Lyndon Baines Johnson, also known as the LBJ, had a vision of a Great Society for his fellow citizens that led him to become the 36th president of United States of America. The humble beginnings of Lyndon were not to be regarded as full of luxuries and paradise travels as he felt the anguish of the poor and socially disadvantaged people and saw the pinch of rural poverty. Before he slided into presidency, earning money for the family constituted his youth that made him surged deeped into compassion for the impoverished people and pursuit for a great society.
The main theme of the origins of the legendary LBJ was the rise from social and economic ills and finding ways to instigate change in the mainstream society of America where he was actually isolated from. According to LBJ, “When I was young, poverty was so common we did not know it had a name”. Though he was socially accustomed to think that he would have to deal with poverty and isolation from refinement, Lyndon came to a realization that he was “special- a young man destined for exceptional things”.
Eager to fulfill his destiny and inspired to solve poverty, Lyndon struggled to have a decent yet competitive education with the support of his humble parents, Sam Ealy Johnson Jr. , a farmer and politician, and Rebekah Baines Johnson, a journalist. Solving poverty might be the factor that fueled his political dreams, but it was his father who greatly influenced him in his political actions. His father was a man of ambition and integrity as a legislator serving two terms in 1904.
His father was regarded as the agrarian liberal or populist who “would not allow himself to be bought by lobbyists who dominated the proceedings”. Rebekah Baines’s line of descent as a journalist had equipped Lyndon with a deep “sense of inherited superiority. ” The parents were astonished in Lyndon’s youth that was full of revelations and inklings about his future in the field of politics. As a gifted child and empowered by the praises and encouragement from his family, Lyndon went to local public schools, graduating from high school in 11924.
After his graduation, Lyndon spent three uyears traveling around and applying for odd jobs before finally landing at the Southwest Texas State Teachers College that later became the Texas State University-San Marcos. It was in his college days that he gave out “concern, friendship, and benevolent support. ” Lyndon said, “ Some men want power simply to strut around the world and to hear the tune of the ‘Hail to the Chief’ while others want it simply to build prestige, to collect antiques and to buy prertty things-well, I wanted power to give things to people, all sorts of things to all sorts of people, especially the poor and the blacks.
” Known as the embodiment of the great Texan spirit of self-denial, conservation, and service, Lydon became a popular figure at the university not in terms of academic performance. This event led to a career milestone for Lyndon. Lyndon’s career before the presidency was in education. He started as a teacher at the Welhausen Elementary School where he showed the children “a sense of importance most of them had never known before. ” He moved to the Sam Houston High School before landing up a job in the congress as a secretary to a US congressman from the Fourteenth District in Texas in 1931.
In this, Lyndon became more empowered to pursue his ambition. He became the Director of National Youth Administration that greatly addressed the “concern of Roosevelt’s New Deal to save a generation of young people from ignorance, unemployment, and enduring hardship. ” Undaunted by the economic depression, he was elected to House of Representatives and campaigned successfully on a New Deal platform with the help of his wife Claudia Taylor. He joined the Navy for a brief period as lieutenant commander and won a Silver Star in the South Pacific.
After serving six terms in the House, he was elected to the senate in 1948. In the 1960, Lyndon became John F. Kennedy’s running mate and sworn in as Vice President. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Lyndon sworn in as the President of the United States. A. Foreign and Domestic Policies Several politicians and critics of the LBJ presidency were at one in stating that the administration, together with its foreign and domestic policies, had its peaks and valleys.
During the first year of the LBJ administration, the president saw many impressions bestowed upon him as he entirely devoted much effort and time on “vital domestic matters, both the tax cut and the civil rights law. ” Impressions at this time said that the president might not be interested in foreign policies because of LBJ’s adept focus on the real needs of Americans. LBJ was like a domestic politician who could not care less about external affairs. He said, “Foreigners are not like the folks I’m used to. ”
After establishing a new civil rights bill and tax cuts, LBJ urged the nation to unite as one in creating a “Great Society, a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals and than the quantity of their goods. ” The domestic policies of LBJ were concentrated on issues such as “civil rights, social welfare, anti-poverty programs, and labor. ” The LBJ administration made a great deal about education, Medicare, urban renewal, conservation of the environment, health, voting rights, prevention of crime and delinquency and an amendment to the Social Security Act.
The LBJ presidency also made explorations of space with three astronauts successfully orbiting the moon in December 1968. The administration also sought to fight the inevitable crisis from Vietnam that forced the president to impose budget cuts on domestic policies so that he would be able to push through with the foreign and defense policies. The LBJ policies pointing to Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Latin America “were bound up with the war in Vietnam. ” Despite his efforts to stop the Communist war and reach an agreement, the war continued.
Heated debate arose with the president’s decision to limit the bombing in North Vietnam in order to instigate negotiations. There are critics who said that the great foreign policy failure of the administration was its treatment to Vietnam. Following his firm stance on Communist Aggression, LBJ was convinced to gove Vietnam limited help. He said that he “would not permit the independent nations of the East to be swallowed up by the Communist conquest, but it would not mean sending American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves. ”
To show firmness and decisiveness, LBJ ordered only retaliatory attacks to the aggressive North Vietnam and launched “Rolling Thunder”, a sustained bombing campaign to Vietnam. According to LBJ, “the key to peacemaking was to arrange a settlement that both preserved South Vietnam as an independent state for the foreseeable future and the quickest possible American exit from a war the country by 1968 no longer wished to fight. ” Such assumption suggested that LBJ was “torn between an honorable exit and his desire to not to be the first president to lose a foreign war. ” B. The Decision Not to Run for Re-Election
When LBJ commanded to limit the bombing of Vietnam, he paired such action with a decision to withdraw from the re-election so that he might find some time for the quest for peace with no interruptions coming from politics. LBJ came to realization that he would not allow the presidency to be involved in any partisan movements which had infiltrated the United States since the advent of the Vietnam war. His policy of military escalation and the US participation in the war had overshadowed his popular standing and he was not able to establish real concessions for the peacemaking process.
After his decision, the Vietnam aggression dragged on. By withdrawing from the re-election, “the administration found it difficult to act decisively,” LBJ’s decision not to run in the reelection was the outcome of his discernment in which he had to go through with his failing political instincts. Prior to his announcement, LBJ had to endure the criticisms which came with the rapid involvement of the US in the Vietnam war, racial tension in the American soil leading to widespread civil riots in the 1960s and the flaws of the Great Society movements.
The flawed policies and programs of the LBJ administration led to Republican gains in the 1966 election and dwindled the hopes of Lyndon to further his participation in the Congress. It was in this turbulent period that antiwar candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy gained momentum to head the “dump Johnson” movement within the Democratic Party. The failure of his actions made it impossible for LBJ “to leave the White House without attracting hostile protesters. ” 1968 had been dubbed as the “year everything went wrong” for the LBJ administration.
II. Political Climate A. The Dominance of the Democratic Party LBJ made his congressional district in Texas as his foundation in his pursuit for a national role in the Democratic Party. He was “frustrated with the bureaucratic inertia and lack of innovation in fundraising by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC). ” It was in this frustration that he developed a finite and negative impression of the national party committees that greatly influenced his leadership to the political party.
His support to the Democratic Party saw him finding ways on how to finance hundreds of congressional particularly those who have a good of winning and satisfying their requests. As a congressional campaign manager for the House, his vigorous fundraising strategies to support the candidates earned him the respect and support coming from FDR and the other congressmen whom he helped to win. When FDR asked LBJ the result of the campaign, LBJ replied that the Democratic Party would not lose. He says to FDR that “We’re not going to lose, we’re going to gain.
” Now that the House was run by literate Democrats, what FDR had started, including the Social Security (FICA) Program would soon see radical change. During his presidency, LBJ took the Social Security Program from independent trust fund and transferred it to the General fund in order for the Congress to spend it on valuable measures such as in the enactment and foreign and defense policies pointing to the unending war in Vietnam. LBJ’s military escalation policy to Vietnam failed and his domestic policies on civil war and racial tension became undone which had shattered the Democratically-controlled House and Senate.
These dark moments became the finest hour of Republicans. B. “The Johnson Treatment” Lyndon was renowned for his arm twisting of influential politicians in order to pursure legislation. He became famous for his authoritative glance and powers of persuasion, dispensing them with what became popular as the “Johnson Treatment”. Such coinage was used to describe the domineering personality of LBJ who tend to impose physical size and initimidation in order to advance what he had to say. Lyndon once said, “ I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me, I know where to look for it and I know how to use.
” One of the key elements in Lyndon’s leadership and power was his use of the “Johnson Treatment” that was an eclecic mix of flattery, gentle pleading, logic, and threats. He was able to strategically utilize the “Johnson Treatment” in the way he gained full control of the Democratic Policy Committee, managed relations within the senate, maintained connections with the Republicans and the Liberals who supported civil rights for the African Americans, solidified control under his leadership, and established a coup when he was still a majority leader convincing the Senate to increase public spending on housing sector.
It was in this coup that the he became a master politician or the master of the Senate because of his display of single-mindedness, skill and attention to details. But LBJ’s art of persuading and use of intimidation was no match against the revolutionary nationalists such as Gamal Abdel Nasser who said, “the West if the enemy, while the Soviets are kindred spirits and purveyors of weapons unobtainable elsewhere. ” The “Johnson Treatment” failed to instill a positive effect on Nasser who continually resisted American policies and “denounced American imperialism in Congo.
” LBJ deeply shocked with the unveiling of the “Blueprint for the Liberation of Palestine” accompanied by Nasser statement that the only way to liberation was Arab revolutionary action. The failure of the “Johnson Treatment” was equally defined by LBJ’s unsuccessful leadership to pull the United States out of the quagmire of the Vietnam war. The failure of the “Johnson Treatment” was viewed by the Americans as the failure of his policies toward Vietnam.
The solution to the Vietnam unrest was one of the goals of the three presidents before LBJ and just like them, the LBJ sought to determine how to prevent the North Vietnamese Communists from acquiring South Vietnam that the US supported. C. The Civil Rights Movement Reformation of the civil rights proved to be the greatest challenge to LBJ’s majority leadership and to his presidency later on. In the mind of LBJ, the civil rights issue “was a fundamental prerequisite to strengthening the American voice abroad.
” LBJ sought to “mount a social revolution in civil rights and the extension of the welfare state. ” His policies on alleviating poverty and upholding rights were aiming at demonstrating that “he was a president who could rise above politics to serve the national interest. ” The reform in the civil rights in the US started from a small-scale demonstrations before key players, movements, leaders and organizations finally constructed a vivid change. LBJ was one of the key leaders in bringing change.
The turbulent period of the 1940s and the early 1950s was attributable to the “white southerners who controlled Congress and engineered the defeat of six civil rights bills. ” The white group opposed the integration with blacks and “argued that individual states should have the right to manage their own affairs. ” They used states’ rights in order to promote segregation, “a system of laws that required African Americans to be separated from the whites. ”
As such caused a significant backlash that came in the forms of protests and racial violence in the middle of the 1950s as African Americans continued to push harder for equal rights. The period was made more turbulent with the enactment of the Jim Crow laws that reinforced segregation. The Jim Crow laws banned African American students from going to educational institutions with white students and also prevented blacks from going to swimming pools, hotels and other establishments where there were whites.
Jim Crow laws prohibited African Americans from voting and denied them many opportunities which were only provided for the whites. Then came Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. , who led the civil rights protests until his death by assassination in 1968. Harder violence was pushed through with the struck down of segregation in schools. As a southerner who had accustomed himself to the separation of blacks and whites thoroughout his career, LBJ “seemed to be an unreliable advocate of civil rights statute.
” He supported civil rights but he was aware that the “pushing for a strong bill would anger many Democrats in the South. ” As a compromise, LBJ “worked out a deal with southerners to pass a weakened bill and convinced liberal western membbers to pass it in exchange for support for a dam they wanted built. ” The bill became the first civil rights legislation enacted by the Congress in 82 years and LBJ took all the credit for it. The Civil Rights Act was proposed by the President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and quickly became a controversial issue.
The Civil Rights Act would guarantee African Americans with freedom to vote, to go to places of public accommodation, and with equal opportunity in employment. Although the Congress did not approve of Kennedy’s initiative, a stronger version of the bill was eventually approved with the constant urging of Kennedy’s successor, LBJ. On July 2, 1964, LBJ signed the bill into law and soon became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that gave the federal law enforcement agencies the authority to stop and prevent racial violence and discrimination in voting, employment and in the utilization of public facilities.
III. The Great Society A. Civil Rights The Great Society domestic programs of LBJ were aiming at two creating social reforms for the elimination of poverty and racial discrimination. One of legacies of the Great Society programs was translating some of the needs and demands of the civil rights movement into law. During the LBJ presidency, four civil rights acts had secured their passage in Congress. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stopped job discrimination and the segregation in the use of public facilities.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminates the “use of literacy requirements and other methods to keep African Americans from voting. ” In LBJ’s pursuit for the Great Society, he also gave the nation urban renewal programs, housing subsidies, tax cuts, Traffic Highway Safety Act, National Commission on Product Safety, and environment beautification programs. B. War on Poverty LBJ was determined to “promote economic growth and commit the nation to a ‘war on poverty. ‘” The war on poverty was deemed as the most ambitious and controversial part of the Great Society.
Headed by Sargent Shriver, the war on poverty promised to improve Americans’ standard of living. LBJ said to Shriver, “You make this thing work. Appoint all the committees you want to, confer with everybody. ” LBJ continued, “This is number one on the domestic front. Next to peace in the world, this is the most important. ” The unconditional war on poverty implemented by LBJ was confronted with resistance from the 88th Congress that later on granted “$947. 5 million in 1964 for the antipoverty program.
” The centerpiece of the antipoverty program was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that LBJ signed on August 22, 1964 and established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). The anti-poverty program included the Job Corps and Neighborhood Corps, food stamp program, rent subsidies for moderate and low-income families, a youth employment initiative, and other antipoverty efforts. The initiative lessened the poverty rate in the US from “22. 4 percent in the late 1950s to 11. 1 percent in 1973. ” C. Medicare/Medicaid Medicare was included in the package that was the extension of the War on Poverty.
Representative Hale Boggs said that during LBJ presidency, “the Congress passed more bills than had ever been passed in all the rest of history of the country together. ” Included in the passed bills was a Medicare bill that aim “to provide health care for the nation’s elderly and health benefits for the poor” The Great Society effort federally financed the training for doctors and nurses, establishment of mental heath centers and health facilities focusing on heart problems, cancer and stroke. The Social Security Act of 1965 was passed by Congress to render federal funding for the medical costs of the elderly.
This legislation was opposed by the American Medical Association but overcame such opposition to the idea of socialized medicine or public health care and connecting payments with the private health insurance companies. Welfare recipients regardless of age obtained health benefits by the Medicaid program established on July 30, 1965 under Title XIX of the Social Security Act. D. Education LBJ said that he “no longer can afford second-class education for children who know that they have the right to be first-class citizens.
” In fulfilling this aim, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was signed into law on April 1965. The legislation federally funded public schools to help them obtain educational materials and start special education programs to institutions with large number of low-income children. It pursued Head Start, a program initially worked on by the OEO. The Head Start program provided comprehensive aid to the field of education, healthcare, and parent involvement initiatives to low-income children and families.
Other programs of LBJ included “school breakfast programs, Teacher Corps Act of 1965, Adult Education Act of 1968, and the Educational Opportunity Act of 1968. ” E. Arts One of the significant contributions of the Great Society effort was the promotion of the arts and humanities. LBJ said, “The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight. ” LBJ was successful in formalizing federal aid for public radio and television stations, arts institution and higher education.
LBJ signed the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities into law that later on established both the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities as separate agencies. He also gave attention on the need for the noncommercial education television in society that paved the way for the enactment of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The law led to the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service and the National Public Radio. National centers and arts facilities also received federal funding during the presidency of LBJ. IV. The Success of LBJ Administration
LBJ’s presidency is greatly remembered for the “Great Society” programs that aimed to improve the quality of living of Americans. The domestic policies enacted by the Congress during the time of LBJ played significant roles in the lives of Americans who were caught up with the loss of Kennedy, violence and economic ills. LBJ gave light to his people by promising them better and healthy living. One of main goals of the Great Society was to eliminate poverty. LBJ showed determination in reaching the promised land of Great Society by urging Americans to rebuild their cities, eliminate urban decay, and attain a renewed sense of community.
In order to help his people, LBJ established a list of laws which promoted racial equality, qquaality education, healthcare, and lowered poverty rate. Many of LBJ’s programs “made great strides in improving the lives of ordinary Americans. ” Some of the laws created impact on the political direction of the nation. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave voice to African Americans while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 freed African Americans from violence, racial prejudice and social inequality. The result of the war on poverty was promising enough as the poverty rate of the nation dwindled from “22. 4 percent in the late 1950’s to 11.
1 percent in 1973. ” Antipoverty programs of LBJ created millions of jobs, increase in salary and wages and in business profits, and decrease in unemployment rate. Promising results were also seen in the field of education and healthcare as federal funding continued to help citizens exploit what the administration had to offer. Medicare and Medicaid were made to render medical insurance for the elderly and to the poor people. Funding for heathcare benefits continued while the availability of Medicare and Medicaid widened. Support for the arts and culture was also evident. V. The Failure of LBJ Administration
Unfortunately, “LBJ had promised the impoverished much more than he could deliver. ” There were many citizens whocame to realize that the administration had just an “overly optimistic prediction that did not come true. ” Resulting from disappointment were black power and violence in the streets which showed the anguish of the nation. African Americans started to lose faith in LBJ and began to demand immediate change. The backlash of LBJ’s antisegregation efforts began to incite arguments within the southerners while the American people urged the government not to gift black rioters with federal programs.
The anger over the desegragation policy of LBJ weakened the Democratic Party and LBJ’s base of power. LBJ’s foreign policy dilemmas stirred antiwar protests along with civil unrest. Demonstrations concerning the involvement of the United States in Vietnam began to undercut LBJ’s presidency. The people complained that the involvement of the nation in the Vietnam war “took money and attention away from the needed domestic programs. ” The people accused Lbj of turning the Vietnam war into national obsession making his War on Poverty nothing more like a skirmish.
The presidency of LBJ was equally defined by his Great Society programs and the nation’s entanglement in the Vietnam war. Problems in the foreign policies of Lbj started from the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union. The conflict was that the Soviet Union and Korea were supporting the commkunist forces in northern Vietnam while the United States was in support of the South Vietnam government. Despite complaints, LBJ pushed through with the Vietnam War fearing that losing South Vietnam would wreak havoc on his political career. VI. Conclusion
The administration of LBJ was defined by the successes and failures of foreign and domestic policies. During his stay at the White House, he pursued Kennedy’s civil rights bill and tax cuts. He promised to promote better living for the Americans though his Great Society programs. But as he was doing well in putting America in the promised land of a Great Society, Vietnma War was intensifying. Later on, antiwar protests and civil violence gained momentum as American casualties increased in Vietnam. It was evident that LBJ could care less about hearing his people and his presidency was all about between him, his instincts, and his advisers.
The failure of his foreign policy in the Vietnam war became the measurement of his entire political career. The dilemma was that LBJ considered the Vietnam War as an inherited course instead of treating it as his job as an influential leader. It could be observed that LBJ was an indecisive leader with no firm stance on foreign policies. To make matter worst, the indecisive president was surrounded with political advisers who were not united and binded with the same aim. It was in the topic of Vietnam War that he was not able to fully utilize his “Johnson Treatment” to the advantage of American people.
Even though the issue in Vietnam War dominated the entire career of LBJ, it was good to know that his Great Society programs were successful. Such programs were only overshadowed by the riots and violence and the public’s demand for more than what LBJ could give. The Vietnam War was just one of the flaws of the Great Society programs since the domestic policies were connected with the foreign ones. The Great Society programs produced favorable results while their negative impact to the world came from the opposition that was not supportive of LBJ’s presidency.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Brands, H. W. The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam. Texas: A&M University Press, 1999. Dallek, Robert. Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Gold, Susan Dudley. Presidents and Their Times: Lyndon B. Johnson. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009. Savage, Sean J. JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party. New York: State University of New York, 2004. Schwartz, Thomas Alan. Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003.
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