Lyndon Johnson Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1658 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History

¶ … Presidency of Lyndon Johnson fundamentally changed American politics forever. In his career, he had an affect on each of the institutions in which he served, but none more so than the Presidency. The changes that resulted would not only revise the way in which subsequent presidents operated, but would also change the way in which Americans would look at the office. Because his path to ultimate power was so unique, let us look at how he arrived there.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas, on the Pedernales River in the hill country of West Texas to Rebekah Baines and Sam Johnson. He was one of four children. In 1927 he enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers college, and upon graduation he taught debate and public speaking in Houston. After several years, he quit to become secretary in 1931 to Congressman Richard M. Kleberg. Johnson applied himself in organizing Kleberg's office and soon began to wield influence well beyond his position, making friends with many influential people in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), including Vice President, John Nance Garner, also a Texan.

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In 1934, he met and married Claudia Alta Taylor, known also as Lady Bird, on November 17, after a very brief courtship, and the following year he left the employ of Congressman Kleberg to become the head of the Texas National Youth Administration. His new post enabled him to build political base with his constituents. In 1937, Johnson ran for Congress on a New Deal platform, in a special election for the 10th Congressional District of Texas to represent Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country, effectively aided by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson.

In 1941, in a special election for the United States (U.S.) Senate, Johnson ran against Governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, a popular radio personality. Johnson lost in a close race when late results brought Daniel from behind. Johnson had failed to hold back enough votes to overcome the late surge by Daniel. It was a lesson he never forgot.

Term Paper on Lyndon Johnson Assignment

It was Johnson's mistake that had enabled these men to take his victory away. He had planned and schemed and maneuvered for ten years - had worked for ten years, worked day and nigh, weekday and weekend - had done 'everything.' And for ten years, he had won. He had relaxed for one day. And he had lost."

During the campaign, Johnson had promised that if the U.S. entered the war, he would serve in the military, so when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he entered the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander earning the Silver Star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. There was some question about the circumstances surrounding the decorations, but he returned to Congress a hero, when FDR ordered all members of Congress serving in the military to return to their offices. He continued to serve in the House of Representatives until 1949, when he moved to the Senate.

In 1948, Lyndon again ran for the Senate and this time won. The election was highly controversial. A three-way Democratic Party primary left Johnson in a run-off with former governor Coke Stevenson. Johnson campaigned very hard and won by only 87 votes out of a million cast, earning him the nickname, "Landside Lyndon." In Texas, in 1948, winning the primary was tantamount to winning in the general election. It was alledged that 202 ballots in Jim Wells County had been added at the last moment to change the tallies enough in Johnson's favor. He was helped by George Parr, the "Duke of Duvall County." "Another county in Parr's domain was Jim Wells, where the reformers' strength had forced Parr to exercise discretion on Election Day. The only precinct in that county that had been run as the Duke liked precincts run was Luis Salas' Precinct 13." The total votes for Johnson originally reported by telephone on Election Night was 765. When the written tallies were opened, he had 965 votes, 200 more than on Election Night. Johnson had learned his lesson from the previous Senate loss.

Johnson prospered in the Senate and assumed the minority leadership in 1953. In 1955, after his relection to the Senate, he became the Majority Leader. His success in the Senate puched him into national prominence and ultimately selection as Vice President for John F. Kennedy in 1960. In 1963, upon Kennedy's assasination, he was elevated to the Presidency. In 1964, he was elected in his own right, defeating Barry Goldwater in a landside.

Johnson had finally reached the pinnacle of power of which he had always dreamed. He had known from the first day he entered politics that he wouild be President some day and every move had been made with that ultimate goal in mind. As President he was determined to leave his mark upon history, and he did, although not in the way in which he intended.

Johnson's Presidency, and indeed his life, have been a dicotomy in American politics. A product of the racist south, he became one of the greatest champions of civil rights ever to occupy the White House. In 1964, he pushed through Congress groundbreaking civil rights legislation that would change American life and politics forever. The next year, in spite of reservations concerning being able to pass new civil rights legislation he again pushed it through Congress, despite the opposition of southern Democratic legislators. The law had an immediate impact. "By the end of 1966, only four states of the old Confederacy had less than 50% of their voting-age blacks registered, and in three of these, registration had reached 47%." These new voters would change the face of American politics forever, leading to a new voting bloc that would have immense power, both in the North and the South.

By 1966, Johnson had shifted his emphasis to the Great Society, partly because of fear that pushing too much too quickly would create a backlash among whites.

Though Johnson was far from abandoning his civil rights campaign, he now approached the issue of black rights with grteater caution than had been the case in his first two years of his term. He wanted the discussion of black rights, and particularly of affirmative action to advance black opportunity, temporarily put aside. He intended to come back to these matters, but he believed that a tactical pause would now serve the larger cause of long-term advance.

Johnson hoped that this shift would allow his war on poverty to advance the cause of blacks by making them less visble.

In spite of all the progress Johnson made in the area of civil rights, his legacy will be forever overshadowed by Vietnam. Less than three weeks after the Republican National Convention of 1964, the United States Navy was attacked by patrol boats belonging to North Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson, not wanting to appear weak on defense, felt he had little choice but to respond forcibly. The result was a consistent escalation of the war from 1964 through 1968, which resulted in thousands of American deaths. Johnson was afraid that too much focus on Vietnam would distract attention from his Great Society programs, so the levels of military escalation, while significant, were never enough to make any real headway in the war. Despite his wishes, Johnson's presidency was soon dominated by the Vietnam War. As more and more American soldiers and civilians were killed in Vietnam, Johnson's popularity declined, particularly in the face of student protests.

As the war decreased in popularity, more and more decisions were made in private. The reservations of policy-makers about the ability of the U.S. To win the war were kept secret. Speaking about his hope to keep Vietnam from damaging his Great Society; "I was… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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