Wy, it's just ez clear ez Aggers, Clear ez one an' one make two, Chaps thet make black slaves o' niggers, Want to make wite slaves o' you

НазваниеWy, it's just ez clear ez Aggers, Clear ez one an' one make two, Chaps thet make black slaves o' niggers, Want to make wite slaves o' you
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more than patronage and influence; most genuinely wanted to create what they believed was a good soci­ety.

The 1896 election realigned national politics. The Republican Party, founded in the 1850s amid a crusade against slavery, became the majority party by empha­sizing active government aid to business expansion, ex­panding its social base to include urban workers, and playing down its moralism. The Democratic Party miscalculated on the silver issue and held its traditional support only in the South. After 1896, however, party loyalties lacked the potency they once had. Suspicion of party politics increased, and voter participation rates declined. A new kind of politics was brewing, one in which technical experts and scientific organization would attempt to supplant the backroom deals and fa­voritism that had characterized the previous age.

In retrospect, it is easy to see that the Populists never had a chance. The political system lacked the ability to accept third parties. The structure of Con­gress was such that the two-party system had enor­mous power, making it difficult for the few Populist representatives even to speak, let alone serve on im­portant committees and promote reform legislation.

Nevertheless, by 1920 many Populist goals were achieved, including regulation of railroads, banks, and utilities; shorter workdays; a variant of the subtreasury plan; a graduated income tax; direct election of sena­tors; and the secret ballot. These reforms succeeded because a variety of groups united behind them. Immi­gration, urbanization, and industrialization had trans­formed the United States into a pluralistic society in which compromise among interest groups had become a political fact of life. As the Gilded Age ended, busi­ness was still in the ascendancy, and large segments of the population were still excluded from political and economic opportunity. But the winds of dissent and reform had begun to blow more strongly.

Politics and Popular Culture

The Wizard of Oz, one of the most popular movies of all time, began as a Populist fable penned by journalist L. Frank Baum in 1900. Originally titled "The Won­derful Wizard of Oz," the story used memorable char­acters to represent the conditions of overburdened farmers and laborers. Dorothy symbolized the well-intentioned common person; the Scarecrow, the strug­gling farmer; the Tin Man, the industrial worker.

Hoping for a better life, these new friends, along with the Cowardly Lion (William Jennings Bryan with a loud roar but little power), followed a yellow brick road (the gold standard) that led nowhere. Along their journey, they encountered the Wicked Witch of the East, who, Baum wrote, kept the little people (Munchkins) "in bondage,.. . making them slaves for her night and day." They also met the Wicked Witch of the West, who symbolized industrial corporations. The Emerald City they find is presided over by the Wizard of Oz (oz. is the abbreviation for ounces, the chief measurement of gold), who rules from behind a screen. A typical politician, the Wizard tries to be all things to all people, but Dorothy and her friends re­veal him as a fraud, just "a little man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face." Dorothy is able to leave this muddled society and return to her simple Kansas farm family of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry by using her magical silver slippers (coinage of silver).

Baum used his tale to argue that powerful leaders were deceiving and manipulating ordinary people. He believed that if Oz exposed what really was going on, the people—no longer ignorant—would be outraged by the greed and deceit of politicians and industrialists, and would act. But this message disappeared when Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) bought Baum's story and made it into a full-length motion picture to show­case their new child star, Judy Garland. The movie came out in 1939 and was an instant success. Broadcast on television since 1956, it is seen by millions each year.

The saga of The Wizard of Oz shows how modern popular culture can subsume politics. The adventures of four endearing characters came to have more appeal than their political symbolism. The rise of movies, television, and sports also altered the nature of fame. Whereas in the Gilded Age politicians held the spot­light as the nation's chief celebrities, by the twentieth century they had been bumped into the background. And instead of popular culture, such as Baum's fable, influencing politics, the legacy to a people and a nation has been the opportunity of some celebrities to use popular culture to become politicians. Thus the nation has seen movie stars and sports personalities become governors, senators, representatives, and even presi­dent.

For Further Reading, see page A-23 of the Appendix. For Web resources, go to http://coIlege.hmco.com.

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