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50 ways politics has changed in the last 50 years

  • 50 ways politics has changed in the last 50 years

    In 1969, President Richard Nixon took office. Before the Watergate scandal ended with Nixon's resignation in 1974, his administration created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), championed the Clean Air Act, and supported affirmative action. He also advocated for employers to buy health insurance for workers and to help those who couldn't afford it, an idea Democrats opposed at the time. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, which extended health care to many but was opposed by many Republicans.

    Since the days of Nixon, the political landscape has seen some changes. Now it's Republicans who oppose many environmental protections—President Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the EPA when he took office and announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement in 2018.

    Civil rights laws have also come a long way in 50 years. Women have legal access to birth control—the Supreme Court extended that right to single women in 1972—and sexual discrimination and harassment are illegal in the workplace. In the summer of 1969, the LGBTQ rights movement made headlines with the Stonewall Riots. Though it took decades, same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states and lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers can openly serve in the military. The issue now at hand concerns another minority group: Trump banned transgender people from openly serving in the military.

    The U.S. also advanced in space travel 50 years ago when Neil Armstrong took the first human steps on the moon, but NASA hasn't sent a person back since the early ‘70s. While they hope to return as soon as 2020, the national space program might turn to commercial companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX instead of the U.S. government for the next moon mission.

    A lot of other things have changed in 50 years: There are far more women and minorities in Congress, multiple women are running for president, and many people get their news through social media instead of a newspaper. Using data from news reports, Stacker compiled a list of 50 ways politics has changed in the last five decades.

    You may also like: History of political parties in America

  • Republicans no longer support a strong EPA

    In 1970, a year after Republican President Richard Nixon took office, his administration created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). President Donald Trump, who said too much environmental regulation hinders business and the economic development, vowed to dismantle the EPA “in almost every form” when he took office in 2017.

  • Affirmative action loses support among Republicans

    Nixon continued the racial equality efforts of the two Democratic presidents before him when he passed Executive Order 11478, which called for an end to racial discriminatory practices in hiring in the federal government. Affirmative action policies later extended to admission policies for post-high school education. In 2018, President Trump voted to end many of President Barack Obama's affirmative action measures for higher education. Many schools vowed to keep their race-based policies, with Harvard saying it would "continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions.”

  • LGB troops can serve in the military

    During the Vietnam War, the military considered being gay a “mental defect,” which meant gay, lesbian, and bisexual people couldn't serve for medical reasons. Today, lesbian, gay, and bisexual troops can serve openly in all of the U.S. armed forces. The “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy was repealed in 2011.

  • Transgender troops aren't allowed to serve openly

    While gay, lesbian, and bisexual people no longer have to hide their sexual orientation in the military, transgender troops aren't allowed the same freedom. The Trump administration effectively banned transgender troops because a “history of gender dysphoria would disqualify applicants to the military.” That means individuals who identify as a gender different than the sex they were assigned at birth can't serve as that gender. The Democratic-led House passed a measure earlier this year opposing the restrictions.

  • People get their news on Facebook

    Since the modern internet didn't exist 50 years ago, the public looked to newspapers, radios, or television to get their political news. In 2018, about two-thirds of the population said they got their news from social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

  • People don't trust what they read

    While people get a lot of their information from social media, most of them assume what they're reading is inaccurate. Republicans are even less trusting than Democrats and are more likely to report that the news confuses instead of informs them, according to the same Pew Research Center report.

  • Politicians make announcements on social media

    In 1969, politicians could reach the public by holding a news conference. In 2019, congressional members post official business on Instagram and Twitter. President Trump is well-known for tweeting about pretty much everything—from whom he hires and fires to policy announcements such as the ban on transgender soldiers in the military.

  • Multiple women are running for president

    Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, mounting a campaign in 1872—before women even had the right to vote. By the 1960s, two women—Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm (Chisholm was the first black woman candidate) ran for president. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a presidential primary and the nomination for a major party. While she lost the general election, Clinton won more than 48% of the popular vote. In 2019, a historic five women have announced their bid for president.

  • More women and minorities are in Congress

    In 1969, there were only 10 women in the House of Representatives and a lone woman in the Senate. In 2019, voters elected 127 women to Congress, including 25 to the Senate. The gains came mostly from the Democratic Party, which sent 106 women to the legislature. Currently, 22% of the 116th Congress is also nonwhite. That includes representatives who are black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander.

  • There are more campaign finance laws

    50 years ago, there was no Federal Election Commission, the independent agency that enforces federal campaign finance laws and decides which national political parties to recognize. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)—which later created the FEC—passed in 1971 to regulate money spent and donated to federal election campaigns.

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