Can we compare the politics of the Roaring Twenties with the politics of today’s society?

Indeed, the years surrounding the Roaring Twenties were filled with prosperity, hope and an economic boom within the United States of America – however, part of this success and opulence came from the Laissez-Faire attitude adopted by President Warren Harding, President Calvin Coolidge and President Herbert Hoover who encouraged the idea of ‘America first’.

Whilst certainly not a forgotten era, the comparison between the 1920s and 2010s can be overlooked, however, the politics of the 1920s certainly provide an insight into the politics of the modern-day. As Historian and author, L Moore put it; “so many aspects of the Jazz Age recall our own: political corruption and complacency; fear of outsiders…” There are clearly many stark similarities between the ideologies of the Roaring Twenties and the ideologies of today. Warren Harding, Presidential-candidate prior to his election was recalled to have stated “call it the selfishness of nationality if you will, I think it is an inspiration of patriotic devotion”, this quote from a January 1920 speech was followed with the phrases “to safe-guard America first. To stabilise America first. To prosper America first. To exalt America first. To live for and revere America first”. Coincidentally, this idea of ‘America first’ was revived with the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, and during his inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2017 he followed the same policy, “from this day forward it’s going to be only America first. America first”.

Coupled with the similar attitudes of the 1920s Republican Presidents, and Donald Trump, their policies are also very closely related with Trump announcing tax-reforms to help big, American businesses. The lack of interference and intrusion during the Jazz Age allowed business practices to go unchecked by the Government and companies could exploit hard-working immigrants for the American cause.

Donald Trump has encouraged the idea of isolationism over the past year with his attempts at keeping American businesses in the US by threatening a 35% import duty for firms which outsource, his plans of scrapping the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), his plans to renegotiate the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and also his vows to try and revive dying industries which were the focal point of the US economy during the 20th Century.

The policies undertaken by the 1920s Republican Presidents and Trump are mainly due to immigration and this political ideology of ‘America first’. Whilst the 1920s were prosperous for some (most notably the higher echelons of society, the booming businessmen and the Wall Street traders), for others including immigrants and ethnic minorities, the Roaring Twenties did more damage than success. The steps taken in the Roaring Twenties were put in place to stop Communism from spreading to the US and its Allies, and to also promote national security. This ‘fear of the foreign’ idea was moulded around the Republican policies of nationalism and was harrowingly safeguarded by the rise of terrorist organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Similarly, Trump’s ‘Immigration Ban’ does alarmingly ring bells which are paradoxically similar to those of the 1920s. Whilst Trump is by-no-means wrong in wanting national security and economic success and prosperity for US citizens, his views can be seen under the guise of ‘patriotic devotion’ and can clearly be linked to those of the Jazz Age Presidents which ultimately resulted in a huge failure of society via the Wall Street Crash of 1929 sparking a Global Recession due to the hedonistic, cynical views of many.

The Jazz Age and the present day clearly have similar aspects in-terms of politics which can be distasteful to hear. Like Trump wanting to help American businesses, the idea of isolationism and ‘America first’ has been around for decades, coined by the US Presidents in the early 20th Century. Whilst there was a great deal of success and affluence for some, the Jazz Age was a bust for immigrants and ethnic minorities who could not make a name for themselves due to nationalistic and isolationist views. Distressingly, some of these policies have been picked up by politicians as of late and from this, perhaps we too, will see effects similar to those of the Great Depression – after all, what goes up, must come down.

by Milan Shah

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