Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society by John Andrew-a Review Essay

Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society Review In 1964, Lyndon Johnson set out to enact the “Great Society” program in order to expand upon and complete Roosevelt’s New Deal. This was a liberal program set up to ensure that the government staked more claim in aiding the citizens of the United States. This program touched on issues such as civil rights, education, and health care which were prevalent issues at the time, and that still have a major impact on society today.

John Andrew lays out in detail in the book Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society these issues, as well as others. He gives each major topic a chapter, and goes into great detail of how he feels Johnson set out to change the American political and social structure. The first chapter focuses on the battle for civil rights. Here, Andrew goes into detail of how the government saw racial inequality as a speed bump for the embitterment of the entire country. He outlines in this chapter details of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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He discussed how this was the first major instilment of racial laws since they were implemented during the Civil War era. This act gave African Americans the right to vote as well as banned the discrimination of public services for their use. This chapter also outlines the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which deals with housing rights, and affirmative action which plays a big role on guaranteeing rights regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity. Andrew did a good job explaining in this chapter that the civil rights movement was one of Johnson’s biggest accomplishments.

He explains how he felt that even though Johnson would lose support with his southern Democrats, he still felt that racial inequality was impeding forward progress and took away from what he felt Roosevelt was trying to do with the New Deal and the bettering of society. Andrew did a good job of explaining what white Americans felt; that this was not affecting them on a personal level, and were more concerned with how it impeded their opportunities to succeed. He goes into detail of how whites were disconcerted until acts that effected things like housing and employment affected them on a more personal level.

The second chapter entails Johnson’s efforts to attack poverty. This issue and civil rights Johnson felt went hand in hand, due to many African Americans being poverty stricken. He implemented the Economic Opportunity act in 1964 in order to provide jobs and other services to the poor. He set out to instill education, health care, and an overall better well being for the less fortunate. He also implemented the Community Action Program, which was set up at the local level through federal funding to combat poverty in many stricken areas. Andrew did good job of explaining the problems with the poverty act.

He goes into detail of how these programs were not set up in the correct ways and were terribly under funded. He talks of how in theory these are well placed programs, but in practice they fail. He also explains how whites feel this another way for the government to give African Americans too much opportunity, and it was very scrutinized by many white citizens. Though it was an overall failure, it did set up the Head Start program which helps people find jobs, and is still in effect to this day. The third chapter focuses on health care and education. Johnson felt that all people should be entitled to an education and healthcare.

He signed the Medicare and Medicaid programs in 1965 which provided funding for health care to people. These got overwhelming public support, most likely due to the fact that it affected everyone and everyone benefited. Johnson also felt the education was a big issue, and all children deserved the right to get an education. This was seen through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Here funding was granted to schools in order to provide the children with a better education. This also helped push civil rights, because southern states did not want to lose funding for not integrating.

Andrew is very critical of Johnson on this chapter. He feels that Johnson just blindly throws money at these acts with little plan and little efficiency. He did give him credit for instilling these programs, but at the whim of public support. Andrew felt that this is not the consensus of the people, and hurt Johnsons appeal due to his blind ambition of the betterment of every citizen. The fourth chapter deals with the Model Cities program. This was set up in 1965 to help rebuild the cities and update the infrastructure as well as social services for the citizens.

It gained opposition which led to urban violence and rioting which again led to lost support. Before the model cities program, Johnson sets up the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help combat issues such as rioting and poverty in the cities, and help the people in the cities who are affected by the job losses. Andrew described this act as an “under funded, unattainable program”(Andrew 137). He saw it like this, due to the under funding by the government of this program which led to it ultimate demise. Andrew is critical because there are still riots and violence in the cities, as well as a lot of poverty.

Andrew believed this stemmed from jobs going to the suburbs and leaving the cities, which is the underlying effect for the poverty and joblessness. Also it was a non-success due to federal and local mandates not working together to obtain the goal of improving the cities, which led to problems with the overall planning and carrying out of the program. The next two chapter tie up Johnson’s attempts to improve the quality of life for the people of the United States, as well as his legacy left after his presidency. The chapters go into detail of how he tried to implement laws on consumer rights legislation as well as crime control laws.

This can be seen through his regulations on the environment with the Water Quality Act of 1965, in which Johnson wanted to regulate the drinking water for people to make sure they were not getting contaminated water. This spills over into the Environmental Protection Agency in Nixon’s first term in 1970, which can be tied to Johnson’s reform legacy. The chapters sum up how Johnson had a profound affect on civil rights and the movement towards racial equality. He also played the part of setting up acts that are still in effect today such as Medicare/Medicaid and affirmative action laws.

Andrew, throughout the book, does a good job of looking at the big picture through a neutral mindset. The bibliographic essay at the end also helps to sum up the major points of the Great Society, which helps give an overall look at the era. Andrew is critical of Johnson, but in a way a historian would look back on a time period and be able to point out what was wrong and what could have been done differently. His writing style is very good at getting the points across, and the factual evidence supports many of his arguments. Where John Andrew lacks is explaining Johnson as a politician and a person.

He gives little background to Johnson and why he believes in these political ideologies of liberal reform like he does. Overall, I believe John Andrews gives us a good look into the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and the policies he put into affect during his presidency. Though he is critical, he has a good perspective and supports his thoughts with facts. All in all, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society by John Andrew is a good look into Lyndon Johnson and his liberal reform during his presidency. Bibliography Andrew, John. Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publisher, 1998. 224. Print.


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