Lyndon Johnson: 36th president of the United States of America Essay

Lyndon johnson: 36th president of the united states of america

 

Perhaps one of the most controversial American Presidents for his involvement in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Baines Johnson was the Thirty-Sixth (36th) President of the United States.  As the leader of the Democratic Party, he was responsible for many social policies such as the Great Society, the introduction of Civil Rights Laws, Medicare, and his War on Poverty.  Despite his contributions to the welfare of society, however, his escalation of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War led to a decline in his popularity (Evans and Novak 1966).  He eventually withdrew from his reelection bid to concentrate on more peaceful programs.

The political success of Lyndon Johnson has been attributed to his domineering personality.  Often known as the Johnson Treatment, Lyndon Johnson’s method of convincing influential and powerful political figures to join his cause was well known (Caro 2002).  As such, he was often considered to have expanded the powers as being the head of the executive branch of government due to the influence that he had over a number of law makers during that time (Dallek 1998).

In order to understand just how Lyndon Johnson was able to achieve this, it is essential to take a brief look at his political career.  Throughout his political career, Lyndon Johnson had a knack of finding the right connections and making the right political alliances (Caro 2002).  In his freshman year in congress, he allied himself with the more influential and powerful politicians such as Senator Richard Russell and Speaker Sam Rayburn (Caro 2002).  Due to the alliances that Lyndon Johnson had forged, he was soon the youngest leader for the Democratic Party (Caro 2002).  The relevance of this background lies in providing a better understanding of the political savvy of Lyndon Johnson.  By being successful in making “friends” on Capitol Hill, Lyndon Johnson was able to fast track his political career and eventually became the 36th President of the United States of America (Dallek 1998).

It is clear from this point that Lyndon Johnson was quite capable and able in creating opportunities for himself and also gaining more power for his position.  One of the clearest examples of this is when Lyndon Johnson was able to get the United States Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  This was a critical point in the Presidential Career of Lyndon Johnson because it entitled the United States President to use military force in Southeast Asia without the formal declaration and approval of the United States Congress (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  As such, the constitutional requirement for Congressional Approval under the checks and balances system was no longer in effect and the President was in effect exercising a broader range of powers as the Commander in Chief (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).

While other instances of Lyndon Johnson’s acts of expanding his power base are not quite as direct and clear, the influence that he wrested over several key figures in the Legislative and Judicial Branches of government allowed him to implement the many programs that he planned (Hove 2003).  One of these moves was in furtherance of his Civil Rights Act.  President Lyndon Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court and by doing so stepped up his policy against the Ku Klux Klan whom he denounced as a “Hooded Society of Bigots.” (Evans and Novak 1966)

Other political moves of Lyndon Johnson that show just how he was able to control Congress and the passage of laws that were favorable to his policies would include his influence over the United States Congress after the 1964 landslide election which brought about a large number of liberal Congressmen (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  The Johnson Treatment proved to be highly effective as President Lyndon Johnson was able to draw more support from Congress.  In January of 1965, the Great Society, which he envisioned, would soon become the agenda for the United States Congress (Dallek 1998).  The plans that were covered by this program included aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote (Dallek 1998).  The success of these programs came in part due to the non-resistance that Congress had.  As such, many of the programs that Lyndon Johnson recommended were soon approved by Congress (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).

In an effort to get Congressional Approval for his social reforms acts, Lyndon Johnson recommended the approval of his policy on the War on Poverty.  First introduced during the State of the Union Address on January 8, 1964, the War on Poverty was the first legislation that was proposed by the President to alleviate the difficult social and economic conditions that the American Public was experiencing during this time (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  Soon after, this led to the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act which led to the establishment of the Office of Economic Opportunity.  This made it easier for Lyndon Johnson to secure federal funding for many of his social welfare projects (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).

While it may seem that Lyndon Johnson did a lot of political maneuvering to assert his political will upon the United States Congress, a lot this also has to be attributed to the fact that the Democratic Party was largely dominant during this period.  The Political allegiances that existed during this time made it easier for Lyndon Johnson to impose his will and allowed for the passage of many of his programs (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  There is only one clear expansion of power that can be attributed to Lyndon Johnson and that would be the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which unquestionably increased the powers of the President of the United States of America as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Jacobs and Shapiro 1999).  The other acts that Lyndon Johnson did were mere political maneuvers by a seasoned and skilled politician: An act that is not totally uncommon in the present day’s political scene.

The question therefore of whether of or not former President Lyndon Johnson did in fact arm-twist many members of Congress into supporting his programs cannot be categorically answered with a simple yes or no.  There is a need to examine the political scenarios during that time and the general sentiment of the American Public.  While Lyndon Johnson may have taken advantage of the Democratic Support that was in his favor, he cannot be truly faulted for that act as many in this day and age have done the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

Caro, Robert A. (2002). Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. New York: Knopf, 122. ISBN 0-394-52836-0.

Dallek, Robert (1998). Flawed Giant: Lyndon B. Johnson and his Times, 1961–1973. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 754. ISBN 0–19-505465-2

Evans and Novak (1966), pp. 451–456; Taylor Branch. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963–65, pp. 444–470

Hove, Duane T. (2003). American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Burd Street Press. ISBN 1-57249-070

Jacobs, Lawrence and Shapiro, Robert (1999). “Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam, and Public Opinion: Rethinking Realist Theory of Leadership.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 29#3 (1999), p. 592

Martin, Patricia and Weaver, David (2005). “Social Security: A Program and Policy History,” Social Security Bulletin, volume 66, no. 1 (2005)