Quote Originally Posted by Ghent12
Where do you get your information? My sources of propaganda tell me that America has always been addicted to mainstream media. From newspapers and gazettes all the way through the new mainstream of Internet, and the literacy rate was never "relatively low" if relating to similar or different countries instead of timeframes.
Sorry for the slow reply.

And to answer your question - I refer to the era prior to WW I.

In that time, literacy was relatively low. Certainly newspapers were a much greater percentage of information sources, but were a much lower penetration of the population.

And absolutely big business was even more impactful due to its even larger relative share of liquid wealth.

But at the same time, if the majority of citizens are simply ignorant of anything but their basic religious beliefs (church was probably the single largest common information denominator) - the disadvantage of a non-machine politics operator is less.

In the era from 1776 to 1914, only in the highly organized political arenas like Chicago or New York (again, higher literacy, high population density, etc etc) was it possible to steamroll highly unpopular measures (and politicians) through.

Woodrow Wilson was one of the first 'bought and paid for' Presidents in this respect. Theodore Roosevelt actually was the first, but he turned on his sponsors and pushed back the clock for a few years.