3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

Author Image

Julia Detmer Photo


Chicago Style, American Studies, Politics


Overview: “Make America Great Again” the populist rally cry of the 2016 Election was championed by none other than now President Donald J. Trump. His appeal to the populist blue-collar working class was shocking to some, but historically not unexpected. His promise to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States by having “fair trade” resonated with the disenfranchised working class who felt once again left out politically, socially, and economically by the government and its seemingly progressive state. This promise however was not original. Ronald Reagan, the Republican “messiah” campaigned on this saying, attempting to restore hope in the minds of the American people. It is important to note not how the saying began, but why. Trump and Reagan, while different regarding ideology, campaigned on the populist ideal that the American people were being exploited by an elite power. The 1960s and early 1970s was a time of progressive legislation that displayed the changing tides of American culture such as the civil, women’s, and LGBT rights movement.

Author's Reflection: My name is Julia Detmer, I am currently a Sophomore Inclusive Education and American Studies major at St. John Fisher College. I have a true passion for learning specifically regarding history as I have had some incredible teachers that have inspired me to pursue education in college. I am also a member of the Honors Program and currently serve as Vice President of the Honors Student Association. I grew up in the town of Pittsford where I graduated from Pittsford Mendon High School.

Dr. Rice began his RW class, “American Culture in the 1970s,” by asking our perceptions of culture in 1970s. Many stated the musical styles or film/pop culture, but I was interested in our political climate and said “distrust in government” was something defined in the 1970s primarily related to Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. My topic that was fairly broad needed to be specified and more concrete, so I connected the distrust in the 1970s to our current political climate (this after the election) to make sense of how President Trump became our President. I eventually narrowed my topic down to specifically focusing on the working-class' sentiments towards an establishment which inspired the rise of a political outsider. This process was extremely rewarding because it allowed me to realize the deep importance of the editing process, as the majority of the semester’s work focused on research, editing, and revising the final product. In addition, it allowed me to visualize and understand perspectives that people aren’t necessarily aware of. At times it was difficult to find information on the working class in the 1970s mostly because the working class has been overlooked in society, especially regarding scholarly articles. With help of my professor and the library staff, I did find a book by Dominic Sandbrook called Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right that allowed my research paper to go above and beyond with its use of primary sources and a unique perspective that many other articles didn’t share about the 1970s.

The 199 Research Writing course is critical for a college student to develop better research and writing skills. Just as in the Fisher core goals, this class allowed me to develop an argument, present critical evidence to prove the argument, and navigate databases for relevant scholarly and primary sources. This class definitely teaches skills that students will use in all programs at St. John Fisher College.

Dr. Rice's Summary: Julia Detmer is a student who takes seriously the pursuit of knowledge. The presidential election of 2016 made her attuned to the rising populist mood in the United States and she was interested in finding precedents and patterns in American history. The result is this paper, a close examination of the populist mood of American culture in the 1970s. Julia was receptive to constructive feedback and took seriously the hard work of revision, resulting in this strong example of first-year writing.

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