When did our feelings on government change?

Jun 2011
It's interesting, to me anyway (and I am creating this thread (so to me is the obvious part)), how attitudes about the federal government has changed.

After the Civil War it seemed like this country tended towards a strong federal government.

Then in 1877 it went the other way.

Then progressivism. Then a slight turn in the 1920s. Then The New Deal.

The aftermath of World War II brought a basic liberal consensus and Keynesian attitudes about government.

It seems to me the climax and decline was in the Great Society. Not only was this the peak it was the fall. LBJ and Democrats had far too many things in the fire yet at the same time we had Viet Nam where the notion of government, especially the federal, was challenged. I don't think it's reputation ever returned much after that.

Of course, Republicans continued Keynesian philosophy with military spending.

But my real question is when did the federal government become the enemy? The South has used it as an enemy with Civil Rights but it seems like the The South and State Rights is an issue that can change based on their views.

It also seems like we believe, somehow, that federal government does a great job with defense but can't do anything for it's people. Put a rocket in a foreign country but never put a sandwich in the mouth of a hungry man.

Feel free to dispute my idea of American history. But don't forget my question. When did we change our views on federal government? Or didn't we?
Nov 2010
Border of GA and AL
I made a comparison in another thread that it was ironic that alot of the issues that the Republicans are fighting, smaller government being one of them, was originally what the Democrats fought for and vice versa. Very ironic.

Also look at these maps. Notice the shift after 50 years.

1956 Election

2004 Election

Sharks and love

Ad Honorem
Jul 2008
"States rights" started being used much more often after 1964 and was interpreted as meaning that the federal government would no longer demand the forced busing of school children as ordered by federal courts after LBJ signed the civil rights act of 1964.

Former Republican National Committee Chair (and Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush advisor) Lee Atwater admitted in an interview that “states’ rights” was deliberately coded terminology.

''You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

''And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'''

I like the way someone else put it:

"When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he was quoted as saying to his aide Bill Moyers, "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come." Before LBJ, the Democratic Party was a big tent coalition comprised mostly of the supporters of FDR's New Deal, poor white folks in the South, ethnic minorities and poorer folks in the North, and so on. The passage of the Civil Rights Act set a series of events in motion that would culminate in Nixon's 1968 win and the "Southern Strategy."

The 1960's were a volatile time. In addition to the Civil Rights stuff going on (school desegregation, bus boycotts, etc.) at the beginning of the decade, we obviously have Vietnam and the student protests in the second half. In 1968, Nixon was able to energize the Southern electorate which had been forsaken earlier by the Democrats. Starting as early as late 1964, Southern Democratic politicians began switching sides, ostensibly to cater more to their conservative fiscal views, but obviously because they disapproved of the Democrats Civil Rights policies."

The south previously was called the "Solid (democratic) South." The south overwhelmingly supported FDR and helped elect the strong federalist to the presidency in all 4 of his elections and were the only ones who voted against Herbert Hoover's economic medicine of "volunteerism."

"Meanwhile, a general improvement of the Southern economy and the development of the Sun Belt, which was owed to FDR's New Deal policies, pushed more Southerners into the middle class. As the South came out of the poverty that had characterized it for centuries, there was less emphasis on the economic populism that propelled so many Democrats into Southern office in the years before. Nixon was able to grab these voters by running on, among other things, the promises of trying to restore order in America. As time has shown, the War on Drugs and inner-city violence (see gangs) are disproportionally unfair to black people, a fact that the Southern electorate was probably aware of at the time."

The south's focus on social issues has been paid with a heavy price on their economic wellbeing, and they have some of the worst economic outcomes in the country. The southern states almost all receive more federal funding than they provide for the nation, have the highest prevalence of diabetes, obesity, income inequality, percentage of the population in poverty, children suffering from malnutrition, and have the lowest rates of highschool attainment.

But the power of those old enough to be outraged and remember the forced busing and 1964 civil rights act is waning as they are replaced by their younger, more socially liberal generation, less influenced by religious and racial wedge issues, and hispanics suspicious and off-put by perceived conservative anti-Hispanic rhetoric , and so is the Republican "Southern strategy."
Last edited:
Dec 2009
Views on government are extremely biased and fickle. Government itself in the USA fundamentally changed when it was degraded from Republic to Plutocracy during the time of Lincoln, to which he bore witness.