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Television and the Kitchen Debate

"Nixon vs. Khrushchev - The Kitchen Debate (1959)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

The kitchen debate of 1959 was a propaganda victory for the United States for it validated American claims that consumption was the key to prosperity. This debate not only became front-page news but was also the hot topic on television news. In the confines of a display kitchen, the diplomatic leaders argued which system was superior. Although the debate had no clear winner, the widespread media converge in the United States especially on television programs assured Americans that capitalism remained victorious. 

President Nixon believed that American superiority rested in the home, complete with modern consumer goods such as televisions and grounded his argument that consumption alleviated the drudgery of household chores through modern appliances and technology whereas Khrushchev countered that the distribution of wealth was more equitable under communism. During this debate, Nixon focused solely on American prosperity and portrayed the United States as not only a free and democratic nation but also as a country that resembled a classless society without a violent social upheaval. During the discussion, he and Khrushchev debated in a model kitchen, and Nixon argued that the American dream allowed "breadwinners to support attractive homemakers in affluent suburban homes" filled with modern day necessities such as televisions (May 61). Nixon also argued that Americans possessed a faith in this system, which allowed ordinary citizens both the power and freedom to choose what goods they wanted to buy.

In order to have a decisive victory over the Soviet Union, Nixon focused solely on the overall prosperity of American life rather than expose the United States’ shortcomings in foreign policy. For example, during the debate Nixon boasted that three quarters of America’s 44 million families owned their own homes, along with 56 million cars, 50 million televisions, and 143 million radios but did not mention international tensions between the two superpowers (May 115). Nixon illustrated that Americans had total faith in this consumer culture and believed wholeheartedly that spending on goods such as televisions would allow the nation to become a near classless society without a social revolution.