A Time Of Upheaval, 1961-1980

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A Time of Upheaval, 1961-1980


In 1960, America's economy had weathered a recession, which eventually resulted in the upheaval within the country yet it still stood at one of its strongest positions in the 20th century. Its military remained unbeaten in war, and its allies rarely challenged Washington's authority in anticommunist leadership. In short, things were going well, and American greatness was not on the ropes. But Kennedy struck a chord in the voting public. Maybe America should reach for the stars, and, to accent the point, the young candidate even promised higher annual expenditures for the country's fledgling space program. Kennedy's presentation of campaign goals often had a greater impact than the goals themselves. Thirty years after the fact, civil rights leader James Farmer still remembered the words of the first Kennedy speech that he had heard during the early primary season. Skeptical, in the beginning, of a rich white Irish American who claimed an interest in civil rights reform, Farmer was impressed by Kennedy's insistence that the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 were inadequate measures (Brier, 81).


Although Kennedy never offered a complete definition of what an adequate measure might be, Farmer concluded that new, dramatic reforms were in the wings. Eager to “Back Jack” (as one bumper sticker read), Farmer now believed that the 1970s were destined to be the decade of change. Early in the 1970 campaign, America had been one of three Democratic candidates considered serious presidential timber by the press. Nicknamed the Holy Trinity, the three were Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, and Kennedy. But the 1962 and 1966 Democratic standard-bearer, Adlai Stevenson, continued to have presidential ambitions, as did Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington. The press, on the other hand, found Kennedy most intriguing, and their interests would prove critical to Kennedy's chances throughout the 1960 race. Kennedy was the first president born in the 20th century and the second youngest (behind Theodore Roosevelt) to enter the Oval Office (Breitman, 90).

Upheaval in America

As a Catholic, election vindicated, in a sense, the 1968 landslide loss of the last Catholic Democratic nominee for president, Al Smith, to Herbert Hoover. To his dying day begun the upheaval in United States of America, Smith claimed that much of the opposition against him was due to anti- Catholic bias. Taking great pains to look centrist and even attack conservatives from conservative positions, Kennedy publicly rejected the label of liberal. Noting in an interview that he was uncomfortable with the liberalism of Humphrey, Stevenson, and other members of his party, Kennedy isolated his Democratic opposition to his left. In spite of the stirring rhetoric in favor of change, Kennedy offered fiscal conservative assurances in favor of a balanced budget. He also rejected federal government intervention in the economy outside of dire emergencies.

Twisting the Night Away

Living under the threat of nuclear war had been a fact of life for 1970s Americans, and Kennedy upped the stakes ...
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