Harry truman’s presidency and the cold war

“Vital Center”: 1948-1968

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“Vital Center”: 1948-1968

A. A political consensus developed in America, although bitter political wrangling continued to characterize America.

B. Three major components to the “vital center” common in both major parties:

1. Anti-communism; containment

2. Belief that economic growth can solve all of society’s problems

-- JFK: “rising tides lift all boats”

3. Political pluralism: belief that a variety of ideas can compete in America.

-- e.g., New Deal becomes accepted by both parties (although it does not expand)

C. The “vital center” elected Truman in 1948; Eisenhower in 1952 & 1956; Kennedy in 1960; and Johnson in 1964.

D. Flaws in the “vital center”

1. Vietnam War exposed problems with containment

2. As many as 25% of Americans lived in poverty; the economic boom did not “lift all boats”

3. Jim Crow demonstrated lack of true pluralism in America

E. “Vital Center” is shattered in 1968

1. Vietnam War pits hawks against doves; amplifies generation gap

2.White conservative backlash against liberalism— “Great Society” programs of Johnson, the civil rights movement, and apparent lack of law and order—contributes to Republican control of the White House for 20 of the next 24 years.

-- Popular TV show: All in the Family with Archie Bunker as a “loveable” bigot


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