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The 1950s Were A Miserable Time In America— The Era Has Always Been The Modern GOP’s Loadstar

Think: Have You Ever Met A Republican Who Was NOT Obsessed With Sex?

There was more to the 1950s than the post-war economic boom, an expanding middle class, the birth of rock'n'roll and Cold War tensions. I was born in 1948 and my memories of the ’50s are pretty hazy. So I decided to have a heart to heart with ChatGPT and check out the current conventional wisdom. After noting it was a time of prosperity and progress, the app acknowledged some downsides:

  • Segregation and discrimination— “Many black Americans were denied access to public facilities, educational opportunities, and job opportunities.”

  • Gender inequality— “Women in the 1950s were often expected to conform to traditional gender roles and were excluded from many professions and opportunities available to men. Women were often relegated to supporting roles in society, such as homemakers and caregivers.”

  • Environmental degradation

  • Limited access to healthcare

  • Homophobia— “The 1950s were a time of heightened social conservatism, and homosexuality was stigmatized and often criminalized. LGBT+ individuals faced discrimination and persecution.”

I pushed a little further into an area of discussion ChatGPT doesn’t like to go: politics... but the app came up with this “The 1950s were marked by a political climate of conservatism, anti-communism, and conformity. These political factors contributed to an overall atmosphere of social rigidity and repression.” The manifestations sound exactly what Republicans like Mike Pence, Meatball Ron, Glenn Youngkin and… well, really all of them, are working to bring back:

  • McCarthyism and a Red Scare that fueled a cultural climate of conformity and fear

  • Anti-intellectualism— “The conservative political climate of the 1950s also manifested in a distrust of intellectuals and a rejection of intellectualism. This was seen in the rejection of progressive educational theories, as well as a general cultural bias against intellectual pursuits.”

  • Social Conservatism— “The 1950s were marked by a cultural conservatism that emphasized traditional gender roles, family values, and conformity to social norms. This was reflected in popular media, such as television shows and movies, that portrayed an idealized view of suburban family life.”

The app admitted that “taken together, these political trends and events created a cultural and political climate that was rigid, repressive, and resistant to change” but was resistant to discussing if current politicians want to turn back the hands of time and drag us into a ‘50s redux. The most I could get out of the app is that “While some conservative politicians may express nostalgia for certain aspects of the 1950s, such as the perceived stability and prosperity of that era, they are likely aware of the many social, political, and economic problems that existed at the time. For example, few politicians today would advocate for a return to segregation or the denial of civil rights to minority groups, which were major issues in the 1950s. Additionally, the political climate of the United States has shifted significantly since the 1950s, with social and cultural changes transforming American society in many ways. For example, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the LGBT+ rights movement have all led to significant progress toward equality and social justice, making a return to the political and social norms of the 1950s highly unlikely.”

I tried pushing back by pointing out DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” and school book banning agenda and the app was ready to shut down the conversation: “Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has been known for taking conservative positions on various social and cultural issues, and some of his policy proposals have drawn criticism from progressive groups. For example, he has been criticized for signing legislation that bans transgender girls and women from participating in female sports teams in schools. He has also expressed opposition to critical race theory, a concept that seeks to examine the role of racism in society. However, while DeSantis has been criticized for some of his positions, it's important to note that not all of his policies are geared toward turning back the clock to the 1950s. For example, he has been praised for signing legislation that aims to reform the state's criminal justice system, as well as for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's also worth noting that DeSantis is just one politician among many, and while he may hold conservative views on certain issues, there are many other politicians with different perspectives and priorities. The United States is a diverse country with a wide range of political views, and it's difficult to generalize the views of all politicians based on the actions of one individual.”

OK, I can take a hint, so I backed away from partisan politics and asked about loyalty pledges. That enlivened Mr. App again: “Loyalty pledges were a common feature of the political and social climate in the United States during the 1950s. The federal government, as well as many state and local governments, required employees to take oaths of loyalty as a way of identifying and rooting out suspected communists or other "subversives" within their ranks. These loyalty pledges were part of a broader effort to combat perceived threats to national security and uphold American values during the Cold War era. The use of loyalty pledges was controversial at the time, and many people saw them as an infringement on civil liberties and a violation of free speech. The loyalty programs were criticized for creating a climate of fear and suspicion, and for punishing individuals who may have held unpopular beliefs or associations without any evidence of wrongdoing. In the decades since the 1950s, loyalty pledges have largely fallen out of use, and there has been greater emphasis on protecting individual rights and freedoms, even in the context of national security.”

I tried getting back into politics… but it didn’t work. I asked ChatGPT about Ronna Romney McDaniel’s demand that all the GOP presidential aspirants make a loyalty pledge— not to the country; that would be absurd, but to the eventual primary winner. ChatGPT weaseled out of it by saying “I do not have access to the most recent news, as my training only goes up until 2021. However, I can speak in general terms about the use of loyalty pledges in modern American politics. In general, the use of loyalty pledges in political campaigns is relatively uncommon, and when they do occur, they are often viewed as controversial. Some political campaigns may ask candidates to pledge their support for certain policies or principles, but this is usually done voluntarily and is not a requirement for running for office. The idea of a party leader demanding loyalty pledges from candidates is likely to draw criticism from some quarters, as it could be seen as an attempt to stifle dissent or promote a particular agenda at the expense of individual beliefs and values. The role of political parties is to promote their own ideas and candidates, but it is also important to allow for a diversity of opinions and perspectives within the party. While some people may see them as a way of ensuring party unity and promoting a particular vision for the country, others may see them as a potential threat to individual freedoms and the principles of democracy.”

Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey reported of that loyalty pledge yesterday, noting McDaniel’s concern is so great “that party disunity will sink GOP hopes in the 2024 presidential election that she plans to require all candidates on the official primary debate stages to first pledge their support to the party’s eventual nominee.”

Many of the contenders, though, aren’t interested. Trump already said he won’t commit to supporting anyone not named Trump. And Larry Hogan says he won’t commit to supporting anyone who is named Trump. Others, like Chris Sununu, say they will support the nominee but they are sure it won’t be Trump. Asa Hutchinson argues that “Republicans should not be enforcing litmus tests,” misinterpreting history and claiming that “Historically, our party has not taken party loyalty oaths. For leaders such as myself who believe Donald Trump is not the right direction for the country— and I said specifically that Jan. 6 disqualified him— that would certainly make it a problem for me to give an across-the-board inclusion pledge.”

Now… back to the ’50s. If the GOP can’t get it done on the federal level, they certainly can in their own backward hellholes. On Thursday we saw that some Idaho neanderthals are trying to criminalize COVID vaccinations. Last month Wyoming MAGAts tried to outlaw electric vehicles. Yesterday Hallie Lieberman reported that the much of the wave of reactionary statehouse legislation is meant to outlaw aspects of sexuality, long a Republican Party obsession, from prosecuting breast-pump companies in Texas for nipples on advertising, or forcing a West Virginia bookstore to stop selling romance novels to imprisoning standup comics in South Carolina if a risque joke is heard by a young person. And yes, of course they are exactly the same as the Taliban. Religious fanatics are an existential danger to society and to civilization. They shouldn't even be allowed to vote, let alone hold power. In Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, the Taliban has been going door to door, threatening midwives and ordering pharmacies to clear their shelves of all birth control medicines and devices.

The bills are part of a post-Roe nationwide strategy by the religious wing of the Republican party, now that federal abortion rights have fallen. They range from banning all businesses that sell sex-related goods to anti-drag queen bills. Tyler Dees, an Arkansas state senator who wrote an anti-porn bill said: “I would love to outlaw it all,” referring to porn.
The most prevalent bills relate to age verification of sex-related websites. Seventeen states drafted porn age-verification bills, many inspired by Louisiana’s law that went into effect in January. Louisiana’s law requires websites featuring 33.33% or more pornographic content to check government-issued ID to verify users are 18 and older. Websites that don’t comply face civil penalties. Parents can sue the site if kids access it.
In Texas, a new bill requiring age verification on websites with pornographic content defines images of the female breast “below the top of the areola” as porn, potentially hitting at business advertisements. In West Virginia, a bill outlawing all sexually oriented businesses is on the docket, with a definition that includes art studios with nude models and wrestling arenas. In South Carolina a bill would criminalize using “profane language” related to “sexual or excretory organs or activities” in front of minors during performances. The punishment? Up to a decade in prison.
Some bills define porn so broadly that anatomy textbooks or sex education websites would meet them.
“I don’t think such laws for the internet are constitutional,” said Eugene Volokh, a professor of Law at UCLA.
Laurie Schlegel, a Republican state senator who drafted the Louisiana law, is a sex-addiction therapist educated at Baptist seminary, who opposed transgender students from being on sports teams that align with their gender. Schlegel’s anti-LGBTQ+ views fit with the broader goal of the laws, according to Carolyn Bronstein, a professor of media studies at DePaul University.
“These laws are really not about controlling minors’ access to violent pornography … In the conservative world view, pornography is information about LGBTQ identity, abortion, gay marriage,” said Bronstein.
Eight states have justified their actions by saying that porn is “creating a public health crisis.” Louisiana’s bill claims that pornography “may lead to low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages … impact brain development … shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction.”
Historian Whitney Strub, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, doesn’t think these ideas are well-founded. “Framing pornography as a public health crisis is not driven by serious engagement with the social scientific literature,” he said. “They’ve even got fake peer-reviewed journals that give the imprimatur of scholarship … It’s been a very smart rebranding of evangelical Christian conservatism.”
Why are all these bills being proposed now? Strub thinks it’s partly because of the overturning of Roe v Wade. “Abortion gave a certain coherence to conservative politics in the United States. And it certainly still does … but they’re in the position of Ahab if he slayed the white whale … I mean, there’s no more Moby-Dick.”
There is hypocrisy on display also.
In many of the states where the anti-porn bills are being put forth, minors can legally have sex and get married. “In Louisiana, you can have sex when you’re 17 with a person in their 30s, but you can’t watch porn,” said Jason Kelley, associate director of digital strategy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, the age of consent is 16. With parental permission, Mississippi allows 15-year-olds to marry, Louisiana 16-year-olds, Arkansas 17-year-olds, and West Virginia kids of any age.
Dees, who wrote Arkansas’s age verification bill, a copycat of Louisiana’s, said porn causes depression and anxiety, divorce and “permissive sexual attitudes” and infidelity. “When I think about the children … I want to protect their innocence,” Dees said.
Strub said this is an old trope: “The political figure of the innocent and imperiled child just has a never-ending purchase on American politics … [it] essentially shuts down debate because it immediately creates a binary in which anybody who disagrees with you is [a] perverted groomer.”
Dees is also the co-author of anti-drag queen legislation in Arkansas, that classifies drag performances as the same category as pornography. “It’s not really a meaningful distinction to [conservatives]. They’re both sexual degeneracy in its different guises,” Strub said.
Dees claimed that his porn verification law “doesn’t have anything to do with any political messaging. It has to do with exposure to material that is harmful, period … There’s a clear enemy in the smut-peddling garbage that’s online.”
But measures already exist to prevent children accessing porn. “There’s a really easy way to keep kids from accessing adult content. And that’s a device-level filter” on mobile phones that block adult websites that are registered as Restricted to Adults, said Mike Stabile of the Free Speech Coalition, which advocates for the rights of sex workers.
These laws, according to Stabile, aren’t going to stop kids from looking at porn. “Even if they were to block all sites, you’re still going to have adult content on Twitter and Reddit … kids will get VPNs,” he said.
Stabile thinks we’ll see up to two dozen age-verification bills introduced by the end of the year.
Dees hopes he is right and has eyes beyond the state level eventually. “My prayer is that enough states continue to push for this measure, and that we send a loud enough message where federal law can be put into place,” he said.


One of my memories about gender inequality in the 50s was Mom and Dad discussing something from the newspaper and Mom saying, "In this country women are nothing but chattel, just chattel!" She was angry enough that it didn't seem like a good time to ask what it was about. But she would be horrified to know there are people who want to return to that time.

Feb 18, 2023
Replying to

there are those who want to return women to property. and there are those who won't stand up for women. and nobody else. because... voters.

I understand why women, minorities and LGBTQs leaned toward the Democrats up until about the mid '80s. Since no later than that, the democraps have been no help at all and, in fact, due to inaction when they should have acted, have been a negative force.

Any progress since the '80s has been in the courts. But as we saw with Dobbs, the courts can and will be repudiated by the nazi supremes whenever it amuses them to do so.

A codification of Roe in 2009 should have been done; a codification of marriage equality…


Feb 18, 2023

It seems your AI can read and memorize, but has a lot of difficulty with discerning meaning.

"few politicians today would advocate for a return to segregation or the denial of civil rights to minority groups"

I guess one must differentiate between rights and privileges here. Only rich white heterosexual males have actual rights (including the right to be above the law). By convention since about 2000, nobody else has any rights. I was once forced to enter a razor-wire enclosure in order to express my distaste for cheney/w's warmongering and torture. I noticed that democraps never once brought up the bill of "rights" during that period... or any since. but I'm funny thataway.

lewis powell started to do the…

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