Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age
Big ideas matter. Here are the most important themes for this chapter.
The over-arching theme of chapter 23 is that the Republicans and Democrats fell into an era of do-little politics. Each was concerned only with getting their party reelected.
- President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration was riddled with corruption. Grant himself was clean, but many others were not and Grant was unwilling to fire them.
- The political parties fell into the trap of serving themselves more than the people. Their top priority was to get their party reelected. As a result, little actually got done in the government.
- Tensions rose over race and ethnicity. When the U.S. Army pulled out of the South as part of the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction was over and southern blacks were left to fend for themselves. Also, anti-Chinese sentiment ran high and the Chinese were actually banned from immigration.
- The government did reach the billion dollar level for the first time. This was largely due to military pension plans. The plans were very popular and revealed the goal of the legislators—pass something that will get me reelected.
- Populism started. This was a farmer and worker movement that sought to clean up the government, bring it back to the people, and help the working man out.