That's the message of American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, A Democratic Revolution at Home by Joshua B. Freeman, a labor historian at Queens College in New York City.
Freeman skillfully recounts the social history of the United States from the end of World War II until the present. He covers the great social movements, the population shifts, the economic changes. With a sentence or two about an editorial (The American Century by Henry Luce) a speech (LBJ on civil rights), an event (the subway shooting by Berhard Goetz), Freeman rolls back the decades.
American Empire invites the reader to relive one's political past, consider how one was right or wrong, and understand those old views from the perspective of today.
Most striking is the decline of Big Labor. Back in 1947, labor carried a big stick in Washington as it was dominant in the Democratic Party and domestic industry was strong. Gradually, big business, weakened by the Depression and the New Deal, but enriched by World War II, came back.
Though its organizational decline started during the Age of Eisenhower, Big Labor reached its political zenith during the first two years of the Johnson Administration, when Labor's mildly socialistic policies were enacted as The Great Society. With the escalation of the war in Vietnam, Big Labor's influence crested. LBJ chose guns over butter and the public and his party rejected Johnson the war.
In the late 1970's with deregulation and tax cuts, the migration of jobs to the South and overseas, and the rise of massive retailers and importers like Walmart, capitalism triumphed. Today, Big Labor is a ghost of itself.
American Empire will be released by the Penguin Group on August 6. Good reading for the end of summer into Labor Day.