AMST 3100 The 1960s
LBJ’s Great Society
Read Chafe Chapter 8; Farber Chapter 5
Backdrop: Rise of Liberalism
• • • • •
• • • •
In 1946, Cyril Connally helped define the emerging liberal ideology in his “Ten Indicators of a Civilized Society.” 1. Abolition of the death penalty 2. Penal reform aimed at rehabilitation 3. Slum clearance and “new towns” 4. Subsidized energy/heating 5. Free medicine, food, and clothes subsidies 6. Abolition of censorship, surveillance, and travel restrictions 7. Reform of laws against gays, abortion, divorce 8. Limitations on property ownership 9. Preservation of natural beauty, architecture, the arts 10. Laws against racial and religious discrimination
Given the book burnings of the Hitler era, it became unpopular to advocate book burnings after WWII and there was a distinct increase in liberalism in Western cultures. However, there was less of an increase in liberalism in the American Deep South, where conservative religious groups occasionally burned books and rock music records during the 1950s, 60s, and later.
• Connally’s ideas represent a shift away from the intellectual search for utopia toward the policy-based pursuit of “enlightened hedonism” or humanism. • His ideas reflected what some in the 1960s came to call “the permissive society.” – Virtually everything he called for was enacted into law in the 1960s across most Western democracies. These 1960s reforms dramatically altered life in Western cultures. Citizens became more free than they had ever been. – While the U.S. headed in this same direction, there were relatively more conservatives here that resisted these reforms. They argued the reforms would lead to anarchy, bloated government, overly-restricted capitalism, and un-Christian lifestyles. • At the core of the ideological debate in the U.S. were two opposing views of government, with liberals more willing to use government as a tool to achieve humanistic aims.
The new liberalism
• A Southerner, yet a product of the rising liberalism of the era • A reform liberal • Idealistic • Social liberal: – strong advocate for civil rights, tolerant of social diversity • Economic liberal: – government can regulate capitalism without harming it, the welfare state as a force of good, we need a war on poverty • A hawk on foreign policy issues – Strong military – Anti-communist Cold Warrior – Domino theory containment policy advocated – Imperialism in the name of freedom is acceptable
Lyndon Baines Johnson
• To LBJ, civil rights was the moral issue facing the nation, and the South could never progress until it buried Jim Crow. – LBJ was himself a Southerner who understood both the South and poverty. • One of LBJ’s most prideful accomplishments was the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. – From then on, LBJ expected the gratitude of Afro-Americans and could never grasp why so many were angry at him by 1966. • By 1966 his Vietnam war policies began to compete with his domestic war on poverty programs. Johnson was caught between two wars at once, and many felt his domestic programs suffered.
This is a photo of LBJ being sworn in on the President’s plane soon after the assassination of John Kennedy on November 23, 1963. Johnson had been a key figure in the Senate before becoming Vice President in the Kennedy administration. He was therefore very familiar with the workings of Congress and was masterful at getting legislation passed.
LBJ vs Barry Goldwater, 1964
• A classic campaign that pitted two ideological purists against each other: LBJ’s emphasis on equality versus Goldwater’s emphasis on individual liberty. – Goldwater was more hawkish on foreign policy than LBJ and endorsed a “get tough” policy against reds. – LBJ, like most Democrats, feared being labeled “soft” on communism so he too pushed an aggressive foreign policy aimed at containing communism. • In the campaign, LBJ painted Goldwater as likely to start World War III while he painted himself as the candidate of peace and moderation. – The Daisy Girl TV advertisement implied a vote for Goldwater was a vote for nuclear holocaust. It was an effective negative ad that was a harbinger of future media tactics by both political parties. – LBJ presented himself as the peace candidate, yet in reality he was seriously considering a dramatic escalation of American troop presence in Vietnam. • LBJ, a Southerner, took most of the North, East and West, but failed to take the Deep South.
Goldwater was an economic conservative. He was opposed to New Deal policies and crusaded against the federal government, welfare policies, and labor unions. But he was not a social conservative and would probably not identify much with the current Republican platform.
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 1964
• LBJ used the Gulf of Tonkin incident (August, 1964) involving dubious reports that U.S. warships had been attacked to win a congressional resolution giving him a free hand in crafting policy in Vietnam. – This resolution was passed after less than 9 hours of consideration by a Congress that did not seriously consider the consequences of giving the President so much war-making authority. • The Congressional vote was unanimous. It passed by 416 to 0. The Senate vote was 82 to 2. – At that time, Vietnam was not an area of national concern. – After securing Congress’s approval with this resolution, LBJ dramatically escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam. • Subsequent information suggests the entire incident did not occur and was manufactured by the Pentagon for the benefit of LBJ.
This is a painting of the USS Maddox, the ship involved with the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was claimed at the time that the Maddox was attacked by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats while in international waters. It has been subsequently learned that the Maddox was actually doing electronic surveillance near North Vietnamese waters and that there probably was never a torpedo attack.
LBJ’s Great Society
• As a reform liberal, LBJ believed in the power of government to meet social needs and to redistribute limited resources to the poor. • LBJ prioritized domestic policy initially (1964-65) – 1. Civil rights (against racism) – 2. War on poverty • However, by 1966, his new priority was Vietnam and his Note the dramatic drop in poverty under the Johnson domestic policies suffered as he policies. The war on poverty included many programs, redirected resources toward the some of which - like food stamps and guaranteed college war. loans - remain popular today. This war targeted both rural – This priority switch greatly and inner city poverty, and was perhaps more effective at fighting rural poverty. Inner city poverty is partly related to angered civil rights advocates and doomed LBJ the failure of private capitalists to provided urban jobs, and there is an on-going ideological debate over whether due to the difficulties of fighting two wars at once. and how government should help with jobs.
• In 1960, the overall poverty rate was around 21%. • The basic approach of LBJ’s War on Poverty: – 1. Outlaw racial discrimination, emphasize equal opportunity. – 2. Use government programs to help the poor. • A. Give poor communities resources for them to decide usage. Ex: Community Action programs. • B. Create new welfare programs tied to a perceived “culture of poverty” among the poor, like job training programs.
– This was the preferred approach. LBJ wanted to offer the poor opportunity – not money.
The War on Poverty
• Result: – Poverty declined by 1970 to around 12%. – The welfare state had grown very large and was expensive. – Dramatic upward mobility for some minority groups. – Raised expectations among the poor, some of which were not met.
The War on Poverty: programs and beneficiaries
• LBJ’s War on Poverty emphasized new government resources
– Food stamps – AFDC (Aid for Families with Dependent Children) – Medicaid (medical care for the poor) – Public housing – Jobs programs – School and child programs – College loans
• The beneficiaries
– The poor – Minority groups – The aged
• In 1960, 40% of seniors were poor. • By 1970, 25% were poor. • By 1974, 16% were poor.
Consequences of the War on Poverty
• The War on Poverty raised the expectations of blacks, and when many remained poor – especially in the ghetto – their continued poverty contributed to anger and rioting. • The execution of the War on Poverty was sloppy in many cases, and some policies were more harmful than helpful. – Example: public housing projects were probably more harmful than helpful in cities like Boston. • Conservatives and many moderates were upset at the rise of the liberal welfare state, arguing that it cut into individual initiative and created a class of welfare dependents. – This is a valid point, yet in virtually all other Western democracies, the welfare state was much more developed and did not seem to cut into productivity. • The war on poverty, while costly, did indeed ultimately reduce overall poverty by more than 43%, but it did not eliminate ghettos.
The 1965 Watts riots reflected the anger and frustration of inner city racial minorities who were frustrated by years of racism, poverty, and neglect. The civil rights movement was a decade old by now and the war on poverty was already under way. Their expectations had been raised, yet little had changed in their lives.
• By 1964 American cities, especially in the Northern industrial regions, were filled with racial and class tensions. • The inner cities were disproportionately racial minorities. This is because industrial jobs were concentrated here and offered racial minorities a chance for upward mobility. • In the 1960s, industry began to close down these inner city jobs as they migrated their factories to the suburbs, the South, and to foreign countries seeking cheaper labor. As a result, unemployment in the inner city shot up to as high as 50%. • Yet at the same time, the civil rights movement had raised the hopes of urban blacks living in these ghettos. • As blacks saw little change in their conditions, they rioted in frustration. • The most significant riots were the Harlem riot (1964), the Watts riot (1965), Detroit (1967), Newark (1967) and Washington (1968). Between 1964 and 1971 there would be hundreds of riots – as many as 750 by some counts.
The Detroit riots of 1967 were among the worst in the nation’s history. The causes included police racism and brutality, lack of inner city jobs, lack of affordable housing, urban renewal projects that were bulldozing black neighborhoods, and rising black militancy, among others. The War on Poverty had not produced enough tangible effects in the inner cities, and by 1967, Johnson had shifted his attention to the Vietnam conflict, angering inner city residents. 12
• To LBJ, the Great Society was a culture of equal opportunity in which a beneficent government created new resources to raise the standard of living for all, rich and poor, black and white. • Between 1964-1965 LBJ succeeded in passing more legislation than many Presidents pass in their entire careers. • His accomplishments were unprecedented, yet as he increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam he could no longer sustain his promise for the Great Society. • Frustration and anger among the poor, students, liberals, and minority groups would rise and LBJ’s remaining tenure would be conflict-ridden as he increasingly devoted the bulk of U.S. resources to the war in Vietnam by 1966.
End of this section