Malcolm crew were killed in action. Kennedy and his

Malcolm Martin

Professor Gaber

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American Politics

December 6th, 2017

John F Kennedy’s 1960 Campaign

Who is
John F. Kennedy? To know why his campaign was successful despite public
perception of him before the political rise, it is imperative to know about his
background. Born on May 29th,1917, a hundred years ago, in Brookline,
Massachusetts. The Kennedy’s are a wealthy family with a history of political
and public service. During his youthful years, he was often ill and spent mot
hos his time reading. Kennedy got in Princeton University in 1935 but due to
illness, he dropped out of college. Once he recovered he attended Harvard
University and majored in International Affairs and Government. At his junior
year at Harvard, he traveled to Europe and saw the beginnings of World War II.

Once he was a senior, he used his experience in Europe to write a book, “Why
England Slept (1940), which became the bestselling book. After completing
Harvard University undergraduate, Kennedy attended Stanford for its graduate
program. Later, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army, but due to a weak back he
was rejected; but, after a few months strengthen his back he was finally accepted
into the Navy. (John F. Kennedy)

 Throughout his Navy career he became an
intelligence officer; and after Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941, the U.S.

entered World War II. Kennedy was shipped to the South Pacific to fight against
Japan. In March 1943, Kennedy was given command of a patrol torpedo boat. In
August 1943 that boat was torn apart by the Japanese destroyer, and two of his
crew were killed in action. Kennedy and his men were clinging to half of the
boat; Kennedy instructed his men that they will swim to a neat by island three
miles away, he leads his injured crew to safety despite the odds. A few days
later, he was awarded for display in courage, leadership, endurance, and
getting his men out alive. Returning to the United States, Kennedy did
journalism on international affairs such as the United Nations, British
Elections of 1945. Kennedy sought out a life in politics, in 1946 he became a
candidate for the US House of Representatives from the Massachusetts 11th
congressional district. This campaign is the start of Kennedy’s journey to the
presidency. (John F. Kennedy)

his candidacy for House of Representative, Kennedy personally funded his
campaign, meeting people directly, and spoke about issues with the people face
to face. His siblings, Robert and Edward, acted as his managers while his
sisters and mother held social events to raise money for his campaign. Kennedy
won the primary, fall election, and reelection to the House originally in 1947,
then in 1948, again in 1950. He worked for social welfare programs; such as
making places affordable for people to live in. Kennedy was an advocate for
labor, higher wages, and better working conditions, which people were strongly
for. In the period between 1896 and 1950s saw a crucial transition in the labor
and working-class history in the United States. Americans were working more
than eight hours per day, and on average worked about fifty-four to sixty-three
hours per week in dangerous work conditions. There was no insurance coverage or
a decent salary, so people at work was at a constant health risk. (Helgeson)  Kennedy supported the domestic programs of
President Harry Truman, such as including social welfare programs, and
regulations of business. Though in support for the social welfare programs,
Kennedy opposed the idea of Truman’s foreign affairs; Kennedy believed that the
US could not hold defenses in Asia. (John F. Kennedy)

In April
1952, Kennedy ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate against Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, a
Republican. Kennedy won by over 70,000 votes, Lodge was not running against
just JFK, he was running against his family. In 1958, Kennedy was elected to
Senate.  Taking the Senate seat in 1953,
Kennedy continued to support laborers, foreign affair issues, social welfare.

His political success was soon followed by his high points in his personal life
as well. John Kennedy got married to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, daughter of a New
York City financer. People loved Kennedy’s political life and personal life. He
became a stronger supporter of civil rights and social welfare legislation.

Kennedy also sponsored bills for providing financial aids to education and for
relaxation on immigration laws. With these accumulations of popularity, a
likable track record, and the appeal to diverse demographics, especially pop
culture.  Kennedy had all the potential
of being president.

The 1960
election campaign was dominated by the tensions of the Cold War between the
United States and the Soviet Union. In 1957, the Soviets launched “Sputnik”,
the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth. 
American leaders feared that the Communist will and are becoming more
technological advance. Three years later, an American U-2 spy plane was shot
down in Soviet territory and its pilot captured. In Cuba, Fidel Castro became a
close ally of the Soviet Union, with fear of an invasion just in America’s
front lawn, most Americans thought the war was inevitable. The nation was
looking for a leader to steer the ship away or pass through the chaos and came
the presidential elections of 1960. John Kennedy captivated the Democratic party
nomination despite his age, lack of experience, and his religious views. (OnTheIssues)

On May
10th, Kennedy won a solid victory in the Democratic Primary West Virginia which
was strongly Protestant. His success in Virginia allowed him to move forward
with his first ballot at a victory at the national convention in Los Angeles;
although, he did not reach the 761 votes required for the nomination until the
final state in the roll call, Wyoming. After choosing Texas senator Lyndon
Johnson as his running mate. (Campaign of 1960)

 The Republican nominee was 47-year-old Vice
President Richard M. Nixon. He pointed to the peace and prosperity of the
Eisenhower administration and assured the voters that he would maintain
American prestige, leadership, and military strength. He chose Henry Cabot Lodge,
US ambassador to the United Nations, as his running mate. Nixon struck many
voters as more mature and experienced than Kennedy and led in the polls after
the national conventions. (Campaign of 1960)

then challenged the vice president to a series of televised debates. Many in
the Nixon camp, including President Eisenhower, urged the vice president to
reject the debate proposal and deny Kennedy invaluable national exposure. Nixon
confidently agreed to share a platform with his presidential rival on
nationwide television. An estimated seventy million Americans, about two-thirds
of the electorate, watched the first debate on September 26th. Kennedy had met
the day before with the producer to discuss the design of the set and the
placement of the cameras. Nixon, just out of the hospital after a painful knee
injury, did not take advantage of this opportunity to bail out, rather he
forced himself to get to the debate, despite being in distress. Kennedy wore a
blue suit and shirt to cut down on glare and appeared sharply focused against
the gray studio background. Nixon wore a gray suit and seemed to blend into the
set. Most importantly, JFK spoke directly to the cameras and the national
audience. Nixon, in traditional debating style, appeared to be responding to
Kennedy. (Campaign of 1960)

Don Gonyea
on How JFK fathered Modern Presidential Campaigns said:

Americans watching the debates felt that Kennedy had won. Studies would later
show that of the four million voters who made up their minds because of the
debates, three million voted for Kennedy. Nixon seemed much more poised and
relaxed in the three subsequent debates, but it was the first encounter that
reshaped the election. Both candidates seeking the support of the steadily
growing suburban population, and for the first time, television became the
dominant source of information for voters. Kennedy tried to identify himself
with the liberal reform tradition of the Democratic party of Franklin Roosevelt
and Harry Truman, promising a new surge of legislative innovation in the 1960s.

JFK hoped to pull together key elements of the Roosevelt coalition of the
1930s—urban minorities, ethnic voting blocs, and organized labor. He also hoped
to win back conservative Catholics who had deserted the Democrats to vote for
Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, and to hold his own in the South. Nixon emphasized
the record of the Eisenhower years. He pledged to keep the federal government
from dominating the free market economy and the lives of the American people.

In September, John F. Kennedy eloquently confronted the religious issue in an
appearance before the Greater-Houston Ministerial Association. He said, “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.” But anti-Catholic feeling remained a wild card in the campaign.” – (Gonyea)

October 19, Martin Luther King Jr was arrested in Atlanta, GA for leading a
civil rights protest. Supporting King might have cost Kennedy votes in the
South, but Kennedy was subsequently endorsed by Martin Luther King Sr. The
African-American vote went heavily for Kennedy across the nation, providing the
winning margin in several states. As Election Day approached, momentum seemed
to be running toward the Kennedy–Johnson ticket. (Campaign of 1960)

In the
final days of the campaign, the immensely popular President Eisenhower began a
speaking tour on behalf of Republican candidates. Several key states seemed to
shift toward Nixon, and by Election Day pollsters were declaring the election a
toss-up. On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president in one of
the closest elections in U.S. history. In the popular vote, his margin over
Nixon was 118,550 out of a total of nearly 69 million votes cast. His success
in many urban and industrial states gave him a clear majority of 303 to 219 in
the electoral vote. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected
president, the only Catholic, and the first president born in the twentieth
century. The most likely reason Kennedy won was that of his intentions from the
beginning never changed, he appealed to many young people, “colored” voters,
and with his family title comes with popularity. Kennedy used the television
for his campaign which was very iconic for any campaign and has influenced
proceeding elections in that format. (Campaign of 1960)


















Work Cited

“Campaign of 1960.” John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library and Museum,

Gonyea, Don. “How JFK Fathered The Modern
Presidential Campaign.” NPR, NPR, 16 Nov. 2013,

Helgeson, Jeffrey. “American Labor and
Working-Class History, 1900–1945.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of
American History, 8 June 2017, Staff. “John F. Kennedy.”,
A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“‘I Am Not The Catholic Candidate For
President’: How Faith Shaped JFK And His 1960 Campaign.” ‘I Am Not The
Catholic Candidate For President’: How Faith Shaped JFK And His 1960 Campaign |
WBUR News,

“John F. Kennedy Biography.” Encyclopedia
of World Biography, John F. Kennedy on
the Issues,


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