Back to Branson: Normalcy and Nostalgia in the Ozarks

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Back to Branson: Normalcy and Nostalgia in the Ozarks

by Jerome L. Rodnitzky
Southern Cultures, Vol. 8, No. 2: Summer 2002

"Even Elvis promoted himself as just a simple country boy with rural, small-town virtues."

In 1920 Warren Harding won the presidency after an early campaign speech advocating, among other things, a nostalgic and undefined return to “normalcy,” a reference to the McKinley administration of 1900 that Harding felt looked like his America. The intervening twenty years of the Progressive Era, with its massive non-Anglo-Saxon immigration from southern and eastern Europe, wasn’t, in Harding’s view, normal. The recent immigrants did not look like Harding’s America, and not incidentally his administration featured severe immigration restriction and extensive deportation of radical aliens—Harding’s return to normalcy.