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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] We're talking about the long essay section on the AP US History exam. In the first video on this essay, we talked about general strategy for how to approach the essay. You've got 35 minutes to write it. So, I recommend you spend 5-10 minutes planning, and 25-30 minutes writing. The question we've decided to answer is "Some historians have argued" "that the New Deal was ultimately" "conservative in nature." "Support, modify, or refute this interpretation," "providing specific evidence" "to justify your answer." So, we've come to the conclusion that there are three different ways we could go with answering this question. We could say, yes we think that the New Deal was ultimately conservative. We could say, no, actually the New Deal was quite radical. Or, we could say it was both or neither. Somewhere in between. So, we then took the opportunity to just brainstorm things that we might bring up in an essay like that. What kind of facts are related to the New Deal? We recall that the New Deal was this series of programs implemented by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration, to try to combat the Great Depression. It contained a real alphabet soup of agencies which aimed at trying to get work to Americans. To help Americans who were struggling. And, also to try to make sure that something like this never happened again. But, we noted that the New Deal ultimately didn't really work. Partly because the Supreme Court rolled back some of its agencies as being unconstitutional. And partly because, it was actually World War II that got the United States out of the Great Depression. Let's take a minute an just pin-point some of the themes that have come up as we've brainstormed these possible pieces of evidence. It seems like we definitely want to talk about the system of government, in general. And, definitely the economy. The economy is really the heart of the Great Depression. What else can we think about? Well, as historians, we're always interested in questions of race and class, and gender. We're always wondering how did things affect people who were White differently than people who were Black? How did it affect rich people differently than poor people? Or, women differently than men? It's just a really useful way of thinking about how benefits in American society might not necessarily accrue to everyone. Okay, so these are some possible themes we can cover. Now, let's ask ourselves, whether in each of these themes, the New Deal was something that was radical or something that was conservative? Okay, government. Was government, in general, radical? Or, was it conservative in this time period? Well, I think there's a good argument to be made that government was conservative in this time period. Because the United States didn't give up the democratic system. Many nations in the world did in this time period. Think about Germany, which became Fascist in this time period. So, there's still a commitment in the New Deal to keeping the governmental system of democracy alive. Even though the economy has tanked, no one has said, "Well, this is a clear example that democracy doesn't work." "So, let's try being Fascist." You could also say that there is a radical change in government in this time period. Because, the government is now taking on roles it has never taken on before. There is just a completely new level of intervention in the economy by the government that you could say is completely radical. All right. How about the economy? Well, I think there's a good argument to be made that the New Deal was conservative in the economy. Because, the United States didn't give up capitalism. Just like the United States decided that they weren't going to give up democracy, they weren't going to give up the system of capitalism itself. The New Deal instead, with things like, the NRA, or maybe social security, was instead designed to sure up capitalism. To solve the problems of capitalism. Instead of maybe going towards a completely government-run economy. Or, a completely people-led economy like in Communism. But, you could also say that the economy in this time period is really radical. Because again, there's this massive government intervention. There's a complete re-write of how the United States thinks about what the role of government in the economy is. Okay, how about race? I think it's pretty easy to argue that the New Deal was conservative in terms of race. Because very few people think of the 1930s as this major turning-point for civil rights for African-Americans, or any other group. In most cases, the economic pressure of the Great Depression meant that many people who are minorities, many women actually lost their jobs because of a racist idea that White men were more deserving of those jobs. So, you might say that, the Civil Rights Movement doesn't happen until later. You could also talk about the job loss. On the flip side, you might talk about the opportunity that the Great Depression gave to talk about real economic disparities between Whites and other races. You might even say Eleanor Roosevelt in this time period was an essential advocate for civil rights. Especially, making sure that the benefits of the New Deal trickled down in whatever way they could to minorities. And that the New Deal itself was not intended to separate African-Americans and Whites in jobs, in its benefits. It was mostly administrators at the local level who might have prevented African-Americans from reaping those benefits. Okay, what about class? I think this is a really important one because the New Deal is all about the relationship between the rich and the poor. I think one thing that the New Deal does that is very revolutionary, I know I'm flipping the order here, is it really makes people question the idea that wealth is earned completely without relationship to one's status in life. Right. In the period of the Gilded Age, many people said things like, "Oh well, the wealthy people, the White people," "They are in a better position in life" "because they're more deserving." "They've worked harder." "They've may even be racially superior." According to the logic of the time. And then, the Great Depression which affects so many people really makes people re-think this idea that wealth and status are connected to one's personal worth. So you can say it really up-ends this idea of social Darwinism that the fittest, the best in society are the ones who are prospering. But you can also say that in terms of class, once again, the New Deal was nothing like the revolution in Russia. There was no massive redistribution of land. There wasn't this great sense of class consciousness and workers uprising. Instead, it pretty much continued the patterns of social classes that existed before. In therms of women's lives in the New Deal, you might say that things for women might even have been worse in this time period than in the 1920s. Because again, as jobs contracted, those jobs were often reserved for White men. In fact, some of these programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps were only for men. Only for people who were considered bread-winners. On the radical side, you could say that the New Deal opened up many new positions for women in the federal government. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Francis Perkins, the first ever cabinet secretary who was a woman. You might also even talk about Eleanor Roosevelt and her own prominence. She really transformed the position of First Lady. Which is something that is going to be important throughout the rest of the 20th century. You may be noticing here that there are good arguements for going either way. And the fact is, either way you argue this or even if you choose to go this route of modifying or saying either or both, radical and conservative. They're both right. So, at this point, you just have to decide which way you want to write about, and then marshal your evidence for your essay. And, we'll get to that in the next video.
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