Between the 30s and the 80s, America was moving toward the Left. Social Security, Medicare, the welfare state, Civil Rights, Feminism, Environmentalism, and other left-like movements were all either established or became mainstream in that time period. And many, many things improved during that time period. The economic security and freedom of the average American improved dramatically. Everyone's lot in life was improving, no matter who they were. The whole country was booming and improving in every measurable way.
Then, ever since the Reagan revolution in the 1980s, America has been slowly drifting ever-more rightward. The lot of the average American has slumped. Costs of things like education and healthcare are insane, because they were not allowed to reach their natural conclusion of full government funding. Basic female rights like abortion and contraception are being threatened. Men are exposed to harsh and punitive regimes in the areas of divorce, child support, sexuality, and law enforcement.
Ever since Reagan, every president has had to work within a small "box" that has drifted slowly rightward. Even Clinton was not able to break out of this box, and had to triangulate with a reactionary House of madmen led by Newt Gingrich. Clinton was nearly hanged for getting a BJ (compare this to countries like France, where political leaders are almost expected to have lots of sex on the side.) After that, Bush II pushed all kinds of bizarre crap like abstinence education, which kids like me fell for. Now that Obama is in office, people are complaining that he is too far to the right, and that he is breaking his campaign promises in areas like Marijuana seizure and corporate pandering. The problem is, he too is confined to that little box that's almost impossible to break out of. There was a brief period of respite when the Democrats controlled congress, but now it's back to the rightward drift.
There are numerous political and economic reasons for this rightward drift, such as the 1970s oil price shocks, fears of Communism, and fears of Japanese dominance, but they themselves do not explain why America, and America alone, drifted so far to the right. After all, western Europe was exposed to all these risks as well, even more so due to its proximity to the USSR, but it didn't go all Reagan (the UK did a little bit with Thatcher, but it's still far to the left of the US).
So what caused this? Well, one major culprit is religion. You'll notice that in western Europe, many countries have state-supported religions. In fact, clergymen are actually government employees! There is a natural, deep-seated suspicion of religion in Europe due to all the shit that it caused over the past few 800-plus years or so, and this reflects in religious attendance rates, which are abysmal. Put simply, religion doesn't have much sway over Europeans. As a result, they are very unburdened by religious baggage.
Contrast that to America, where there never was a state religion. Religions basically had to compete with one another on the free market, and this led to a big battle to create captive markets. Since religion runs on fear, they amped up the fear to 11, keeping people hooked (and psychologically screwing people up, but that's beside the point.) It wasn't too difficult to stir strongly religious people into radical reactionary fervor.
Also, there is a demographic shift. In Europe, I don't think there is a strong dichotomy between people who are reproducing and those who aren't. In America, however, it's pretty clear that strongly religious people are reproducing like flies, while less religious (and importantly, more liberal) people are barely reproducing at all. So more and more people are raised with right-wing thinking; kids who barely have a handle on reality get this stuff basically shoved down their throat. I don't think this will be good for men because of the issues I discussed in "The War on Sex."