Lyndon Johnson's large society brought about radical social changes (2023)

presidentLyndon B. JohnsonThe Great Society was a broad group ofdomestic politicsprograms initiated by the presidentLyndon B. Johnsonin 1964 and 1965, which focused primarily on eliminating racial injustice and ending poverty in the United States. The term "Great Society" was first used by President Johnson in a speech at Ohio University. Johnson later revealed more details of the program during an appearance at the University of Michigan.

By implementing one of the Newdomestic politicsPrograms in US Historyfederal government, legislation passing Great Society programs addressed issues such as poverty, education, health care, and racial discrimination.

Indeed, Great Society legislation enacted by the United States Congress from 1964 to 1967 represented the greatest legislative agenda on record since the 19th century.Great Depressionwas the President's New DealFranklin D. Roosevelt. The flurry of legislative action earned the Congress of 1988 and 1989 the nickname "The Congress of the Great Society".

However, the emergence of the Great Society really began in 1963, when then-Vice President Johnson overthrew the stagnant "new frontierplan proposed by the presidentJohn F. Kennedybefore yourAssassination in 1963.

To successfully advance the Kennedy initiative, Johnson used his powers of persuasion, diplomacy, and extensive knowledge of Congressional policy. In addition, he was able to ride on the rising tide of liberalism fueled by the Democrats' landslide victory in the 1964 election, which made the 1965 House of Representatives the most liberal House since 1938 under Franklin Roosevelt.

Unlike Roosevelt's New Deal, which was fueled by widespread poverty and economic disaster, Johnson's Great Society emerged when the economy was in decline after World War II, but before America's middle and upper classes began to feel the decline.

Johnson takes on the new frontier

Many of Johnson's Great Society programs were inspired by the social initiatives embodied in the "New Frontier" plan proposed by Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy during his 1960 presidential campaign and inherited most of his New Frontier initiatives. When he was assassinated in November 1963, President Kennedy had persuaded Congress to pass legislation creating thepeacekeepers, a law raising the minimum wage, and a law on equal housing.

The prolonged national trauma of the Kennedy assassination created a political atmosphere that gave Johnson the opportunity to gain Congressional approval for some of JFK's New Frontier initiatives.

Because of his well-known persuasiveness and political connections made during his many years as a U.S. Senator and Representative, Johnson quickly gained congressional approval of two of the key pieces of legislation that shaped Kennedy's vision for the New Frontier:

In addition, Johnson received funding forStart, a program that still offers free preschool programs to underprivileged children today. Also in the field of educational improvement, Volunteers in Service to America, now known asAmeriCorps VISTAthe program was launched to provide schools in regions at risk of poverty with volunteer teachers.

Finally, in 1964, Johnson was given the opportunity to begin work on his own Great Society.

Johnson and Congress Build the Great Partnership

The same landslide Democratic victory in the 1964 election that propelled Johnson to his own term as president also brought many new progressive and liberal Democratic representatives to Congress.

During his 1964 campaign, Johnson famously declared the "War on Poverty" to help build what he called a new "Great Society" in America. In the election, Johnson won 61% of the popular vote and 486 of 538 Electoral College votes to easily defeat ultraconservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

On January 4, 1965 on its 1ststate of the nationAfter being elected president, Johnson outlined his vision for the Great Society. In his memorable speech, Johnson informed the American people and then-believing lawmakers that the task would require passage of a massive welfare package consisting of an expanded Social Security program, government support for education, and an amendment to the Human Rights Act. Civilians from 1964 to include the "elimination of" obstacles to the right to vote". Description of his vision. Johnson explained:

“The Great Society is based on abundance and freedom for all. Call for an end to poverty and racial injustice, which we are fully committed to in our time. But this is just the beginning. The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich their minds and expand their talents. It is a place where leisure is an enjoyable opportunity for building and contemplation, not a dreaded cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man meets not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce, but also the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.”

Because of his long experience as a legislator and his strong Democratic control of Congress, Johnson quickly began trying to get his Great Society legislation passed.

From January 3, 1965 to January 3, 1967, Congress enacted:

In addition, Congress passed legislation strengthening air pollution and water quality laws; high standards that guarantee the safety of consumer products; and created theNational Foundation for the Arts and Humanities.

Vietnam and race riots hold back the great society

Even as his Great Society appeared to be gaining momentum, two events were brewing that would seriously undermine Johnson's legacy as a progressive social reformer in 1968.

Despite the passage of anti-poverty and anti-discrimination legislation, race riots and sometimes violent civil rights protests increased in frequency. Although Johnson continued to use his political power to try to desegregate and maintain law and order, few solutions were found.

Even more damaging to the Great Society's goals, funds originally intended to fight the War on Poverty grew to fight the Vietnam War. At the end of his term in 1968, Johnson was criticized by conservative Republicans for his domestic spending programs and by other liberal Democrats for his outspoken support for expanding the Vietnam War effort.

In March 1968, Johnson ordered an almost complete halt to American bombing of North Vietnam in hopes of advancing peace talks. At the same time, he surprisingly withdrew as a candidate for re-election for a second term in order to devote all his energies to the pursuit of peace.

Today, although some of the Great Society's programs have been eliminated or reduced, many of them, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs of the Older Americans Act and public funding for education, continue. Indeed, several of Johnson's Great Society programs grew under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Although the end of the Vietnam Warpeace talksthey began when President Johnson left office, he did not live to see their completion and died of a heart attack on January 22, 1973Rancho Texas Hill Country.

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