Chapter 40

America Confronts the Post-Cold War Era



Bill Clinton:  The First Baby-Boomer President

For the election of 1992, the Democrats chose Bill Clinton as their candidate (despite accusations of womanizing and draft evasion) and Albert Gore, Jr. as his running mate.  The Democrats tried a new approach, promoting growth, strong defense, and anticrime policies, while campaigning to stimulate the economy.

The Republicans dwelled on "family values" and re-nominated George H. W. Bush for the presidency and J. Danforth Quayle for the vice presidency.

Third party candidate, Ross Perot entered the race and ended up winning 19,237,247 votes, although he won no Electoral votes. 

Clinton won the election of 1992. Democrats also gained control of both the House and the Senate.

Presidency Clinton hired minorities and more women in Congress and his presidential cabinet. This included the first female attorney general, Janet Reno, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court


A False Start for Reform

Clinton called for accepting homosexuals in the armed forces, but he had to settle for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that unofficially accepted gays and lesbians.

Clinton appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to revamp the nation's health and medical care system.  When the plan was revealed in October 1993, critics blasted it as cumbersome, confusing, and stupid.  The previous image of Hillary as an equal political partner of her husband changed to a liability.

By 1998, Clinton 's policies had led to budget surplus and he had shrunk the federal deficit to its lowest levels in ten years. 

On February 26, 1993, a radical Muslim group bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six people.  On April 19, 1993, a standoff at Waco, Texas between the government and the Branch Davidian cult ended in a fire that killed 82 people. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 169 people.


The Politics of Distrust

In 1994, Newt Gingrich led Republicans on an attack of Clinton's liberal failures with a conservative "Contract with America."  That year, Republicans won eight more seats in the Senate and 53 more seats in the House, where Gingrich became the new Speaker of the House.

A conservative Congress passed the Welfare Reform Bill, which made cuts to welfare programs.

In 1995, the government shut down when Congress could not agree on a budget.

In the election of 1996, Clinton beat Republican Bob Dole Ross Perot, the third party candidate, again finished third.


Clinton Comes Back

During his second term, Clinton was more of a political moderate.


Racial Progress and Perils

Affirmative action was struck down in a court ruling in California.

Riots in Los Angeles broke out in 1992 when white police officers were acquitted in the beating of a black suspect.

Globalization and Its Discontents

The economy was booming in the late 1990s due to the Federal Reserve Board's low interest rates and the growth of Internet business.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1993, and it created a free-trade zone between Mexico, Canda, and the United States. (It eliminated tariffs between the countries).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1994, and it promoted trade between the participating countries. It was supported by Clinton.

Clinton fought for two domestic issues during his second term: the fight against tobacco companies and the fight for gun control.


The Feminist Revolution

By the 1990's, half of the work face was comprised of women.

Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which gave job protection to men and women who needed to take off of work due to family-related reasons.


Searching for a Post-Cold War Foreign Policy

Clinton struggled to develop an American foreign policy that wasn't centered around fighting communism.

Clinton sent troops to Somalia, but eventually withdrew them. Clinton initially criticized China for its human rights abuses, but he eventually supported China when he realized how important trade with China was to America.

Clinton committed American troops to NATO to keep the peace in the former Yugoslavia.

Clinton led the 1993 reconciliation meeting between Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Yasir Arafat at the White House.  Two years later, though, Rabin was assassinated, ending hopes for peace in the Middle East.


Scandal and Impeachment

In 1998, it was discovered that President Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky (Lewinsky Affair). Clinton lied about the affair under oath. The House Republicans passed two articles of impeachment against Clinton: perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice.

In 1999, the Senate voted to remove Clinton from office, but the Republicans failed to obtain the 2/3 majority that was required.


Clinton's Legacy and the 2000 Election

The American economy prospered during Clinton's era in large part because of the global economic expansion.

The Democrats nominal Albert Gore for president and Joseph Lieberman for vice president for the election of 2000. The Republicans nominated George W. Bush for president and Dick Cheney for vice president. Bush won nomination in large part because he was the son of former president George H. W. Bush.

Bush supported returning the federal budget surplus back to the people through tax cuts and through giving money to private institutions who would help the poor. Gore supported smaller tax cuts and strengthening Social Security.

The election was very close and the electoral votes of Florida would decide who won. For five weeks, it was uncertain who won Florida's ballots, some of which were defective or unreadable. The Supreme Court eventually ruled (on party lines) that Bush had won the presidency. Although Bush won more electoral votes, Bush lost the popular vote. (More people voted for Gore than for Bush.)


E Pluribus Plures

In the late 20th century, Americans began to stress the need to preserve and promote ethnic and racial cultures. As racial barriers were broken down, Americans were becoming more interracial.


The Postmodern Mind

More Americans were receiving college degrees, and this expanding population of educated people increased interest in liberal arts (reading, museums, music, etc). The American West became a popular literary focal point as more Americans moved west. Authors including Larry McMurtry, Raymond Carver, and Annie Dillard wrote Western-themed novels.

The number of popular authors and artists who were minorities (African-American, Asian-American, and women) also increased.

New York became the art capital of the world after World War II. The Ford Foundation and the federal government (National Endowment for the Arts in 1965) supported the arts.

Notable artists after WWII included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Film continued to grow as generations of younger filmmakers emerged (George Lucas, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, etc). Interest in architecture also increased after WWII due to the building boom.


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