Maybe Americans voted for Prohibition – in 1920 – thinking, What have we got to lose???”
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I first drafted this post just after Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Here’s the opening line:
Looking for a breath of fresh air after Election Day – around 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning – I found Trump’s presidential election victory means America must hope for the best.
Today – May 3, 2018 – I just re-read that article, and it was most interesting.
And speaking of November 8, 2016, it seemed to me then – and even more so now – that Trump’s election was and is an “experiment.” An experiment in electing a man totally unqualified by training, experience or temperament to be Leader of the Free World.
That in turn led me to an earlier such experiment in our history. (Which, as it turned out, failed.) In that experiment, American voters tried to outlaw drinking. (As in the drinking of alcoholic beverages.) See The Prohibition Experiment of the 1920’s, which said the period of 13 years when America outlawed liquor “is often referred to as an ‘experiment.’”
Now about that poster at the top of the page: Back before 1920, America was in the grip of blue laws. They prohibited – among other things – selling alcohol “on Sundays … under the idea that people should be in church on Sunday morning, or at least not drinking.” Thus the idea that “every day will be Sunday” was depressing to many Americans. See Songs about Prohibition Expressed Opposition & Occasional Support, which included the “Prohibition Blues:”
‘Scuse me while I shed a tear,
For good old whiskey, gin and beer.
Goodbye forever, Goodbye forever.
Ah got de Prohibition, Prohibition, Prohibition blues.
And speaking of “strange bedfellows,” one of the strongest supporters of Prohibition was the Ku Klux Klan, as shown at left. (Not that there’s any connection to current events or anything…)
So anyway, the Prohibition Experiment article said that word alone – experiment – “implies that it was a futile period within America’s history.” As to the reasons, see U.S. Prohibition – Wikipedia:
In a backlash to the emerging reality of a changing American demographic, many prohibitionists subscribed to the doctrine of nativism, in which they endorsed the notion that America was made great as a result of its white Anglo-Saxon ancestry. This belief fostered resentments towards urban immigrant communities…
Which sounded eerily similar somehow…
As to nativism, see Lonely and unhappy people elected Donald Trump: “We know that racism, nativism and white victimology were crucial motivations for Trump’s voters. We [also] know that white identity politics disguised as anger … propelled Trump’s victory.”
But the triumph of nativism – at least in terms of Prohibition – was short-lived. It was short-lived because of two traits inherent in the American character: We are creative, and we hate being told what to do by “higher ups.” (Especially higher-ups in the federal government.)
So here’s how some Americans got around the “orders from above” during Prohibition:
Making alcohol at home was very common during Prohibition. Stores sold grape concentrate with warning labels that listed the steps that should be avoided to prevent the juice from fermenting into wine… The grape concentrate was sold with a warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.”
You have to love a country where that happens. (See too Irony, a “statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of, what is written literally.”)
And as to the “noble” part of the post-title, see Prohibition: America’s failed “noble experiment” – CBS News. (“Prohibition was the so-called ‘noble experiment’ which had some rather ignoble consequences.”) The article was based in large part on the book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. And asked why he loved writing about Prohibition, author Daniel Okrent said:
“It’s the answer to that question, how the hell did that happen?”
How did it happen, indeed. Prohibition did happen, but then we wised up.
So one point of this post is that Americans are industrious, creative and adaptive. That is, we generally learn from our mistakes. All of which means that anything really weird that “The Donald” tries to do will likely be leavened – as in an “altering or transforming influence” – by the very characteristics of American democracy that Donald Trump seems to loathe. (Including but not limited to the ideas of a free press and that we are a nation of laws, not men.)
And there’s yet another bright note:
Thanks to the 22d Amendment. this “experiment” won’t last 13 years…
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The upper image is courtesy of Prohibition in the U.S. – Wikipedia. The caption to the poster shown: “Every Day Will Be Sunday When the Town Goes Dry (1918–1919). Wikipedia added this:
Prohibition represented a conflict between urban and rural values emerging in the United States. Given the mass influx of migrants to the urban centers of the United States, many individuals within the prohibition movement associated the crime and morally corrupt behavior of American cities with their large, immigrant populations.
Which also sounds eerily familiar… For another take, see What we didn’t know about Trump on Election Day 2016. (May 2, 2018.)
Re: “Our” president as Leader of the Free World. But see Merkel is now the leader of the free world.
Re: The KKK and Prohibition. See Wikipedia, and The KKK Supported Prohibition and Defended It. The “KKK” image courtesy of Prohibition in the U.S. – Wikipedia. Caption: “Defender Of The 18th Amendment. From Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty published by the Pillar of Fire Church.”
Re: Irony. See Irony – Wikipedia and/or irony – Wiktionary.
Re: Trump’s campaign promises. See Donald Trump’s top 10 campaign promises | PolitiFact.
The “Happy Days” image is courtesy of Happy Days Are Here Again 1932 Convention – Image Results: “pinimg.com … eddfe33922d14ea84e130–prohibition-ends-canvas-prints.jpg.”
See also the lower image at Happy Days Are Here Again … Image Results: “pinimg.com … eddfe33922d14ea84e130–prohibition-ends-canvas-prints.jpg.”