He was vice-president under the John F. Kennedy administration and assumed the presidency after Kennedy was assassinated. Johnson retained the presidency in 1964 when he won a lopsided victory over Barry Goldwater, in part a sympathy vote because of the assassination of Kennedy and in part because Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an "extremist" who would abolish TVA and Social Security. In fact it was Johnson who turned out to be extreme, causing the largest expansion of the federal government since the Great Depression and World War II and miring the U.S. in a quagmire in Vietnam.
The welfare-warfare state under Johnson
The Johnson administration saw the passage of the Great Society, a vast expansion of federal government spending, power, and new programs and agencies. It also saw the expansion of the Vietnam War into a major war.
Protests against the Vietnam War and increasing youth rebellion and noncompliance with the draft, along with an unexpectedly strong antiwar primary challenge in the 1968 Democratic primaries from Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy forced Johnson out of the race for re-election in 1968. His vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, easily won the Democratic nomination at a convention dominated by party machine insiders while Chicago police beat McCarthy and Kennedy supporters in the streets outside the convention. A third party challenge on the American Independent Party ticket from George Wallace, a Democrat and governor of Alabama, also drew votes from Humphrey. The Republican nominee, Richard Nixon won a narrow victory in the general election, and proceeded to keep the U.S. in Vietnam four more years and continue every one of Johnson's Great Society programs and even institute some of his own.
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John F. Kennedy