One hundred years ago, the U.S. experienced the first culture war of the 20th century: ratifying the 18th Amendment, which barred the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”
Prohibition took effect nationwide on Jan. 16, 1919, and ushered in the era of speakeasies and Al Capone's Chicago Outfit. Those populist, anti-alcohol sentiments, spurred on by the Anti-Saloon League, set the model for modern politics.
Under the leadership of Wayne B. Wheeler, the Anti-Saloon League tapped into conservative beliefs by associating alcohol and drunkenness with immigrants, big cities, and crime. Temperance, on the other hand, was portrayed as the province of small-town, native-born Americans.
As the first ever political "pressure group" — a term coined by Wheeler himself — the Anti-Saloon League's singular focus helped mobilize what are now thought of as "single-issue voters." They punished politicians who didn't support tougher restrictions on alcohol and rewarded those who did.
Those same standards for "pressure group politics" live on today in guns-rights and anti-abortion groups.
This segment originally aired January 18, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Cover image: Dorothy Wentworth, right, is shown with a friend at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, Dec. 5, 1933 to enjoy first legal cocktail party in many years. (AP Photo)