The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

By Michael P. Malone; Richard W. Etulain | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven Politics of the Modern Era, 1945-1987

The sweeping socioeconomic transformations of the postwar decades brought with them similarly sweeping changes in the western political order. In the region generally, and more particularly in the mosaic of its subregions and states, the old patterns of the postfrontier era crumbled; and the West moved ever more directly into the national mainstream. Undercut by the great federal activism of the New Deal and the Second World War, the nexus of economic colonialism gradually eroded; as it did, the West rose up to play a larger and larger role in the political life of the nation. Seldom, however, did the West appear to behave politically as a truly uniform region, because in truth it was not. Yet, because of its heavy federal reliance, especially for water development and defense-aerospace funding, and because of its continuing role as the supplier of most of the nation's energy, mineral, and food resources, the West did have common concerns; and these found ample reflection in politics at home and in Washington, D.C. In its voting preferences, the region displayed the same range of liberal-conservative and Democratic-Republican variation as did the country at large. But from the limited vantage of the later 1980s, the West seemed, like the South, to have moved markedly toward a preference for conservatives of both parties, in part as a reaction against the liberalism of

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