John F Kennedy Election/Presidency
By Yash Reddy and Asa Robicheaux
Election Year (1960)
In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union
NASA had recently selected its first astronauts, known as the “Mercury Seven”
Eisenhower signed Antarctic Treaty of 1959
Alaska is set aside as a scientific reserve, banned all military activity in the continent
First arms control agreement in the Cold War
Election dominated by Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union
Leaders warned the citizens that the US was falling behind communist nations in regards to science and technology.
“Space Race” escalates
Soviets shoot down an American spy plane and captured its pilot
Resulted in the collapse of a paramount meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier
In Cuba, the regime of Fidel Castro became closely allied with the Soviet Union
Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation
Any attack against the US or Japan within Japanese territory would be dangerous to the countries’ own safety and peace
Civil Rights Act of 1960
Established federal inspection of voter registration polls
- Implemented penalties for anyone who obstructed someone else's attempt to register to vote
Issues Facing The Nation
Cold War Tensions/ Foreign Affairs
The US had fallen behind the Soviet Union in terms of military, economy, and technology.
Many believed war with Soviet Union was inevitable
Foreign relations became hot topic as face of the US was diminishing worldwide
The spread of Communism into the west
Fidel Castro and Cuba built close relation with Soviet Union
US leaders feared of Communist subversion in the western hemisphere
Spread of Communism in other parts of Asia also became a debated issue
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
Missile Gap Issues
- Soviet Union obtained a major advantage in the number of nuclear missiles
Perception of Kennedy
Why did people vote for Kennedy?
Kennedy stressed character, and was assisted by people in the press who discussed his heroism in World War II
Courage, trust, and character became a major aspect of his campaign
Significance of character appealed to a large portion of the population
Kennedy broadened his base by naming Lyndon B Johnson as his Vice President
Johnson was older and much more experienced than him
Reduced criticism of his Kennedy’s inexperience
Johnson was a Senator from Texas
As a result, his support in the South increased
Kennedy elaborately discussed Civil Rights
Called for the release of Martin Luther King Jr.
King’s father endorsed Kennedy
Kennedy gained major support from the African American community
Nixon did not deeply attempt to appeal to the African American population
During the presidential debates, Kennedy always seemed well rested and healthy, while Nixon looked dreary
Many people who saw the debates on live TV believed Kennedy won, as he appeared as the more confident candidate
Use of Television
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"?
Controversy and Significance
First Roman Catholic President
Many individuals feared that Kennedy would not be able to place national interest over those of the Pope
The Roman Catholic system demanded that in a conflict between church and state, church must prevail
This religious issue became so significant that Kennedy delivered a speech about it
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.”
- "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic.”
Kennedy-Nixon Debates were the First Presidential Debates
Drew enormous publicity as they were also the first to be on national television.
In monumental first debate, Nixon had just arrived from the hospital and appeared to be very sick.
Kennedy on the other hand was well rested and prepared.
Kennedy’s confident appearance compared to the dreary appearance of Nixon proved to be a factor in determining the winner of the debate
People who watched on television believed that Kennedy won the debate
Most people who listened to the debate on radio believed that Nixon won the debate
The viewer/listener disagreement may have been to sample bias, as those without a TV were a skewed portion of the population
- In the future, the presidential debates would have major effects on the public opinion of the candidates
Other Significant Facts
The 1960 election was the first in which the winner held more electoral votes but the second place candidate carried more states
- John F. Kennedy is the youngest ever elected president at the age of 43
Prevented Large Scale Nuclear War
Soviet Union and Cuba reached a private agreement to place nuclear missiles in Cuba in an attempt to prevent future American invasion.
Kennedy considered an airstrike to destroy these nuclear weapons, but that would initiate a nuclear war
- Kennedy’s confidence, leadership, and negotiation skills led to a peaceful resolution instead of a worldwide war.
Attempts to Promote Equality and Justice
Signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963
Although it was not completely successful, it significantly increased the wages for women.
Civil Rights Achievements
Supported civil rights and racial integration
Took strong action to ensure that all employees are treated equally no matter race, color, or national origin (Executive Order 10925)
- Banned segregation in federally funded housing (Executive Order 11063)
Connection To Current Election
Kennedy attempted to improve relations with the Soviet Union in order to prevent a worldwide nuclear war
Clinton and Trump both attempt alleviate tensions with various regions, including those comprised of ISIS members in order to prevent the pervasiveness of terrorism
Both candidates have different ways of dealing with America’s relation to Russia
Nixon lost in an extremely close election and believed Kennedy’s allies had performed a form of systematic fraud
- Donald Trump believes that Clinton and her allies are rigging the election in her favor