July 16, 2016

LBJ- Lyndon Johnson

Johnson ran for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 presidential election. Although unsuccessful, he was chosen by then-Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts to be his running mate. They went on to win a close election over Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Johnson was sworn in as Vice President on January 20, 1961. Two years and ten months later, on November 22, 1963, Johnson succeeded Kennedy as President following the latter’s assassination. He successfully ran for a full term in the 1964 election, winning by a landslide over Republican opponent Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. He is one of only four people who have served as President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative.  Johnson was renowned for his domineering (sometimes abrasive) personality and the “Johnson treatment”, his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians to advance legislation.

Johnson designed the “Great Society” legislation by upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services, and his “War on Poverty”. Assisted in part by a growing economy, the War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his administration. Civil rights bills that he signed into law banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing; the Voting Rights Act prohibited certain requirements in southern states used to disenfranchise African Americans. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country’s immigration system was reformed and all racial origin quotas were removed (replaced by national origin quotas).

Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically, from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 550,000 in early 1968, many in combat roles. American casualties soared and the peace process bogged down. Growing unease with the war stimulated a large, angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

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