Lyndon B. Johnson's Presidency

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What were President Johnson's major domestic achievements, and why they were overshadowed? 

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Johnson's domestic achievements included not just the passing of landmark civil rights legislation and the implementation of the Great Society program but also a sustained period of economic growth. Over the course of Johnson's presidency, GDP grew by just over a quarter, leading some commentators to proclaim, somewhat prematurely, the death of conservatism in America.

Johnson had greatly expanded the size and scope of American government, they argued, and yet the warnings of fiscal conservatives that this policy would lead to economic decline had not been borne out. With Johnson's landslide election victory over the arch-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964, it seemed that conservatism was in headlong retreat.

In any case, Johnson's achievements in running the economy were eclipsed, as with all other items of his domestic agenda, by the war in Vietnam. As the military budget ballooned, there was inevitably less money available for fighting Johnson's war on poverty. Exponential spending on the rapidly escalating conflict also greatly increased the deficit, which reached unprecedented levels by the time that Johnson left office.

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President Johnson had many domestic achievements. However, the Vietnam War overshadowed them. Even though some of his domestic achievements still exist today, he is remembered more for his role in increasing our involvement in the Vietnam War.

President Johnson had some landmark domestic achievements. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed while he was President. This outlawed segregation in public places. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended voting restrictions, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, which were used to keep people from voting. It also allowed federal workers to register voters. Medicare provided health insurance to the elderly. Medicaid provided health insurance to the poor. The Head Start program gave disadvantaged kids a chance to start school early. President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act. This was a program that created jobs and worked to end poverty. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided more money for public schools.

Unfortunately, the Vietnam War was becoming more and more unpopular. President Johnson drastically increased our military involvement in the Vietnam War. There were more protests against our involvement in the Vietnam War. As the Vietnam War dragged on, people began to believe the government was being dishonest with them. They began to doubt the government. People believed the war was not close to ending, even though the government was telling them we were doing well and were close to a victory. As more attention was focused on the Vietnam War, people paid less attention to the domestic accomplishments.

The Vietnam War was a very controversial event in our history. President Johnson is remembered more for escalating our involvement in Vietnam than for his domestic accomplishments.

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Why did President Lyndon Johnson's major domestic achievements come to be overshadowed?

The major reason for this was the Vietnam War.  When the Vietnam War started going badly, it overshadowed all of Johnson's other actions and led him to decide not to even run for reelection in 1968.

By the time that the 1968 election came around, the war in Vietnam had become very unpopular.  This came to a head in early 1968 when the Tet Offensive made it clear that the government had not been completely open with the people as to how the war was going.  At that point, it seemed clear to most Americans that the war was not on the brink of being won.  This disillusioned many Americans about the war and about Johnson.

The social strife caused by the war, along with the economic and human costs of the war, overshadowed Johnson's domestic achievements.

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