John F Kennedy Election/Presidency

By Yash Reddy and Asa Robicheaux

Election Year (1960)

  1. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union

  2. NASA had recently selected its first astronauts, known as the “Mercury Seven”

  3. Eisenhower signed Antarctic Treaty of 1959

    1. Alaska is set aside as a scientific reserve, banned all military activity in the continent

      1. First arms control agreement in the Cold War

  4. Election dominated by Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union

      1. Leaders warned the citizens that the US was falling behind communist nations in regards to science and technology.

      2. “Space Race” escalates

    1. Soviets shoot down an American spy plane and captured its pilot

      1. Resulted in the collapse of a paramount meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier

    2. In Cuba, the regime of Fidel Castro became closely allied with the Soviet Union

  5. Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation

    1. Any attack against the US or Japan within Japanese territory would be dangerous to the countries’ own safety and peace

  6. Civil Rights Act of 1960

    1. Established federal inspection of voter registration polls

    2. Implemented penalties for anyone who obstructed someone else's attempt to register to vote

Issues Facing The Nation

Cold War Tensions/ Foreign Affairs

    1. Soviet Tensions

      1. The US had fallen behind the Soviet Union in terms of military, economy, and technology.

      2. Many believed war with Soviet Union was inevitable

    2. Foreign relations became hot topic as face of the US was diminishing worldwide

    3. The spread of Communism into the west

      1. Fidel Castro and Cuba built close relation with Soviet Union

      2. US leaders feared of Communist subversion in the western hemisphere

    4. Spread of Communism in other parts of Asia also became a debated issue

      1. Kennedy and Nixon debated over whether military force should be implemented in Quemoy and Matsu (islands off Chinese Coast) to prevent them from falling under Communist control

    5. Missile Gap Issues

      1. Soviet Union obtained a major advantage in the number of nuclear missiles

Civil Rights

  1. Kennedy called for the release of Martin Luther King Jr. from Jail

    1. As a result, King’s father endorsed him

      1. Increased support from black community

    2. Nixon did not get involved in incident

    3. Kennedy elaborated on Civil Rights, but Nixon was on the quiet side when the topic was brought up

Economic Issues

  1. Economy during Eisenhower’s presidency was highly prosperous

  2. Candidates (mainly Kennedy) attempt to make economic prosperity available to more people (especially minorities)

    1. Kennedy gained even more support from the African American community, along with other foreigners

Religious Issues

  1. Kennedy would be the first Roman Catholic president, which sparked controversy

  2. Many questioned Kennedy’s ability to place national interests above those of the Pope

Perception of Kennedy

Why did people vote for Kennedy?

    1. Kennedy stressed character, and was assisted by people in the press who discussed his heroism in World War II

      1. Courage, trust, and character became a major aspect of his campaign

        1. Significance of character appealed to a large portion of the population

    2. Kennedy broadened his base by naming Lyndon B Johnson as his Vice President

      1. Johnson was older and much more experienced than him

        1. Reduced criticism of his Kennedy’s inexperience

      2. Johnson was a Senator from Texas

        1. As a result, his support in the South increased

    3. Kennedy elaborately discussed Civil Rights

      1. Called for the release of Martin Luther King Jr.

        1. King’s father endorsed Kennedy

      2. Kennedy gained major support from the African American community

      3. Nixon did not deeply attempt to appeal to the African American population

    4. Appearance

      1. During the presidential debates, Kennedy always seemed well rested and healthy, while Nixon looked dreary

        1. Many people who saw the debates on live TV believed Kennedy won, as he appeared as the more confident candidate

    5. Use of Television

      1. Kennedy used television effectively in an attempt to reach as much of the population as possible

Did the election reflect the will of "The People"?

The election of John F Kennedy reflected the will of the people in terms of economy, societal values, and civil rights. The economy during Presdient Eisenhower's term flourished, and Kennedy vowed to maintain this success by making employment available to a wider variety of people. Kennedy atempted to make employment available for women, African Americans, and other foreigners. In addition, Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act which increased wages for women. All in all, Kennedy reflected the will of women, African Americans, and many young Americans. Moreover, Kennedy's priority of character reflected the will of many working class men across the nation.

Controversy and Significance

First Roman Catholic President

  1. Many individuals feared that Kennedy would not be able to place national interest over those of the Pope

    1. The Roman Catholic system demanded that in a conflict between church and state, church must prevail

  2. This religious issue became so significant that Kennedy delivered a speech about it

    1. Kennedy exclaimed, “"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President—should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”

    2. "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic.”

Vote Fraud

It was widely believed that Kennedy gained a major advantage from vote fraud in Texas, where Lyndon B Johnson was Senator.

Kennedy-Nixon Debates were the First Presidential Debates

  1. Drew enormous publicity as they were also the first to be on national television.

  2. In monumental first debate, Nixon had just arrived from the hospital and appeared to be very sick.

    1. Kennedy on the other hand was well rested and prepared.

  3. Kennedy’s confident appearance compared to the dreary appearance of Nixon proved to be a factor in determining the winner of the debate

    1. People who watched on television believed that Kennedy won the debate

    2. Most people who listened to the debate on radio believed that Nixon won the debate

    3. The viewer/listener disagreement may have been to sample bias, as those without a TV were a skewed portion of the population

  4. In the future, the presidential debates would have major effects on the public opinion of the candidates

Other Significant Facts

  1. The 1960 election was the first in which the winner held more electoral votes but the second place candidate carried more states

  2. John F. Kennedy is the youngest ever elected president at the age of 43

Kennedy's Accomplishments

Prevented Large Scale Nuclear War

    1. Soviet Union and Cuba reached a private agreement to place nuclear missiles in Cuba in an attempt to prevent future American invasion.

    2. Kennedy considered an airstrike to destroy these nuclear weapons, but that would initiate a nuclear war

    3. Kennedy’s confidence, leadership, and negotiation skills led to a peaceful resolution instead of a worldwide war.

Established the Peace Corps

  1. Sends young Americans to various countries in order to promote world peace and friendship

  2. Encourage the necessity of public service
  3. Inspired young Americans to stay loyal to the true American identity

Set The Goal To Reach The Moon

    1. Proclaimed that he wanted to land a man on the moon and return him safely back to Earth

    2. Encouraged the spread of this idea

    3. Asked Congress for $7 billion to $9 billion dollars to fund the program
    4. Attempted to edge ahead of the Soviet Union in the Space Race

Attempts to Promote Equality and Justice

  1. Signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963

    1. Although it was not completely successful, it significantly increased the wages for women.

  2. Civil Rights Achievements

    1. Supported civil rights and racial integration

    2. Took strong action to ensure that all employees are treated equally no matter race, color, or national origin (Executive Order 10925)

    3. Banned segregation in federally funded housing (Executive Order 11063)

Connection To Current Election

  1. Foreign Affairs

    1. Kennedy attempted to improve relations with the Soviet Union in order to prevent a worldwide nuclear war

      1. Clinton and Trump both attempt alleviate tensions with various regions, including those comprised of ISIS members in order to prevent the pervasiveness of terrorism

      2. Both candidates have different ways of dealing with America’s relation to Russia

  2. Rigged/Vote Fraud

    1. Nixon lost in an extremely close election and believed Kennedy’s allies had performed a form of systematic fraud

      1. Donald Trump believes that Clinton and her allies are rigging the election in her favor