

Viet Nam War

SCOTUS in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional.

New Jersey riots

14%- 70%

88% - 11%

29% - 71%

99%-93%

1968

L Johnson Senate; D+28

House: D+60

Robert F Kennedy assassinated

Viet Nam War

Martin Luther King assassinated

Civil Rights Act of 1968, housing discrimination becomes illegal

14%- 75%

88% - 11%

28% - 72%

99%-95%

1969

L Johnson D

Senate; D+28,  D+14

House: D+60, D+51

Viet Nam War

Draft lottery started

Vietnamization strategy, Massive DC anti war demonstration

Gaia Hypothesis, Lovelock

 

14%- 77%

88% - 11%

28% - 72%

99%-95%

1970

R. Nixon R

Senate; D+14

House: D+51

Viet Nam

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created

14%- 72%

88% - 11%

28% - 72%

99% - 95%

1971

R. Nixon R

Senate; D+14, D+10

House: D+51, D+75

Viet Nam War

SCOTUSaffirm public school integration via Bussing is constitutional

EPA Air Pollution Standards

14%- 70%

87% - 11%

27% - 73%

99% - 95%

1972

R. Nixon R

Senate; D+10

House: D+75

Viet Nam War

ERA passed congress & sent to states for ratification

SCOTUSin Eisenstadt v. Baird rule that the right to privacy includes an unmarried person's right to use contraceptives.

Title IXof the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools.

James Hansen’s first paperon global warming

 

14%- 70%

87% - 11%

27% - 73%

99% - 95%

1973

R. Nixon R

Senate; D+10, D+14

House: D+75, D+50

Viet Nam War

Last draft for Viet Nam, my draft number 350

SCOTUSin Roe v Wadeestablish a woman's right to safe and legal abortion

EPA lead gas phase out

14%- 70%

87% - 11%

27% - 73%

99% - 96%

1974

R. Nixon R, G Ford R

Watergate Hearings and Nixon impeachment articles (Nixon resigns)

Senate; D+14

House: D+50

Viet Nam War

 

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

14%- 70%

87% - 11%

26% - 74%

99% - 97%

1975

G Ford R

Senate; D+14, D+22

House: D+50, D+147

Viet Nam War

 

14%- 70%

87% - 11%

26% - 74%

99% - 97%

1976

G Ford R

Senate; D+22

House: D+147

 

 

14%- 70%

87% - 12%

26% - 74%

99% - 97%

1977

G Ford R, J Carter D

Senate; D+22, D+23

House: D+147, D+149

 

EPA safe drinking water standards

Clean Water Act passed

14%- 70%

87% - 12%

25% - 75%

99% - 97%

1978

J Carter D

Senate; D+23

House: D+149

 

Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.

14%- 70%

86% - 12%

25% - 75%

99% - 98%

1979

J Carter D

Senate; D+23, D+17

House: D+149, D+119

 

 

14%- 70%

86% - 12%

25% - 75%

99% - 98%

1980

J Carter D

Senate; D+17

House: D+119

 

EPA 3 mile island cleanup

Superfund established

14%- 70%

86% - 12%

24% - 76%

99% - 98%

1981

J Carter D, R Regan R

Senate; D+17, D+7

House: D+119, D+50

 

 

14%- 70%

86% - 12%

24% - 76%

99% - 98%

1982

R Regan R

Senate; D+7

House: D+50

Tom Bradley Ran for Gov, lost though was ahead in polls

 

 

12%- 50%

85% - 12%

24% - 76%

99% - 98%

1983

R Regan R

Senate; D+7, R+8

House: D+50, D+103

Grenada War

 

12%- 50%

85% - 12%

23% - 77%

99% - 98%

1984

R Regan R

Senate; R+8

House: D+103

 

 

12%- 50%

85% - 12%

23% - 77%

99% - 98%

1985

R Regan R

Senate; R+8, R+6

House: D+103, D+71

 

 

12%- 50%

85% - 12%

23% - 77%

99% - 98%

1986

R Regan R

Senate; R+6

House: D+71

 

SCOTUS in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, find that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

12%- 50%

85% - 12%

23% - 77%

99% - 98%

1987

R Regan R

Senate; R+10

House: D+71, D+81

 

 

11%- 39%

85% - 12%

22% - 78%

99% - 98%

1988

R Regan R

Senate; R+10

House: D+81

 

Civil Rights Restoration Act passed over Regan veto

IPCC 1988 formed

15%- 33%

84% - 12%

22% - 78%

99% - 98%

1989

R Regan R, G HW Bush R

Senate; R+10

House: D+81, D+85

 

Panama War

 

15%- 33%

84% - 12%

22% - 78%

99% - 98%

1990

G HW Bush R

Senate; R+10

House: D+85

Persian Gulf War

IPCC first report

15%- 33%

84% - 12%

22% - 78%

99% - 98%

1991

G HW Bush R

Senate; R+10, R+12

House: D+85, D+100

Persian Gulf War

Civil Rights Act of 1991passed over Bush I veto

15%- 31%

84% - 12%

21% - 79%

99% - 98%

1992

G HW Bush R

Senate; R+12

House: D+100

 

SCOTUS in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, reaffirm the validity of a woman's right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.

EPA new drinking water standards

15%- 31%

83% - 12%

21% - 79%

99% - 98%

1993

G HW Bush R, B Clinton D

Senate; R+12, D+14

House: D+100, D+82

 

EPA finds passive smoke a carcinogen

15%- 40%

83% - 12%

21% - 79%

99% - 98%

1994

B Clinton D

Senate; D+14

House: D+82

 

The Violence Against Women Act tightens federal penalties for sex offenders, funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence.

15%- 40%

83% - 13%

21% - 79%

99% - 98%

1995

B Clinton D

Senate; D+14, R+4

House: D+82, R+26

Bosnia War

IPCC second report

15%- 40%

83% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-12%

1996

B Clinton D

Senate; R+4

House: R+26

Bosnia War

SCOTUS in United States v. Virginia, rule that the all-male Virginia Military School has to admit women in order to continue to receive public funding.

15%- 40%

83% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-21%

1997

B Clinton D

Senate; R+4, R+10

House: R+26, R+22

 

 

15%- 40%

83% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-25%

1998

B Clinton D

Senate; R+10

House: R+22

Clinton Impeachment (failed)

 

 

15%- 40%

83% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-33%

1999

B Clinton D

Senate; R+10

House: R+22, R+12

 

 

15%- 40%

82% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-38%

2000

B Clinton D

Senate; R+10

House: R+12

 

 

15%- 40%

81% - 13%

20% - 80%

99% - 98%-51%

2001

B Clinton D, GW Bush R

Senate; D=R

House: R+12, R+9

Afghanistan War

IPCC third report

15%- 40%

81% - 13%

 

99% - 98%-65%

2002

GW Bush R

Senate; D=R

House: R+9

Afghanistan War

 

10%- 39%

81% - 13%

 

99% - 98%

2003

GW Bush R

Senate; D=R, R+3

House: R+9, R+25

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

SCOTUS In Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, rule that states can be sued in federal court for violations of the Family Leave Medical Act.

10%- 35%

81% - 13%

 

99% - 98%

2004

GW Bush R

Senate; R+3

House: R+25

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

 

10%- 35%

80% - 13%

 

99% - 98%

2005

GW Bush R

Senate; R+3, R+11

House: R+25, R+30

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

SCOTUS in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, rule that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also inherently prohibits disciplining someone for complaining about sex-based discrimination.

10%- 35%

80% - 13%

 

99% - 98%

2006

GW Bush R

Senate; R+11

House: R+30

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

 

10%- 35%

80% - 13%

 

99% - 98%

2007

GW Bush R

Senate; R+11, D=R

House: R+30, D+31

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

IPCC fourth report

10%- 35%

 

 

99% - 98%

2008

GW Bush R

Senate; D=R

House: D+31

Afghanistan War

Iraq War

 

10%- 35%

 

 

99% - 98%

 
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