The third decade of the 20th century was popularly referred to as “The Roaring ‘20s.”
As we near the dawn of the third decade of the 21st Century, one wonders what the 2020s will be called. Perhaps they will be referred to as “The Tweeting ‘20s,” given the proliferation of social media, including the bombshells regularly lobbed online by our president.
The year about to fade into the history books has been a crazy one, beginning with a constitutional crisis in Venezuela and ending with one looming on the banks of the Potomac.
The Roaring ‘20s were a period of sweeping social and political change. Don’t look for the Tweeting ‘20s to be any different.
Now, as then, the nation is in a period of sustained economic growth. The consumer-driven economy that was suffering its birth pangs in the 1920s has matured into a hulking giant fueled by the ease of online shopping. While traditional brick and mortar stores are increasingly falling by the wayside, cyber-commerce is going great guns.
Instead of facing Prohibition, which became law in 1919, today’s America is lurching ever closer to full legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. Today 11 states allow recreational use of marijuana. That number is expected to grow in 2020.
Meanwhile 47 states, including Oklahoma, allow the use of medical marijuana. As of November, fully 5 percent of Oklahomans had medical cannabis cards.
Women’s role in society changed dramatically in the 1920s. Flappers bobbed their hair, rolled down their stockings, rouged their knees and danced the Charleston, the cake walk and the black bottom, all performed to scandalous new-fangled jazz music. Women also finally were allowed to vote thanks to the 19th Amendment, which went into law in 1920.
As we approach the Tweeting ‘20s, American women can vote, but still earn salaries that range between 78 and 82 percent of those of average men. Women also are still suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace, despite the best efforts of the Me Too Movement.
Mass media underwent a sea change in the 1920s with the birth of commercial radio. In addition, History.com reports that three quarters of the American population went to the movies at least once a week in the 1920s.
Today more people are staying away from movie theaters as they prefer to stream movies and hundreds of TV shows on their home televisions, trading standing in line for popcorn for lounging on the couch in their jammies.
The 1920s was the decade of the automobile. By 1929, History.com reports, there was one car on the road for every five Americans. Today the figure is closer to one car for every two people, but by the time the 2020s end we may no longer be driving our own vehicles, instead relying on computers to chauffeur us around.
The 1920s were a time of cultural civil war, due in part to the great migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. The decade also saw a rise in anti-immigrant hysteria sparked by an anti-Communist “Red Scare” in 1919 and 1920.
In 1924 the National Origins Act set immigration quotas that excluded people from Eastern Europe and Asia in favor of folks from Northern Europe and Great Britain.
The cultural civil war pit city dwellers against country folks, Protestants against Catholics, blacks against whites and so-called “new women” against advocates of old-fashioned family values.
So, in other words, not much has changed. We are still in the midst of a cultural civil war, only this one pits liberals against conservatives, pro-life vs. pro-choice groups, those who support vaccinating children vs. anti-vaxxers, environmentalists vs. those who think global warming is some sort of left-wing hoax and those who are anti-immigration vs. those who favor much more open borders.
And then there are the never-Trumpers vs. the always-Trumpers, which brings us back to the tweeter in chief and his impending impeachment trial before the Senate, which will doubtless result in an acquittal (not because Mr. Trump is innocent but because the proceedings will be naught but a kangaroo court gaveled into submission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell).
Oh, by the way, the Roaring ‘20s also were the conservative Republican ‘20s, with Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover all elected by GOP landslides. Taxes and spending were cut, business-friendly and free-market policies were enacted.
And, of course, we know how well the decade ended, with the Crash of 1929 ending the Roaring ‘20s and giving rise to the Dirty ‘30s.
Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past? Will the Tweeting ‘20s lead us back to the Dirty ‘30s? Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have just one question.
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Jeff Mullin is a columnist for CNHI.