At the end of the 19th century, despite industrialization and modernization, there was a general sense of emptiness and decline among people in the Western world. It was fin de siecle culture, the idea of a moral and cultural downfall that surely meant the end of society. [Editor's note: As of this publishing date, society is still a thing.] At least one American author predicted that the country would be kaput within the next few decades.
The idea that society was hurtling downhill really gained steamed after World War I, which was ... understandable, but not exactly harmless. See, around this time, German philosopher Oswald Spengler published a well-received and massively influential book called The Decline Of The West, which stated that such a fall could only be stopped by an "all-powerful executive." One with a silly mustache, preferably. The Nazis were big fans, is what we're saying.
This pessimistic "Everything's going to hell" worldview persisted after the World Wars, not only in ravaged Europe but also in triumphant, baby-booming (read: everyone got laid) America. But we only stopped worrying about German supremacy for about 15 minutes before creeping anxiety about communism set in. We knew Russia had nukes, but that wasn't what hit America's insecurities the worst. No, it was their space rockets.