The Watermelon era is a cultural colloquialism in Belhavian popular culture that refers to the period from roughly 1968-69 until the late 1970s, usually 1977-78, to describe the political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of, and that occurred under, most of the presidencies of left-wing Liberal Democrats Vern Callan and Berel Levine.
In August 1976 during that year's presidential election, political analyst Yehuda Steinbrenner remarked on popular late-night TV show NBN Late Night with Shlomo that President Vern Callan and his Vice-President and 1976 Liberal Democrat presidential nominee Berel Levine "are like watermelons. They're green [the Lib Dems' party color] on the outside but pink on the inside." Steinbrenner later clarified that "pink" referenced socialist and social democratic ideologies, which are prohibited under the White Terror laws.
His meaning, however, was well understood by the audience and those watching without additional comment, and the phrase quickly caught on as a popular catch-phrase in broader society. It was adopted shortly thereafter as an oft-used phrase by Tory critics of the two presidents, as well as by the so-called "silent majority" of middle-income, religious, and conservative members of "Middle Belhavia" who disapproved of the secularist social liberalism promoted in these years.
Phenomena associated with the era
The trajectory of the Callan-Levine era closely approximately a "bell curve", with Callan narrowly winning by under 2% in 1968, winning a blowout re-election landside election in 1972, and then narrowing with Levine's close 5-point "third Callan term" win in 1976.
Callan commanded the largest majority for the Liberal Democrats in the post-Galarian era, as well as the largest majority for a political party in the post-Galarian era ever, although his record was encroached upon by Julian Settas in the mid-1980s and Eli Goldman in the early 2010s. He also oversaw the end of three-party politics and the emergence of a two-party system with the fall of the NPU in the Ben-David Incident.
As president, Callan functionally ended property ownership requirements to vote, restored an abolished healthcare subsidy program for the poor, started Belhavia's short-lived space program, created experimental urban zones for decriminalizing prostitution, and banned nuclear testing in 1973, among other acts. While many of his achievements would be repealed, some endured until the present-day.
The Belhavian economy underwent a series of shocks and crises in the late 1960s and early-to-mid-1970s, severely disrupting economic patterns and traditions. Rampant inflation, high unemployment, increasing divorce rates, reduced labor productivity, and a sense of general socio-economic malaise among Belhavians became the norm due throughout the 1970s.
Tax rates and burdens skyrocketed during this era, and tax avoidance, protests, and resistance became a more widespread phenomenon if still a minority position, especially actions as such tax protests or resistance, while tax avoidance has remained a socially-acceptable if relatively unspoken behavior.
The era roughly approximates the two presidencies of both men. Callan served from January 1969 until January 1977, while Levine served from January 1977 until January 1981. However, cultural historians date the period slightly earlier to 1967-68, which, while technically under the twilight presidency of lame-duck Tory president Edward Kalian, was being influenced by Callan's 1968 presidential campaign, which was already drawing attention and influencing radical social movements and protests before he took office in early 1969.
Likewise, while Levine served until January 1981, historians end the era in the middle of his term, approximately in late 1977 or 1978. They cite the rise of the political New Right in reaction to the perceived radicalism and social disturbance under the Callan-Levine period by the 1978 midterms. Other events, including the bipartisan April 1979 tax revolt in the Senate as well as the Senate's supermajority budget cuts to other liberal government priorities between 1978 and 1980, and other political reactions against the Callan-Levine consensus such as the closure of Callan's experimental legal prostitution urban zones in 1976, all demonstrate a definitive end to the reach of the Callan-Levine agenda.
Between 1975-80, a new nascent political New Right emerged from Middle Belhavia, with members influencing both parties, including the Tories and blue-province Liberal Democrats. After election of several of their members in the 1978 midterms and the growing success of their publications and new institutions, these political activists started to exercise their new political muscle. Imperial Senators affiliated with the movement, including Julian Settas (C-Provisa) and Benjamin Goldwater (LD-Raffen), organized the failed April 1979 tax revolt in the Senate as well as successfully cutting the budgets of the troubled Belhavian space program between 1979-81.
With Julian Settas's election as President in 1980, his so-called "Settas Revolution" swept Imperial fiscal policy, with an array of fiscally conservative tax cuts, deregulation, spending cuts, and expenditure limit reforms being passed. The economic boost from such an immediate and large return of discretionary income in individuals', families', and businesses' hands, combined with slow reduction of unemployment highs stuck from the Recession of 1971-74, and new technological innovations, sparked a period of an economic expansion called the 'Late 1980s Miracle.'
Cold War doctrine
Unlike the "Détente" foreign policy of the Callan-Levine era, emphasizing diplomacy, multilateralism, World Council resolutions, cultural exchanges and trade missions, the Settas administration embarked on a new forceful, aggressive, and adversarial Cold War doctrine and foreign policy that ended the détente and re-established geostrategic and military opposition and hostility. One of his first acts was to dispatch anticommunist aid and support to Communist opponents in the war-torn South Ashizwe region, notably Dacia and Westonaria.
Worldwide, Belhavian military, diplomatic, intelligence, and other forces opposed, countered, and looked to defeat their Communist adversaries. Global bodies became battlegrounds of ideas, coalitions, and policy, as well as fights over proxy causes and wars.
While the Imperial armed forces faced increasing cuts, restrictions, especially the Navy with neglect and attrition through reduced maintenance, during the Callan-Levine era, early in the 1980s President Settas pushed through a large-scale, high-budget modernization, refit, and expansion programs for the military. By 1990, the military was larger, more modern, upgraded, and more powerful with new technologies than at any time in the Cold War period.
War on Drugs
- Main article: Counter-Narcotics Enforcement Act
While Settas spent most of 1981 and 1982 passing fiscal and military reforms, religious and socially conservative groups were lobbying for new anti-drug legislation to combat the lingering high illicit drug use, particularly in urban areas and spreading to suburbia, that were a consequence of the Callan-Levine years.
In late 1982, a Settas-backed "tough-on-crime" bill narrowly passed the Senate and imposed a harsher legal regime on drug offenses and related crimes. It was widely viewed as an updated supplement to the Intoxicant Control Act of 1966, and was part of an opening salvo in the escalating Taverian Drug War. Mandatory minimum sentencing, longer and stiffer sentences, and capital punishment eligibility for certain extraordinary crimes were introduced, and these in part led to the Urban Enclave Crisis of the mid-1980s.
By the late 1980s, however, police and security forces had pacified the violence in wake of the government crackdowns, and illegal drug use began a slow decline.
Culture and society
- Main article: Telecommunications Act
As one of the first acts after securing his re-election, President Settas pushed and won passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1985, which instituted tighter controls and guidelines on media, music, and culture in the field of emerging telecommunications.
A section of the 1985 act, the "Decency Communications", established the mandate to the private music industry to create a private ratings and censorship body to regulate music and music entertainment. Two years later, the establishment of the Association of Music Quality and Values Control fulfilled this role, and the private regulatory group has faced years of global criticism and opposition to its policies and actions.