The Legislative President: Lyndon Johnson

The key to success of this agenda was not the popularity of liberalism or the power of Johnson, but specific changes that occurred between the summer of 1964 and the November elections. Unlike Kennedy, Johnson was willing to take the risks necessary to get legislation through the Congress; he was intent on finishing Franklin Roosevelt’s revolution.

Lecture Description

In this lecture, Zelizer examines President Lyndon Johnson’s flurry of legislative achievements during his first four years in office which included the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the War on Poverty program. Zelizer delves into the battles within Congress and the Johnson administration as they grappled with reforming education, healthcare, the immigration system and addressing urban problems, the environment, racial injustice, rural poverty, and crime control. He examines the fractious, bitter tensions in the country’s larger political climate between labor unions, religious groups, civil rights activists, and the media. Zelizer shows how the work of grassroots activists and changes in the power structure of Congress enabled a liberal president to fulfill his grand legislative ambition – the creation of a second New Deal that would complete the work of Franklin Roosevelt, expand the welfare state, and extend the full rights of citizenship to African Americans and the poor.



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