Our journey through the 1950s community has highlighted several important values that combined to make the decade the height of a conservative America. While this discussion is not without its critiques, those arguments do not negate the conservative values held by the nation at that time. Although our present time looks bleak, an examination of the areas covered shows the challenges we will face in the effort to restore conservative values to this country.
It is useful for us to review the stops made along our journey. Our stop at the church showed that the 1950s featured a resurgence of religiosity in the face of the atheistic threat of communism. The car dealership demonstrated how a lack of oppressive regulations allowed automakers to innovate and produce cars now considered to be timeless classics. The school showed how students were taught the importance of religion and love of nation, especially in the face of the threat of communism. The soda fountain provided an opportunity to discuss how since the 1950s, America has seen a stunning decline in social capital, leading to detrimental effects on society. And finally we saw how the home exemplified how a strong view of marriage fueled a stable family structure that was good for society and g the collapse of that structure since the 1950s.
Critiques of the celebration of this decade generally fall along two lines. The first is that the 1950s was, as a result of its flaws, not a golden age. The second rests on the idea that we should not pine for a past golden age.
The first critique can be summed up by a focus on the negative aspects of the 1950s, particularly segregation. Unfortunately, this dismissal of a historic period due to its flaws rejects the good because of the bad. In light of this critique, the dark side of the decade is worth mentioning. Segregation was an ugly product of racism, and both the product and the cause ought to be unequivocally rejected. The argument that the 1950s is the height of conservative America does not imply that segregation is a feature of conservatism or something to be looked back on with nostalgia. Rather, segregation was a major blemish on an otherwise conservative period. Segregation undermines the respect due to each person as created in the image of God and the inherent equality of people found in natural rights that conservatism embraces.
The second critique is the argument rests upon the belief that no historic period deserves the title of a “golden age.” This series does not argue that the 1950s were a golden age in all respects, but rather argues that this period saw conservative values at their peak in America. This series demonstrates that the life that average Americans lived during the 1950s most resembled the cultural ideals most conservatives espouse. This series does not call for an unrelenting nostalgia for a bygone era, but rather suggests that when we see a point in history when a value we hold was truly carried out, it is instructive to call that to general attention in an effort to paint a picture of how that value can be lived out in our present time.
Examining our current political and cultural situation, it is worth considering if and how those values in our present age. The most important way conservatives can actuate the values discussed at the church in modern society is through the promotion of religious freedom. While the new Biden administration brings the potential for new threats, the Supreme Court appears ready to protect religious freedom in the face of those attacks.
When considering the car dealership, there is no reason to think that any rollback on environmental regulations for automobiles will occur under a Biden administration. Instead, it is likely there will be more stringent regulations, leading to the death of the gasoline engine in the near future. This stop on the journey was meant as an allegory for regulation as a whole, and barring any massive rupture to the administrative state dealt from the outside, onerous regulations will continue to amass, forcing out competition and solidifying control of every industry by a few major companies at the top.
The future of the school is particularly concerning. More and more, children are indoctrinated in leftist ideologies in schools, as many schools use the revisionist 1619 Project as a history curriculum and states adopt teaching standards that call upon teachers to “embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints.” Unless conservatives can turn back the tide on the indoctrination in schools today, generation after generation will continue to be lost.
An examination of the values of social capital seen at the soda fountain makes it apparent that Americans have become even more isolated than ever due to the pandemic. I am hopeful that the end of the pandemic will result in a resurgence of the activities that typically increase social capital, as interaction-deprived people seek to rejoin society at large. Unfortunately, a government that has asserted control over the ability to privately associate will likely not be eager to give that control back, so it will take a public outcry to ensure that it happens.
In the home, Americans face a constant onslaught of media and legal pressure to normalize alternative family structures. Meanwhile, scientific research suggesting the superiority of the normal family structure is suppressed. This cultural struggle continues, and conservatives must not cede the field, even in the face of unified media and elite opposition.
In all of these areas, America’s path looks bleak. Despite that bleakness, a resurgence of the principles that made the 1950s the height of conservative American is not impossible. The nation must acknowledge the detriments to society caused by the loss of these values has created. Then we can begin to restore them.
About the Author
Connor Kaeb is the Managing Editor of American Discourse.