Dr. Steve Gillon—University of Oklahoma
Dean of Honors at University of Oklahoma
Ph D – Brown University
Dr. Gillon’s proposed book title, “That’s Not What We Meant to Do.”
I. First Session: “America in the 1960s.”
A. Gillon contends that during the decade of the 1960s Congress passed legislation to accomplish a goal or action, but in implementation it had very different effects than intended.
1. Reformers had goals to achieve, and when achieved—through legislation—the consequences were much different than intended.
2. For example, the American welfare state (such as the war on poverty or Great Society) actually increased poverty. Historians attacked bureaucrats rather than the poor.
3. Legislation of the welfare state encouraged people to remain poor.
B. Why does legislation have unintended consequences?
1. It is a natural part of daily life.
2. Scientific discovery.
3. Unintended consequences often occur.
4. It is typical that in politics and government, it is the “ambitious state power” that attempts to do too much. But Gillon contends that the model does not fit the United States. Rather, the central paradox of America is its contradictory views of the correct roles and powers of the national government. The American Paradox:
a. America was born out of a resentment and fear of the central or national government—Great Britain. The British colonists believed the national government exercised excessive power, and as a result they rebelled. America was born with the fear of an oppressive, controlling central government.
b. By the 20th Century, Americans came to view their national government as a source of protection against industrialization and a source of improvement or change. This is inconsistent with America’s demands the central government be controlled and limited.
c. Ronald Reagan is a good example of this American paradox.
Reagan ran an anti-big government, but at the same time he significantly expanded the scope and power of the federal government.
Americans place tremendous demands on the national government to solve our problems, but do not desire to give it the power necessary to do so.
Americans often demand—and politicians often promise—to expand government services and solutions while at the same time cutting taxes.
Americans have come to expect government solutions to problems and challenges without recognizing the legitimacy of the American welfare state or the necessary powers to administer such a government.
C. A framework for viewing and understanding 20th Century American history.
1. There was/is tremendous tension between Americans’ traditional faith in individualism, self-control, and living with self-sufficiency in contrast to the growth of the federal government and legislation establishing the welfare state.
2. The four major bursts of growth of national powers and the size of the federal government:
a. Theodore Roosevelt and the “Square Deal”—federal government regulation of business.
b. Woodrow Wilson and the “New Freedom”—further government regulation and World War I controls.
c. Franklin Roosevelt and the “New Deal”—establishment of agencies to assist Americans’ fight the effects of the Great Depression and passage of the Social Security Act.
d. Lyndon Johnson and the “Great Society”—Medicare, affirmative action, and other programs.
3. Unintended consequences occurred as a result of our fears of a strong national government versus our needs and demands to respond to the circumstances of an industrialized and international economy.
4. Since the 1960s Americans have discovered that
a. Promises made are not always promises kept.
b. Bureaucracies often interpret legislation passed by Congress differently than what was intended.
5. The federal government grew in a haphazard manner during the 20th Century. Presidents and Congress responded to changing circumstances and public demands as they occurred.
6. There has not been a public or serious debate over the past 40 years about the demands for expansion of the federal government and its powers in regards to individual freedom, the economy, and American society.
7. There is a dynamic struggle between two competing forces in the United States:
Increased Traditional fear
Federal of a powerful
Power central government
8. Americans do not accept the legitimacy of a powerful central government, but they expect and accept the benefits of the welfare state.
D. Case studies of “unintended consequences” of the 1960s.
1. The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
a. Americans saw the television images of Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama, and it upset many people.
b. The decade of the 1960s is when the Democratic Party became associated with the Civil Rights movement with JFK and LBJ.
c. In a televised speech of June 11, 1963, President Kennedy gave his support to the Civil Rights movement, and as a result lost the support of the Southern segregationists and began the dissolution of the “Solid South.”
d. The main purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—as proposed by Kennedy—was to end any discrimination in public accommodations in the U.S.
e. A Southern representative added Section VII to the Civil Rights Act with the intention to kill the bill; he added to the act the section that prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, or gender. But the bill passed despite Southern intentions.
f. In the Senate debate revolved around the issue of whether “racial quotas” would be established or not. Supporters of the bill in Congress said the Civil Rights Act was not nor never would establish racial quotas.
Senator Everett Dirkson added amendments to the act to protect against racial quotas 1) Evidence of racial discrimination must be based on intention to discriminate (and is difficult to prove), and 2) You cannot use percentages to prove discrimination occurs in an area.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the most important pieces of social legislation in American history.
g. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and the OFCC (Office of Federal Contract Compliance) were federal agencies to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Most members of Congress believed both agencies would be “paper tigers.”
h. Lawyers of the EEOC argued the language of the legislation was too restrictive, so they used percentages to show discrimination occurred and ignored the necessity of “intent” to discriminate. Agency lawyers ignored the language and intentions of Congress in the Civil Rights Act.
i. Agency lawyers argued and justified their actions by stating Congress did not understand the complexities of the employment situation. The EEOC knowingly ignored the intention and goals of Congress, and established policies and procedures to meet their own goals.
j. President Nixon’s administration ruled businesses must have the same percentage of racial minorities as lived in the locality. The OFCC would not award federal government contracts to businesses that did not meet the correct percentages or quotas.
k. In the year 1971 the Supreme Court in the case of Briggs v. Duke Power Company ruled the OFCC could refuse contracts to businesses on the basis of minority percentages despite the fact it contradicted the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
l. In the year 1978 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bakkie v. California that colleges could favor minority students in admissions. It decided the language of the Civil Rights Act did not supersede social needs. Justice Rhrenquist argued the court had no right to tell Congress what it meant in legislation.
m. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an excellent example of legislative intentions and actions resulting in vastly different ways than anticipated—affirmative action.
n. Nixon supported affirmative action to continue the decline of the “Solid South” of the Democrats and Kennedy’s support for the Civil Rights movement.
o. Contradiction of American ideals:
p. America is tied up in ideas.
“Continuation of unintended consequences and the 1970s”
A. More examples of unintended consequences of the 1960s.
1. AFDC was a provision of the Social Security Act of 1935 that provided widowed mothers with children at home a small pension to stay at home and care for children (aide for dependent children). It was intended specifically for widows, and based on the ideal women were to remain at home and care for young children.
a. When the act was passed, no one foresaw the changes that occurred in America by 1975.
Break-up of the nuclear family through divorce or unmarried mothers.
The women’s movement moved many more women into the work force, and they demanded equal opportunities.
b. Neither FDR nor Congress anticipated the growth of AFDC to the point where by the year 1980 it was the foundation of America’s welfare state.
c. The “legal right” to welfare became entrenched in the U.S. as a result of LBJ’s “Great Society.”
Welfare roles skyrocketed between 1965 and 1994.
Many more people were eligible for welfare because the nuclear family dissipated.
d. Roosevelt viewed his social programs as a “hand up” not a “hand out,” but AFDC had many unintended consequences.
2. Institutionalization of the mentally ill.
a. Congress passed the Community Health Act of 1963 as a program that provided for community health programs on a small, community center scale, rather than keeping the insane in large mental hospitals.
b. What went wrong with this well-intentioned act?
Belief—among professional experts—that serious mental illness was environmentally caused rather than biological or chemical; they were wrong.
The act was intended for the mildly not severely ill, but local facilities attempted to treat all cases.
There was little cooperation between the large mental hospitals and the community centers.
Congress and the states never adequately funded the program—2,000 community facilities were needed but only 700 funded and operational.
The act was well intentioned, but the people released because facilities did not exist, they “fell through the cracks,” or funds were unavailable, the individuals released in 1964, 65, 66, and 67 often became the “homeless” or “street people” of the 1980s.
It became increasingly more difficult to institutionalize the mentally ill.
3. The Immigration Act of 1965.
a. Changed the quota system of 1921 and 1924 that allowed 2% of the nationalities of the 1890 census to immigrate to the U.S. (It was an effort to reduce the numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.)
b. The Immigration Act of 1965 attempted to end discrimination, and it established the principle of “family reunification.”
People with relatives in foreign countries have priority in allowing them to immigrate to reunite the family.
Before 1965: 90% of all immigrants came from Europe.
After 1965: 90% of all immigrants came from Latin America and Asia.
c. Many Asians immigrated to the U.S. with the intention of establishing residency and then bringing extended families over.
4. Campaign Act of 1974.
a. Passed to decrease the power and influence of Political Action Committees or PACs.
b. It led to the use of “soft money” donated to strengthen local parties. As long as the Supreme Court rules it is a freedom of speech right to give money to politicians and parties, then campaign finance reform will not succeed.
B. America in the decade of the 1970s.
1. There are two major characters or symbols of the 1970s.
a. Richard Nixon.
b. John Travolta.
2. The decade of the 1970s was the seedbed of the rise of American conservatism.
a. During the 1970s both major parties attempted to appeal to the middle-class.
b. The decade led to a divergence with the Democratic Party becoming more “liberal” or “left wing,” and the Republican Party becoming more “conservative” or “right wing.”
c. The decade of the 1970s is comparable to that of the 1920s in that they helped define American society and led to political change. America became much more conservative as a result of events and changes of the 1970s.
3. Richard Nixon defined and established politics from his term until today.
a. Nixon redefined the political language of America.
He moved America from Franklin Roosevelt’s message of economic well being to Americans’ greater concern with cultural well being.
Before Nixon, the Democratic Party represented itself as representing the workingman and the Republicans as the party of Wall Street. After Nixon, the Democratic Party represented the elites’ arrogance and the minorities’ whining, and the Republicans represented the “silent majority.”
Democrats = economic populism
Republicans = cultural populism
The Democratic Party became identified with the cultural elite and minority [spoiled college students and protesters] arrogance. Democrats symbolized burning cities, lawlessness, student protests, and the intellectual elite.
The Republican Party of the “silent majority” or hard working, law abiding, people of traditional American values.
Nixon was the architect of the “Republican majority.”
b. Nixon attempted to win over the George Wallace voters and win the middle-class.
4. How Nixon won over the middle-class and portrayed Democrats as the party out of touch with the majority of Americans:
a. After the TET Offensive of early 1968 most Americans came to oppose the Vietnam War.
b. By the year 1969—for the first time during the war—54% of American considered themselves “doves.”
c. In the election of 1968 Nixon ran on the promise he had a plan to get America out of Vietnam with honor.
d. November 1969 after he was inaugurated and in office for 9 months, Nixon announced his plan of “Vietnamiztion.”
Turn the war over to the people and army of South Vietnam.
Nixon withdrew American troops while he increased bombing of North Vietnam.
e. In addition to removing the U.S. from the “quagmire” of Vietnam, Nixon recognized Americans hated the anti-war demonstrators even more than the war itself. Nixon tapped into that hatred and used it for political purposes.
Great anger at those burning draft cards and the flag.
Protesters’ anti-American sentiments.
f. Nixon took American anger and directed it against the anti-war movement/protesters.
Nixon used the POW’s and MIA’s issue as justification for not ending the war sooner.
g. Nixon also used the race issue of mandatory busing, and although he publicly gave opposition, his Philadelphia Plan supported the court ruling.
Nixon used the busing of students for desegregation as an issue to gain Republican support of suburbanites.
When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he turned to an aide and stated, “There goes the [solid] South,” and he was correct.
5. Richard Nixon neutralized the Democratic Party’s traditional issues about economics, and he moved the Republican Party towards the right of “entitlement programs.”
a. The economic problem of the 1970s—“stagflation”—created a new economy and its challenges.
The economy became stagnant for the first significant time since the Second World War.
At the same time America suffered from inflation—quickly rising prices and wages—during a period of little growth of the economy. Economists before this time believed it impossible to have a slow economy and inflation at the same time
Nixon imposed wage and price controls as an intervention in the economy.
Nixon’s wage and price controls—government regulation—took the economic issue away from George McGovern in the 1972 election.
6. Richard Nixon redefined political language and issues during the years 1968 and 1972. He identified in American minds the Republican Party with the middle-class and its values: hard work and patriotism. He identified the Democratic Party as the one of intellectuals (people in their “ivory towers”), rioting students, Vietnam, and lawlessness.
7. Gillon contends Watergate actually harmed the Democratic Party much more than the Republicans.
a. It brought the Democratic Party into power—1976 with the election of Jimmy Carter—when it was unprepared to govern.
b. It brought the Democratic Party into power during the terrible economic problems of stagflation, and Americans associated the party with “hard times.”
c. It brought the Democratic Party into power when Americans experienced a backlash against the federal government, expanding powers, and seeming ineptitude.
C. Cultural changes that occurred during the decade of the 1970s or John Travolta.
1. Political overview of 1970s and 80s:
a. Jimmy Carter ran as an “outsider” in 1976 and won the issues and language of Richard Nixon.
b. Ronald Reagan ran using anti-government rhetoric, fiscal responsibility—balance the budget, and scale back the government.
c. George Bush painted his Democratic opponent of 1988—Michael Dukakis—as a soft, liberal, criminal coddling, elitist.
4. The hippies of 1966-1976 and yippies of 1976-1988 won the cultural debate that took place during those decades.
a. Emphasis on self-fulfillment.
b. Moved America from more formal to more informal clothing styles.
c. The 1970s brought America its first talk show with “Donahue” and the idea to “get in touch with yourself.”
d. Drugs and drug use became more widespread and accepted.
e. Use of transcendental mediation and yoga for self realization.
f. “Sexual liberation.”
Americans accepted Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior because of reduced sexual mores and the more familiarity with sex through movies and magazines that began during the 1970s.
g. Divorce became much more acceptable
h. The women’s movement made working women, pre-marital sex, and women’s rights acceptable and tended to undermine the traditional American concept of the family and “family values.”
Gillon stated that there is much talk about “family values,” but it is simply rhetoric with little actual change in policy or actions.
i. The culture turned to a greater focus on personal liberation and self-fulfillment with less emphasis on responsibility and hard work.
j. The anti-war demonstrators actually lost, but the counter-culture won.
A Framework for understanding America after the Second World War.
A. Gillon presented two ways of looking at post-war America:
1. View from study and analysis of the “baby boom generation.”
2. Focus on the “vital center.”
B. Framework of the “vital center,” 1946-1968.
1. During post-war years, Americans pursued the “vital center” or a political consensus that both political parties and their politicians talked about and pursued those ideals.
2. The vital center had three major ideas:
a. Sustained economic growth will solve America’s social problems. The federal government may use policies and intervention to keep the economy growing and expanding.
Fiscal policy became social policy.
World War II proved capitalism worked and erased doubts started during the Great Depression.
JFK’s statement, “a rising tide lifts all boats.
b. American society was basically sound and there was little need for reform. Belief in pluralism and that society works best in a neutral environment. The federal government was to encourage and allow competing groups of Americans to compete on an equal basis with fairness and equality.
c. Concerning foreign affairs after World War II, American policy was built on anti-communism, and the lessons learned from the 1930s.
Do not appease aggressor nations and repeat the failure of Munich.
Contain the spread of communism or avoid appeasement.
Do not appear weak to Russia.
Harry Truman established the basic policy with the “Truman Doctrine” and Marshall Plan—give nations economic aid, and create a military shield with NATO.
The philosophy and practices were successful in Europe, but typically not in other areas of the world.
3. All presidents, most members of Congress, and bureaucrats during the years 1948 through 1968 attempted to adhere to the concepts of the “vital center.”
4. The last half of the 1960s began to challenge the assumptions of the vital center.
a. 20% of all Americans continued to live in poverty despite the fact the decades of the 1940s and 50s experienced great economic growth.
b. During the early 1970s American “stagflation” demonstrated the “managed American economy” had flaws with inflation and unemployment.
c. Americans learned the “lessons of Munich” did not hold true in Vietnam.
The war in Vietnam failed to stop or contain communism.
Containment and Cold War policy failed in Southeast Asia.
The fight against communism was much more complex than anticipated.
d. Americans’ faith in pluralism was unfounded.
Exposed the fallacy that African-Americans could participate in the American process if the government just provided a “neutral environment.” Untrue.
It was a fallacy—one that Martin Luther King, Jr. believed—if you gave African-Americans their full legal rights the racial problems of the U.S. would end.
Gaining basic rights did not give African-Americans a level playing field.
The race riots showed the gap between the ideals of America in contrast to reality. The riots of 1965-1969 occurred after legal rights were procured.
The youth movement or counter-culture also undermined America’s faith in pluralism.
5. For the past 30 years Americans and their leaders strove and worked for a consensus such as the vital center, but failed.
C. General observations.
1. Lyndon Johnson knew when he escalated the War in Vietnam, the steps he took would deeply involve the U.S. military and diplomacy in the war. His options were clearly laid out; nevertheless, he took his steps despite the fact much of the evidence showed the war would fail.
a. Johnson, Robert McNamara (sec. of defense), and Dean Rusk (sec. of state) made the decisions about Vietnam.
b. Johnson knowingly with held reality concerning Vietnam from the American people; he lied.
c. The information that chances of victory and success in Vietnam were about 30% were ignored because they were contrary to the “lessons of Munich,” adherence to the policy of containment, and the arrogance of Lyndon Johnson.
2. Gillon stated the “Vietnam mentality” has become an ax for those who desire to chop down their enemies.
3. There do not seem to be any major issues at this time that could again establish a political “vital center.”
a. Need to gain the majority of the moderate, white, middle-class suburbanites who consider themselves political independents.
b. Necessity of candidates to gain support of “movable voters,” or those who vote for candidates or issues rather than parties.
c. Most major issues today are primarily cultural.
d. Typically, those who go to church are Republicans.
D. Post-war America as viewed from the framework of the “Baby Boom
1. What makes the baby-boomers unique is the size or numbers of the generation.
2. You can understand much about modern America by understanding the Boomer Generation (children born between 1946 and 1963).
a. Focus on families.
b. Focus on television.
c. Focus on parents and parenting.
d. Focus on children and youth.
3. In the year 1963 the front edge of the Boomers entered college, and then with the War in Vietnam a fear of the draft began.
a. The Boomers grew up during a period of great economic prosperity, and as a result their views are much different from their parents’ generation.
b. The generation grew up much more concerned about the quality of life, unlike their parents.
c. It was the first “television generation,” that is, one molded and fed by television advertising. Many of their expectations came from television advertising. Advertisers analyzed and fed their desires and promoted them as necessities.
4. The act of interpreting history is as important as understanding the events. There is no absolute historical truth.
5. Dr. Gillon proposed there are three basic needs of education in history for improvement:
a. Critical and analytical thinking.
b. Writing and expository composition.
c. Oral presentation and the ability to communicate through speaking.
6. Summary of major conclusions about the Baby Boom Generation:
a. During the 1970s the boomers entered the job market and focused on starting families.
b. 1980s was a period for the boomers to focus on making money, consumerism, and raising children.
c. During the 1990s the boomers reached middle age and became more concerned with medical care, retirement issues, and Social Security.
E. Dr. Gillon is writing a book about contemporary America by following the Baby Boom Generation.
a. Part of his research is to examine magazine advertising.
b. Finds the boomers appear self-indulgent, narcissistic, and [unfortunately] symbolized by Bill Clinton.
c. Baby boomers typically have been catered to, and demand their immediate gratification without any sacrifice.
Summer History Institute
Dr. Steve Gillon
SMGillon @ AOL.COM
Dean at OU and Historian in Residence of History Channel
PhD from Brown University
Thursday, August 3, 2000
I. Truman, the Liberals, and the “vital center” (first morning session).
A. During the years 1945 to 1948 there was a redefinition of liberalism in America.
1. After the Second World War there was a debate among liberals to create a vision of post-war America.
a. The liberals believed America would return to New Deal social/economic legislation.
b. But America had changed—the New Dealers had left government employment, and the bureaucracy was filled with businessmen.
c. Civil rights became a major issue in America, and it split the Democratic Party.
d. Liberals did not like Truman, and were disappointed in their expectation Roosevelt would lead them in post-war years.
e. Foreign affairs pushed aside domestic affairs.
f. Some liberals believed they could work with the communists, but the start of the Cold War created a real problem.
2. Liberals split into two groups.
a. Henry Wallace led traditional liberals who did not turn anti-communist and appeared to most Americas as radicals.
b. The Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) organized liberals who were anti-communist and supported Truman’s Cold War policies.
B. The Election of 1948.
1. This was a pivotal election according to Gillon, and he broke down Truman and Clark Clifford’s strategy as follows:
a. Support liberal domestic policies—the New Deal.
b. Take a hard line towards the communists.
c. Support civil rights, even though it divided the Democratic Party in the South.
2. Race became a major issue during the election with Truman’s desegregation of the armed services and government employment.
a. Strom Thurmond led the “Dixiecrats” in the election of 1948.
3. How Truman won.
a. He attacked the “do-nothing Congress,” and many Americans desired to move forward with government.
b. He attempted to appeal to the traditional Democrats and win back voters from Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace.
4. With Truman’s victory, the redefinition of liberalism in America occurred, and redirected the concepts from the New Deal.
a. From the year 1948 until 1968 liberalism came to depend on the “vital center,” as defined below:
The belief that economic growth will solve all social problems. The government was to use policies and intervention to keep the economy expanding and growing. Fiscal policy became social policy.
Belief in pluralism and work to be realistic; hence, government works best with a neutral environment. Government was to allow various competing groups to compete in fairness and equality.
American policy was built on anti-communism, and the lesson learned from the 1930s, that you couldn’t appease aggressor nations. Do not appease or appear weak to Russia.
b. The 3 principles above guided all presidents from 1948 to 1968.
c. But there were major flaws to the principles of the “vital center.”
Economic prosperity did not solve social problems and it did not end poverty.
The belief in pluralism discounted American racism. The right to vote, an end to segregation, and the increase of minority economic potential did not end racial prejudice.
The Vietnam War exposed the flaws of America’s unbending opposition to communism. The policy worked in Europe but failed in Southeast Asia.
1. The story of the “rise and fall of the vital center” is a good framework for teaching the period of 1948 to 1968.
2. Every generation learns from its own historical experience.
a. The Cold War leaders learned from the Great Depression and World War II—they viewed “bread and butter” issues as most significant.
b. The Baby Boomer Generation emphasized “quality of life” issues, but it did not have any “searing” or pivotal events such as the Great Depression and WWII to bring a general consensus to the generation.
c. Generation X has yet to assume leadership and it also lacks any searing events to create consensus.
d. There has been some muting of ideological differences over the past 20 years.
II. Rethinking JFK (second morning session).
A. Americans’ association with Kennedy is image.
1. The first biographies and histories about Kennedy after his assassination were written by aides or friends. They border on hero worship.
2. Kennedy was the first “TV president.”
3. Something larger than life about JFK. There is always the statement, “If only he had lived.” No Vietnam, etc.
4. In the 1970s historians and biographers began to chip away at Kennedy’s image.
a. Research revealed Kennedy really did not deserve credit for writing the book While England Slept or the Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage. He was not the intellectual or scholar he or the media presented.
b. Kennedy was not the healthy, vigorous man he and the media presented. He was addicted to painkillers and had Addison’s disease.
c. Kennedy’s sex life was exposed. His affairs with Judith Exner (who had ties with the mafia) and with Marilyn Monroe became public. It was also revealed J. Edgar Hoover warned Kennedy to end both affairs, and the question of Hoover’s blackmail of the president has been proposed.
He had numerous affairs throughout his life and during his marriage.
d. Was there media manipulation of Kennedy’s personal vs. public persona? See The Dark Side of Camelot.
e. Kennedy was timid about civil rights—he was more image than substance.
f. Critics say Kennedy supported the assassination of Vietnam’s leader, Diem, and signaled the country’s commitment to a war.
B. How do we reconcile the two vivid contrasts of John F. Kennedy?
1. Recognize the fallacy that Kennedy is somehow the key or center to understanding modern America.
2. Kennedy, as any president, had restraints; among those he dealt with are the following:
a. He had no mandate in the 1960 election victory. It was a very narrow margin of victory.
b. Congressional committee chairmen were mainly from the conservative South and did little to assist his proposals.
c. The Democratic Party was divided because the South still battled over civil rights and segregation.
d. He was a president confined by circumstances.
e. The American public was divided over issues.
3. The critics and defenders of Kennedy are wrong in their views because he was not a shaper of modern America. But by the summer of 1963 JFK did undertake to redefine himself.
a. In the early 1960s it was politically impossible for America to allow Vietnam to fall.
b. [Operation Mongoose was Kennedy’s plan to assassinate Fidel Castro, and the plan was not revealed until the 1970s.]
C. Why is the public so fascinated by Kennedy when his accomplishments were so modest? Why do so many Americans continue to rank him among America’s greatest presidents?
2. He captured America’s longing for greatness.
3. His untimely death seemed to be a dividing line between safer more simple times and the troubled times that followed his death.
D. Gillon believes there was no conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. His only question is, why did Oswald kill JFK? See Gerald Possner, Case Closed.
III. Richard Nixon and the New Majority (afternoon session)
A. By the election of 1968 it was clear the “vital center” was unraveled and America was entering and new political era.
B. Nixon absorbed from George Wallace—legitimizing his moderate ideas—the messages of the Alabama governor, while discarding his racial views. Nixon’s messages:
1. Middle Americans were being ignored and their values were being degraded, or the loss of middle class values. Many felt their values were under attack from the liberals, counterculture, etc.
2. Nixon gave voice of Middle America towards the protesters, the discontented, and the quagmire in Vietnam—frustrated, white, middle class voters.
3. Nixon blamed the Democrats for the nation’s ills; he provided a reason for the problems.
4. In 1968 there was a significant shift in political rhetoric.
5. The Democratic Party was based on concern for economic issues. It was the party concerned with the economic welfare of the American people, but the issues changed in 1968.
6. By 1968 the issues were social disorder, crime, lack of patriotism, and the declension of the nation. Nixon tapped into the discontent of Middle America. The Republican Party became the party of “Main Street America.”
C. The Republicans used cultural issues in 1968 to defeat the Democrats.
1. “Cultural populism” became Nixon’s theme, and it is defined in his “Silent Majority Speech” of November 1969.
a. Gillon defined populism: “is a language of American politics that appeals to Americans who view themselves as outsiders, it vilifies their opponents, and views politics in terms of right and wrong.”
2. Even though Americans did not support the Vietnam War by 1969, they were more opposed to the anti-war demonstrators and protesters.
3. Nixon unleashed Vice-president Spiro Agnew on the media and protesters, and many Americans applauded that.
4. Nixon’s rhetoric did not square with his actions.
a. Nixon became the father of racial quotas when he implemented the “Philadelphia Plan.”
b. He supported mandated court-ordered bussing to ensure racial mixing.
D. The election of 1972.
1. The Democrats nominated George McGovern, who tried to appeal to the youth and intellectuals—a futile strategy.
2. Nixon appealed to the middle class, and created a Republican majority.
3. Dr. Gillon stated the two most important political leaders of America of the 20th Century were Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
E. Dr. Gillon’s post war elections that redefined American issues and views:
1. 1936—FDR and Alf Landon.
2. 1948—Truman and Thomas E. Dewey.
3. 1968—Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.
4. 1988—George Bush and Michael Dukakis.
F. The language of populism appeals to Americans, but they dislike their policies.
1. A key to understanding 20th Century America is that Americans have come to accept the “welfare state” without accepting its legitimacy. There is a basic contradiction in American policy in contrast to supposed principles.
2. From the year 1976 to today American politics is marked as an age of cynicism, distrust, and disillusionment.
3. Religion has become much more important as a determinant of political affiliation over the past 20 years.
AP U.S. History - SEMINAR NOTES