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Decade of Disillusionment: 1972–1980



The 1970s was a turbulent decade for the United States. The Watergate scandal ended with the resignation of President Nixon. Gerald Ford was sworn in but did little to inspire confidence in the executive office. An energy crisis and inflation created further economic problems. The Vietnam War ended, but the United States' involvement in international relations did not. The Equal Rights Amendment brought new hope for women but was ultimately defeated. Women did gain more rights with the Roe v. Wade decision, which lifted many restrictions placed on abortion. The surge of liberalism in the 1960s brought about a conservative backlash, dubbed the New Right movement. The decade ended in a recession under the presidency of Jimmy Carter whose successes were eclipsed by economic issues at home and problems abroad.

At A Glance

  • Republican nominee Richard Nixon easily defeated Democrat George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election.
  • President Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, a national issue that would lead to his downfall and eventual resignation.
  • Gerald Ford's presidency lasted less than one term and was marked by political division and a series of problems that began during President Nixon's term.
  • Feminism became more mainstream in the 1970s as feminists and feminist allies rallied in support of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • Environmentalism flourished in the 1970s as the United States saw the first federal government agency dedicated to environmental regulations formed and a series of legislation passed in response to environmental disasters.
  • The New Right movement of the 1960s and 1970s developed in response to the rapid social changes that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, which conservatives saw as a break from the traditional family and social values they supported.
  • Simultaneous inflation and economic recession caused a state of stagflation that persisted throughout the 1970s.
  • The decline in heavy manufacturing in the United States in the 1970s had a major impact on the economy of the so-called Rust Belt.
  • Jimmy Carter's presidency was plagued by energy crises in the United States.
  • Carter faced international relations challenges in the Middle East and with the Soviet Union.