The Promised Land (1991)
by Nicholas Lemann
Part Three: Washington (pp. 111-221)
Thesis Question: Why did
LBJ’s ‘War on Poverty’ fail? What happened to the one chance in the last half
century that the federal government had to make an intensive effort to deal
with the problems of our city’s ghettos?
· Ronald Reagan
proclaimed in 1980 that “We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.”
· In Nicholas
Lemann’s view, the war never got started. It was quickly defeated by a
perfect storm of political forces aided and abetted by administrative
Class Discussion: What
does it take to fight a “War on Poverty”? (just like a “War on Drugs” or a
“War on Terrorism”):
As you read Lemann’s
chapter on Washington, think about how well the government responded to the
task of waging war on poverty.
The Presidential Election of 1960 (111-117)
was the long term Democratic policy regarding poverty in the cities?
Why was urban poverty not on
the public opinion radar before 1960? (111-112)
· Democratic leaders like Richard Daley and other
machine bosses had a tough,
pragmatic attitude about the intransigence of segregation. Friction between
the races was not going to change anytime soon, and forcing change was
political suicide. Blacks would just have to follow the time honored path
that other immigrant groups had followed when they came to the mean streets
of America’s cities. Deliver the vote, and the machine will eventually
deliver enough contracts to pull you into the middle class.
· Eye towards maintaining the political coalition with Southern
· To get the black vote in the 1960 presidential
election, JFK would rely on the tried and true Democratic strategy of promising lucrative government contracts
to machine bosses in return for their loyalty. Daly may have won JFK the
was JFK so unresponsive to the needs of urban black voters in the 1960 presidential campaign? (112-13)
· JFK believed that he had already nailed down
the black vote through machine
politics and through Daley in particular.
· Complication: RFK had contempt for the
corruption of Rep. Willie Dawson (Chicago) because he was an old style
machine politician and for Adam Clayton Powell (Harlem) because in his
opinion he was a rogue. Neither had any respect for right and wrong.
· The Kings initially felt closer to Nixon in
Under what circumstances did
JFK decide to call Coretta Scott King? Why was this decision so important?
What was RFK’s reaction to the call?
· JFK’s phone call to Coretta King during the
Oct. 1960 Birmingham Movement was engineered by Sargent Shriver, ‘the house
communist’ who used this opportunity to bring the Kings around to supporting
· Why did JFK make the call despite the
opposition of his political advisors? Overnight it made him into a bonafide
civil rights supporter but it threatened to alienate Southern Democrats.
· RFK’s reaction: he called Shriver and Wofford
‘bomb throwers’ who had lost the South. In the long run, though,
supporting King turned into a shrewd political move because national opinion
would turn against segregation due to the TV coverage of the brutal police
suppression of Civil Rights demonstrations over the next few years.
What was the record of the JFK
administration toward civil rights? When, according to Lemann, did it begin
· JFK’s focus after the election was completely
on Cold War crises: the Berlin Airlift, the Arms Race, the Bay of Pigs, the
Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam; he had to be prodded into action on race
· 1961: RFK urges
moderation from SNCC and CORE and an end to their provocative direct action
campaigns to break down segregation and to get black people the vote. He
asked King to postpone the Freedom Rides; he offered James Farmer tax breaks
if CORE would halt its sit-ins.
· 1962: JFK and
RFK begin to note the political impact of the televised brutality used
against Civil Rights demonstrators and the personal affronts of Southern
politicians against the Kennedys. (The beating of federal agent John
Siegenthaler during the Freedom Rides also shocked them.)
The Post War Liberal Consensus (117-127)
did John Kenneth Galbraith articulate the ‘conventional wisdom’ among
liberals about the problem of poverty (The Affluent Society)? (117)
· The Kennedy’s had been raised to believe that
poverty had essentially been conquered by the New Deal during the Depression.
· The Liberal consensus: the ideology of
capitalism would ultimately triumph against the communist threat because it
was a more efficient and productive economic system. Poverty itself would
eventually be extinguished in America. Assimilation of class, region and
ethnicity was slowly but inevitably taking place
· Keynesian Economics: “a rising tide floats all
ships”: laissez faire will work for everyone!
· JFK’s campaign slogan in 1960: “Let’s get
America moving again.”
· No one suspected that a racial problem was
brewing in the slums of Northern cities.
· Racial strife, along with the war in Vietnam,
would disintegrate the liberal consensus by the end of the 1960’s.
The Left Wing Egg Heads (117-123)
the “fringe” eggheads who challenged Galbraith’s conventional wisdom
that urban poverty was not an important issue. (Put an asterisk next to
those whom Lemann emphasizes.) (117-119)
poverty is not even on the political radar of the Democratic party. Only a
few pointy-headed intellectuals on the left were interested in the
issue. After JFK’s slim election over Nixon, the War on Poverty had no
resources, no leadership and no momentum.
· University of Wisconsin Study presents
evidence of the slowing rate of exit from poverty in the 1950s.
- Harris Wofford
· Notre Dame law
professor and protégé of Notre Dame President, Theodore Hesburgh,
Wofford headed the United States Commission on Civil Rights (1959) which
reported the growth of poverty in Chicago and issued a mild warning about
- Glazer and
· Beyond the Melting Pot (1963) questions
the degree to which the American city was still assimilating ethnic
minorities and immigrants.
· Ethnicity remained remarkably persistent as an
organizing principle for an urban society which remained pluralistic and
- ***Leonard Duhl’s
“space cadets” (1955), regarded as ridiculous at the time, but
prescient in hindsight.
· National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
study analyzed the detrimental impact of Urban Renewal projects on the
composition of inner city neighborhoods: high rise housing, highways,
suburban flight. The enrichment of private developers had increased the
concentration of poverty in the city cores.
· NIMH financed influential research projects,
including Elliott Liebow’s Talley’s Corner, our next book.
- Ford Foundation’s “Gray Areas
Project’ (ie “Black Areas”, but he
could not say that and get Ford Foundation funding (119-120)
Ylvisaker and Siviridoff (New Haven) programs to improve education
and job training in black slums
Ghetto Related Behaviors (120-22)
- How was the sociological theory of ‘anomie’ different
from earlier Freudian psychological theories about the origins of
juvenile delinquency? What sort of program did these sociologists
· ‘anomie’: a different conception of the
psychological sources of delinquency and poverty devised by University of
Chicago sociologist Lloyd Ohlin
and Columbia University sociologist Richard Cloward: ‘Mobilization for Youth’ Project; financed by
Ford Foundation, “Gray Areas Project’
· Earlier Freudian theorists argued that
delinquency stems from poor early child development on a mass basis,
producing neighborhoods full of psychologically crippled youths. Conventional
wisdom at the time on the origin of poverty (and the theory accepted by most
social workers) was influenced by Freudian theory as well: the slum was
created by a mass of individual problems rooted in the traumas of early
childhood development (and therefore, very difficult to correct.) (See
Wright’s Bigger Thomas)
Cloward teamed with Ohlin to write Delinquency
and Opportunity (1960). In it these leftist
sociologists argued that the slum was a vast urban organism defined by
environmental influences. Delinquency they regarded as a natural stage in the
assimilation of ethnic groups into society. If job opportunities were
created, delinquency would disappear. (Ohlin dismissed Freudian theory by
pointing to the achievement of delinquents who had served in the army with
distinction.) Ohlin and Cloward emphasized that rational choices made
by people living in poverty led to ‘ghetto
related behaviors’. Teenagers turned to delinquency as the only path to
success open to them.
· Ohlin and Cloward connected with the Gray
Areas Project in New Haven and created a program which put their theories to
work: “Mobilization for Youth”: a traditional settlement house effort to assimilate
ethnic groups into the economy with job
training, but they also added political indoctrination to encourage
direct political action through
rent strikes and protest demonstrations.
· “political empowerment”: Marxist theory:
poverty is more a political condition then an economic one: political
empowerment inspires community spirit, a desire to run one’s own life and
neighborhood, and this raised consciousness will lead to an exit from
But how did the experience of the Woodlawn
Organization in Chicago (see chapter two) rebut the theory of ‘political
· The experience of the Woodlawn Organization in Chicago
might belie the empowerment theory: even a politically well-organized
neighborhood will remain poor as long as middle class flight continues
David Hackett, RFK and the Radical Chic (123-29)
was David Hackett and how did his relatively obscure committee manage to
rise to a position of power in the Kennedy administration? (123)
· Hackett was RFK’s prep school chum from Milton
Academy (the inspiration for the character Phineas in A Separate Peace).
He was looked upon by the Camelot folk as a great guy, but it was said that
he might have been hit too often in the head by hockey pucks. (123-24)
· In 1961 he was
made head of the President’s
Committee on Juvenile Delinquency (in the Justice Department) at the
behest of Eunice Shriver, and this is the place where the war on poverty
· This committee was initially afforded little
· Hackett hires Lloyd Ohlin, from the Ford Foundation, as a consultant
· Hackett hires Richard Boone, an Ohlin associate (anomie) on the Chicago parole board and a protégé
of Saul Alinsky, who had contacts with Leonard Duhl’s ‘space cadets’ at NIMH.
· Hackett also established an association with
the Gray Areas project and its head, Mitch Ylisvaker;
· Daniel Patrick Moynihan consults as well.
· The Committee on Juvenile Delinquency becomes
the government agency with the black-ghetto portfolio: when RFK turned left
in 1962, this committee’s clout soared!
Who were the ‘radical chic’, and
why did RFK feel like he needed to meet with them? (126-29)
· RFK’s turn left: remaking himself politically
from a crime fighter into a soulful leader of liberal causes
· juvenile delinquency: an entry issue for him
· RFK’s Catholicism influenced his view of the
world in terms of good and evil
· At a radical chic meeting in New York City in May 1963, Dick
Gregory, James Baldwin, Jerome Smith (a disillusioned CORE worker who had
been beaten in the South), and playwright Lorraine Hansberry, (A Raisin in
the Sun) took turns berating and insulting RFK. Hansberry said that she
would like to arm blacks so that they could start shooting white people in
· RFK’s response: the experience deepened his
understanding of the slums and he became interested in
Hackett’s political empowerment program.
What was ominous about the
intrusion of Congressman Powell and Mayor Daley into the projects sponsored
by the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency? (128-29)
· The machine politicians are not happy.
· Congressman Powell demanded part of the action
and alienated original leaders in Harlem
· When JFK got wind of Daley’s displeasure with
a supporter of Community Action in Chicago, he was promptly canned.
· Politics were JFK’s business
Michael Harrington’s The Other America
How did Michael
Harrington’s book stimulate JFK’s interest in a potential anti-poverty
· Michael Harrington’s book The Other America (1962) gains
attention of JFK, who never read the book, just a review of it in the New
Yorker magazine in 1963.
· JFK gives the go ahead for Walter Heller, the head of JFK’s Council of
Economic Advisers, to devise a new anti-poverty program. (with his assistant
· Heller brings Robert Lampmann (Wisconsin) on
to the staff of the Council of Economic Advisors, and Lampmann presented his
statistical study of the slowing rate of poor people leaving poverty.
· For political reasons, Lampmann argued that any
program that could be touted as ‘an economic redistribution of wealth’ would
be political poison. Opposition to an anti-poverty program was also expressed
by cabinet level administrators.
Cabinet Level Politics: New Frontier vs. New Deal (130-31)
did Walter Heller, JFK’s head of the Council of Economic Advisors, want
to couple community action with his income tax cut to the middle and
upper classes? (130-31)
· Walter Heller was a proponent of Keynesian
economics. He believed in pumping
money into the economy through an income tax cut and got Kennedy to agree to
this policy in January 1963. The tax cut would benefit the middle class and
the rich. (They were honest back then and didn’t try to sell people on the ‘trickle down theory’.)
· So Heller wanted to throw a bone to the poor. He believed that an anti-poverty
program would serve as a tonic to potential opponents of the tax cut who
might criticize it as a subsidy to the middle class and the rich
What kind of hurdles did
Heller have to overcome in his search for an anti-poverty program? (130-31)
· Summer 1963
Heller lunch with Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Labor and Wilbur Cohen, Deputy
Secretary at the Department of Health (New Dealers both) who opposed a
program against ‘poverty’ per se as
too diffuse and who really wanted to exert control over any program directed
at the cities through their own departments.
· An inter-agency task force failed because
every agency dusted off their old New Deal projects: jobs, education, farm,
The Origin of the
Community Action Program (132-34)
Where did the idea of “community action” come from and
why did it suddenly seem so appealing? (132-34) What was it all about? (12)
1. Community Action was conceived to be a bottom up program: residents of the
community would decide for themselves what their needs were and then the
government would try to help them with funding. The actual process of
formulating a grant proposal itself would bring the community together.
Community Action agencies would reside in the poor neighborhoods themselves,
not downtown at city hall. Community
Action activities would be based on what the people in the neighborhood
really wanted, not what the bureaucrats in Washington thought they needed:
thus, the people would be empowered. A Community
Action Agency coordinates a wide variety of social services in one
location: welfare, housing, job placement, job training, pre-school, AA
and NA, etc. One-stop shopping. In
its initial conception, community action was supposed to function like a
small quick, anti-bureaucratic organization, ala Green Berets.
2. During the summer of 1963,
Walter Heller, would turn to Hackett and Boone and give consideration to their pet program: ‘community
action’ as a public policy alternative to the long laundry list of New Deal
proposals suggested by the cabinet’s inter-agency taskforce. Heller liked
Hackett and Boone’s idea because it enabled him to bypass the old New Dealers
Willard Wirtz (Department of
Labor) and Wilbur Cohen
(Department of Health) to start an adventurous new govt. agency
3. This would be a New
Frontier program, not a New Deal program
What problems would community action provoke?
4. Unforeseen by the Committee were the ways in which
community action courted political catastrophe. (129)
5. The Federal government would be by-passing the power structure
of the machine coalitions in the cities which were the base of the Democratic
6. Efforts to ‘understand’ the juvenile delinquent could
be portrayed as giving responsibility for federal funds to urban street
JFK Cools on Idea of Anti-Poverty Program and then
is Assassinated (134-35)
Where did the idea of an
anti-poverty program stand when JFK was shot? (134-35)
· In a November 20 meeting with JFK, Heller came
to the conclusion that JFK was actually cooling on the idea of a anti-poverty
initiative because poor people just did not vote in large enough numbers to
receive a high priority, so a major effort was not envisioned in the lead up
to the coming election.
· The anti-poverty program appeared to be
· JFK assassinated 11/22/63
LBJ Becomes President: The Great Society (134-40)
is Lemann’s assessment of LBJ’s attitudes towards civil rights, liberals
and the Kennedys? (134-140)
· LBJ is most famous for getting us into Vietnam
and then losing the war. He was a Southern politician from Texas, a long time
Senate Majority leader: racist, crooked and powerful. BUT… he had a natural
empathy for poor people, unlike the Kennedys, and he had a genuine interest
in civil rights because he believed that breaking free from segregation would
enable a Southerner to win the presidency.
· Complicating the story is LBJ’s competition
with RFK and the Kennedy entourage of New England liberals. LBJ
and RFK despised each other. LBJ became determined to outshine the
liberals by creating the Great Society!
· As Vice-President, LBJ was to the left of the
Kennedy Brothers on civil rights; he was brought on to burnish Kennedy’s
image as a liberal.
Hackett’s Community Action Becomes Centerpiece of
War on Poverty (140-145)
did Hackett’s ‘community action program’ suddenly turn into a half billion-dollar
program and the centerpiece of LBJ’s 1964
‘War on Poverty’? (140-145)
· LBJ’s one caveat was “No doles. No income
redistribution. A hand-up instead of a handout.”
· Although initially supportive of Heller’s
ideas (“That’s my kind of program!”), LBJ was suspicious of the program’s
vague and tentative quality. Instead, he really wanted to teach children and
put adults to work.
· LBJ also immediately recognized that the idea
of individual local agencies would arouse political opposition among local machine
Democrats, yet he went ahead,
eager to establish his liberal credentials with Kennedy’s people and fearful
of betraying JFK’s legacy (which had shifted rapidly left since his death).
· “I have
to get re-elected in a year and a half, so I have to have something of my
own.” Once committed, he had to follow through in a big way.
· Compare JFK’s and LBJ’s responses to
Heller’s anti-poverty ideas. (140-41)
· Over Hackett’s objection, Heller pushed to
create a major social program- the first major political opportunity since
the New Deal to address urban poverty. (143-44)
· Why did Hackett think this was a bad idea? Hackett
wanted a modest program to test community action and then make adjustments.
Instead, Heller gave him a program with a half billion-dollar budget. (143-44)
How was LBJ’s War on Poverty
initiative greeted? (144-45)
· LBJ’s State
of the Union Address in 1964 interrupted by applause more times than any
other address since 1933
several assistants were skeptical and urged LBJ to focus his efforts on the
political center rather than moving out to the extremes.
Wickendon, a Ted Sorenson deputy, wrote a
memo (Jan 4,
in which she outlined her criticism of the program: (144) She
believed that the problems of poverty are fundamentally related to
macro-economic and social factors that are nationwide; local programs will
not be effective. Community action would be subjected to severe political
attack because a federal program would short circuit the normal channel of
relationships to states and localities. (ie. it
would bypass the machine bosses.)
Sargent Shriver and the Office of Economic
was Sargent Shriver a poor choice as the head of the ‘War on Poverty’?
· He was appointed head of the Office of
Economic Opportunity (OEO) because he had Kennedy connections and that would
both appease and annoy RFK. He was also a friend of Bill Moyers, a key LBJ
aide, from their Peace Corps days.
· He was a salesman, not an administrator,
interested in PR, not practicalities. Grandiose ideas appealed to him, not
were liberals so optimistic in 1964? What
was their attitude towards income redistribution /doles/welfare? (148-50)
· Shriver’s policy discussions were full of
ebullient debates and cocktail parties, and his meetings followed the same
freewheeling, improvisatory quality. The people with whom he worked had been
raised on the New Deal and WWII: no problem was too big for the federal
government to handle. However, they did not want to attack poverty in the way
that their Democratic predecessors had during the New Deal. Income
redistribution through welfare was out, as were the huge job programs which
had put so many Americans back to work during the Depression. They did not
want to do anything that would dampen economic growth. Instead, they wanted
to create programs which helped poor people develop the skills that they
would need to take advantage of opportunities in America’s growing economy.
· Hackett’s idea of moving slowly on
implementing Community Action was not appealing. The other experts agreed
with him. Lloyd Ohlin had his doubts. Paul Ylvisaker recommended a $30
million program and was told to add another zero to his request. (149)
· Dick Boone, another University of Chicago
sociologist from the PCJD, supported the idea of going big from the outset.
He possessed a fervent belief in the concept of political empowerment. He
wanted to find ways to politicize the poor and develop a force which opposed
the urban political machine.
· The social program that Shriver’s team at
the OEO was considering would founder, in part, because of the arrogance of
Treating a Culture of Poverty: Community
Action, Head Start, and the Job Corps.(150-153)
How did more traditional liberals like Oscar Lewis define the term ‘culture of poverty’?
· Shriver and his team latched on to Oscar Lewis’ explanation of the
reason why poverty remained so persistent despite a growing economy. Lewis
argued that a ‘Culture of Poverty’ describes a low economic class whose habits,
like joblessness, marriage problems, and crime, are passed on from generation to generation producing people who are
not psychologically geared to take advantage of changing conditions or
· Liberal sociologists and anthropologists
invented the concept to refute social Darwinists and suggest that the lower classes were not
inferior, only poorly educated. (During
the 1970’s conservatives would commandeer the notion of a ‘culture of
poverty’ and redefine it as an underclass of people that had become
permanently trapped in poverty, beyond the reach of government assistance.)
· Galbraith: insular poverty, cultural, poverty
How did the community action program address the liberal concept of the
‘culture of poverty’? (150-51)
· Poverty is defined as a ‘social pathology’.
The obvious solution? Government itself should serve as the means of treating
the poor through ‘acculturation’: educating children, feeding them
nutritious food, teaching them work habits, teaching adults the folkways of
the middle class. The community action project was an updated streamlined version of the settlement house.
· The New Frontier would not be the New Deal all
· There would be no dole, no jobs program, no universal health care, not anything hugely expensive.
The confident children of the old New Deal Democrats would solve the problem
of poverty their own way. Instead, it would be Community Action, Head Start,
and the Job Corps.
How did ‘maximum feasible participation’ become a
central tenet of community action programs? (151-153) Who originally conceived
of this approach and what was the theory behind it?
· Dick Boone/Ohlin/ University of Chicago
· Community action programs tried to ensure the
‘maximum feasible political participation’ of poor people in their actual
· A leftist commitment to political
empowerment: people are poor because they lack political power and
escaping poverty requires political power. Boone, however, believed that the
program needed to have a pilot test, but instead of starting small, LBJ
needed immediate recognition from Democratic Liberals.
New Dealers at Labor Stymied (153-55)
were ‘New Deal’ job programs like the ones supported by Labor Secretary
Willard Wirtz (and Daniel Patrick Moynihan) not included in the ‘War on
· Willard Wirtz lost the competition with the
War on Poverty department in part because he was not a socially charismatic
person and so he did not get on well with Shriver.
· Wirtz proposed a 3-5 billion dollar jobs program
(that was opposed by AFL-CIO), and he overplayed his hand. He wanted a
massive jobs program that would have been operated solely by the Labor
Department. The AFL-CIO dislikes large jobs programs because they take work
from union members
· Nationally, the unemployment rate
remained low BUT…
1. Pat Moynihan recognized early that unemployment,
although not a national problem, was much higher in the black ghetto: “One
Third of a Nation”, but his jobs proposal seemed like it was an instrument of
Wirtz’s ambitions, and the administration wanted a new idea, one that would
separate LBJ from FDR
2. The final form of War on Poverty: a clear loss for
3. Even so, jobs
would be created as social service positions in community action programs as opposed to Washington
based WPA construction jobs.
Opportunity Act of 1964 (156-58)
did Shriver get the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 through Congress? (156-57)
· Shriver promised Southern politicians that
many of the programs would be directed at their districts: poverty was
understood as a primarily a white and rural problem
· They dropped ideas of land reform in the
· Yarmolinsky was canned as the manager of the
program because he was Jewish and too far to the left.
What was the gist of the Elizabeth Wickendon’s warning to LBJ? (157-58)
· Politicians always want to maintain control of
federal programs in their own district.
· Community action programs would have to
knuckle under or create powerful enemies.
· Shriver is unprepared to cope with the
political aspects of the implementing the program.
What doomed the community
action program almost from the start? (165)
· complications from ‘maximum feasible
1. unpopular with Northern
machine politicians: Daley, Dawson, Powell, D’Alesandro
2. it became a method of funneling social services jobs
to poor people
3. it became a method of dodging Democratic machine
patronage and propelling candidates to local office
· Even so, community action moves from
experimental phase to full implementation in 1000 cities by 1967
1965: The Perfect Political Storm
Black Power (158-64)
had changes in the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-sixties altered the
expectation that moderate civil rights leaders would step up to lead
community action programs? (158-164)
· After the March on Washington in 1963, a split
in the Civil Rights movement emerged between Southerners interested in civil
rights and Northerners interested in redirecting the movement’s focus to
· Bayard Rustin’s criticism of the “I Have a
Dream” speech: it focused on civil rights instead of economic justice.
· Split in SNCC:
John Lewis (Southern Baptist) v. Stokely Carmicheal (Howard U. contingent)
black-liberation in Africa
between blacks and whites over leadership of SNCC
between NAACP and SNCC
controversy at DNC (Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s delegates) leads to
“sell out” and alienation of SNCC leaders
questioning of the ideal of integration and non-violence and cooperation with
the federal government
Which political faction
took advantage of the leadership opportunities offered by community action
· Emergence of Malcolm X’s black separatist ideologies: focus on
ghetto conditions, black pride and self-reliance (Booker Washington/ Marcus
· Community action programs of the War on
Poverty are radicalized.
political opening for new black militant leaders who mistrusted government
belief in program as incubator of a new civil rights movement
action relied upon federal funds, not direct political action, and was
therefore vulnerable to mainstream American sensibilities
Washington, what immediate problems emerged for the community action
· Communist scandal at Mobilization for Youth in
Opposition by Mayors (166-67)
Describe the early
relationship between community action programs and local authorities
(including Baltimore’s Mayor).
· Open revolt
of mayors (led by Baltimore mayor Theodore McKeldin, who regarded OEO’s
community action programs as a competing political organization)
· fear of politicizing the poor
Describe Daley’s attitude
toward the OEO (Office of Economic Opportunity). (166-167)
· The essential Democratic mayor: controls the
largest bloc of votes in Congress.
· He asserts control of community action
programs in Chicago, going directly to LBJ to complain about subversives and
his fears of the eventual collapse of his machine.
Opposition in Cabinet (168)
What was the attitude of the
traditional Washington bureaucracy toward OEO? (167-68)
· opposition in Cabinet from Cohen and Wirtz
· Shriver’s hope for immediate results was
stymied by the nature of the program which required time to develop.
How did the ‘maximum feasible
opportunity’ people react to Shriver’s efforts to appease Washington and
local officials? (168)
· Boone forced to resign; criticism for every
attempt to tone it down
· Loyalty to concept and not to Shriver who gets
booed at a Boone organization meeting in Washington.
Oversized, Rash Roll-Out (169-70)
Explain the extent and the
impact of community action “screw ups”
· Success of Head Start drowned out by the
press’ focus on scandals.
· Size of program (Bigger is better!) produces
occasional horror stories which attracted most of the press coverage
desire to meet quotas creates irregular screening policies in Washington
irregularities in Harlem
3. gang participation in War on Poverty
programs in Chicago
violence at Job Corps camps
What was Shriver’s response to
crises within the program by mid-1965? (170)
· Shriver is converted to the idea of a guaranteed annual income as the
best solution of the problem of poverty.
· Shriver’s solution: get even bigger! LBJ says
nay until the end of the Vietnam War.
1965: Selma to Montgomery March; LBJ: “We Shall Overcome” (171)
was the high water mark of civil rights solidarity between the movement
and the government? (171-72)
· the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March
· King prepares to turn his focus North, from
civil rights to economic rights
· LBJ’s “We shall overcome” speech
1965: Watts Riots and Vietnam Escalation (171)
How did the Watts riots and the
escalation of the war in Vietnam cause the sixties to ‘turn on a hinge’
during 1965? (171-72)
· Vietnam War escalates: 100,000 more troops are
· Watts riots: an instant national obsession: a
severe problem exists in ghettos
· Beginning of the destruction of the liberal
consensus, loss of liberal confidence
· An unlucky confluence of events: Freedom
Summer, the Watts riots, the emergence of the Black Power movement, gang
participation in War on Poverty programs in Chicago, and the escalation of
the War in Vietnam doomed the War on Poverty
1965: Intellectual Coup d’état: The Moynihan Report
and the Turn Towards Welfare (171-76)
Describe the firestorm of
criticism in 1965 that greeted the White House’s
Report on “The Negro Family”. How did this event help expose the rifts in the
whole civil rights and anti-poverty coalition? (172-179)
Moynihan Report: “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” (1965)
by Stanley Elkin’s Slavery
(1959) which argued that the oppression of slavery had ‘infantilized’
blacks and made them dependent on their masters. This pathology was
responsible for the transmission of a culture of poverty from generation to
generation. (Freudian conception of trauma revisited again and again:
difficult to treat and therefore to break the cycle.)
to liberals: we have a responsibility to correct the effects of slavery and
go beyond mere civil rights: creates the justification for affirmative
focuses on un-wed welfare mothers:
loosened the family bonds of African-Americans”…
“unemployment and welfare benefits have made the male irrelevant to the
family” and created a ‘tangle of
pathology’ in the ghetto
wanted a jobs program to address the problem, but in the final report, he
downplayed the emphasis on solutions in his desire to shock a response from
the public. He got it!
negative response to the report from Black America
i. White mythology about unrestrained black
Because no solution was presented, blacks took the report to be a moral judgment of blacks which
essentially argued that nothing can be done. (which
is exactly the way Republicans would use the report to justify scaling back
all efforts to help the poor.)
that Moynihan was “blaming the victim”
(William Ryan in Newsweek)
Report provoked open attacks from African Americans against the whole idea of
the existence of a culture of poverty
e. (Moynihan turns away from jobs programs and begins
calling for “Family Assistance Plans” ie welfare.)
The Disintegration of the Liberal
Coalition : Black Power (176-81)
How did the left’s unity deconstruct in the wake of the Moynihan
· the Rise of the Black Power Movement
· CORE and SNCC choose black leaders with
nationalist agendas and engage in openly anti-white and anti-Semitic rhetoric
· Moynihan Report denies blacks a useable past
· Rumblings of feminism and multiculturalism
abandoning the white European cultural norms
· Attacks against ‘white social science’
Worsening relations between social scientists and civil rights movement
debate on the black family became too hot to handle.
· Radical right begins to be heard in academia:
What effect did this new,
militant mood of the black power movement have on the community action
· There is no need for white middle class
outsiders to aid the supposedly crippled lower classes
(rhetoric of black empowerment): local offices in ghetto themselves an
take care of themselves.
· maximum feasible participation’s reality:
a beachhead for black nationalists with ghetto constituencies
to gain political power outside of elective office
nationalist leadership is media-oriented, so an unbridgeable gap opens
between black power and the political system
away from the earlier ideals of SNCC workers like Bob Moses who believed that
voting power was essential. He argued that community action programs were too
dependent on federal money.
action grants to the Black Panthers
action grant to Leroi Jones in Harlem, and he writes a play about Jack
Benny’s Rochester rising up and killing his white oppressors
7. community action becomes perceived
as a black radical program
LBJ Rivalry With RFK (182-91)
had been LBJ’s political goal in his ‘war on poverty’ (182-190)
· \LBJ had wanted to go down in history as the
greatest liberal President: outdoing FDR: free medical care, federal aid to
education, voting rights, break segregationists in the Democratic Party
· LBJ sacrificed votes for these liberal
principles, and instead of loving him for this bold political risk, the
liberals loved RFK instead.
What did he personally believe
would be the answer to the defeat of poverty?
· LBJ believed solely in the power of politics
to defeat segregation: vote power
and better schools would defeat poverty
How did his rivalry with RFK
affect the progress of his anti-poverty programs?
· RFK was the champion of community action: he believed
that it dodged integration issues and would become a launching pad for
immigrant upward mobility
· Fall 1965: creation of HUD and its first major social program: Model
Cities: ‘atoning for the sins of urban renewal by fixing slums up rather than
tearing them down.’ (187)
What was LBJ’s state of mind
in 1965-66? (182-188)
· The War in Vietnam prevented LBJ from
obtaining the support of liberal intellectuals and social scientists
· LBJ begins to regard the Office of Economic
Opportunity as a nest of RFK supporters: “They’re not against poverty;
they’re for Kennedy.”
What happened to the
relationship between LBJ and RFK? (184-88)
· RFK goes public with criticism, positioning
himself for 1968 presidential race.
· RFK floats ideas about a jobs bill and a
ghetto development bill
· Hatred boils over.
How did LBJ respond to the outbreak of rioting in the cities in
· 1967 riots: LBJ believed they were centrally
planned, possibly by communists, possibly by member of OEO.
· Furious about Kerner
Commission Report on Detroit riots: blames white racism
· LBJ’s commitment to the war on poverty wanes.
What Might Have Been? (192-202)
is Lemann’s assessment of the consequences of the war on poverty’s
community action focus? (192-202)
· No clear example exists of a community action
program either reducing juvenile delinquency or reducing poverty
· ]Why? The ghettos became poorer as the middle
class continued to move out.
· Transformation of its purpose from an
instrument for delivering federal social services to a tool for community
· Unable to induce business to locate in ghetto
· Failed strategy that the ghetto could be
healed from within
What positive results did these programs achieve? (193-94)
paved the way for a new generation of political leaders
paved the way for more successful programs: Medicare, Food Stamps
providing middle class social service jobs to the program administrators
(The best consequence: an
inefficient jobs program)
(Irony: LBJ opposed a big
jobs program, but jobs were the major accomplishment of the OEO.)
What path does Lemann argue should have been followed instead? (193-96)
· a jobs program
to lower the unemployment rate below 4.5%: 600,000 jobs
· opposed by unions, city civil service
employees, and everyone on the right
· movement of whites to Republican Party begins
in response to integration efforts:
· energizing George Wallace’s national ambitions
(the precursor of Ronald Reagan)
According to Lemann what was
the central problem in the cities that none of these programs succeeded in
· Economic forces behaved in the exact opposite
manner than expected: community action encouraged middle class flight by
creating middle class social service jobs
· Rationale for possible success? ‘Middle class
negroes who could move to the suburbs would stay in the central city because
of the encouragement of black power ideology’
List Lemann’s summary of the dual influences of the Great Migration?
· The increased black influence on national
life: Rock and Roll, white protest movements (imitating Civil Rights
movement: feminism, anti-war, gay rights, environmentalism)
· modern rise of conservatism:
neo-conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality” (Irving
“government programs don’t work”: middle class taxes should not serve
harebrained government ideas
of South to a Republican base
4. coup de grace to Democratic coalition
flight to Republican ideals
· for blacks:
jobs for blacks in government: not leadership positions but ordinary public
payroll jobs but at the same time manufacturing jobs were drying up
jobs became government jobs
industrial period for black Americans had lasted less than a generation
hand dealt: dependence of blacks on govt. jobs
Nixon, Moynihan and Welfare (202-210)
Election: Hubert Humphrey vs. Richard Nixon
· Hubert Humphrey, a democrat from Minnesota had
been the most outstanding liberal in the Senate for the past twenty years.
· His whole political career would have led him
to reinvigorate the War on Poverty
· But he lost.
was Nixon’s attitude towards these issues and how did Moynihan influence
· Moynihan’s return!
· Race was a side issue for Nixon: he had
conceded the black vote to the Democrats
· He and Moynihan shared a deep dislike of left
liberal political culture:
complete decadence of the American upper class intellectual elite”: Ivy
League professors, black power, foundation executives, Georgetown hostesses,
journalists and students.
· Goal of preserving the union ala Abe Lincoln
in face of dissent
Nixon’s record of liberal accomplishment will reveal opposition as a
destructive faction and neutralize the left
spares the OEO and Model Cities
Why should Richard Nixon be
remembered as one of the most liberal presidents in American history?
· very liberal on social
spending: expansion of welfare, affirmative action, and a guaranteed annual
· political climate did
not generate a new conventional wisdom: the Great Society paradigm was
· “He spent to keep the lid on” even though not
a single vote was gained in the process.
· benign neglect and the Bussing Issue in Boston
· Rumsfeld and Cheney’s first big job:
dismantling the Office of Economic Opportunity
was Moynihan’s analysis of the deepening problem in the cities?
· rising unemployment
· unstable families
· more people on welfare rolls
· increasing crime
Justifying the Family Assistance Plan (210-214)
Describe his ‘Family
Assistance Plan’. Why did he support the reform and expansion of welfare, ‘a
guaranteed fixed income’, instead of a jobs program?
· giving money to intact families as well as
female headed households
· reform welfare
· reverse immigration to cities by encouraging a
movement back to rural areas (although the migration had already ended due to
· logic? Welfare
disparities had produced the migration to the cities.
· political goal: eliminate social workers from
government jobs: the left’s wedge into government
Despite opposition from Southern
Democrats and left wing organizations who argued against increasing welfare
spending, Moynihan’s argument won: : “supporting a large welfare
dependent class will be the accepted cost of doing business in the cities.”
Instead of backing a jobs program
which would have given the blacks the best hope of achieving middle class
status, he supported a guaranteed fixed income to co-opt liberal criticism:
welfare= guaranteed income
· Political goal: prevent the radical black
middle class from achieving a power base as service providers to black lower
class: “Do this or the city burns.”
· Welfare takes the play away from the black
How did the Poor People’s
Campaign end Moynihan’s influence? (216-218)
· Meeting between its leaders and Nixon went
Nixon Turns Right (214-221)
Look at Lemann’s conclusion
about the period when our federal government had its best opportunity to pass
national legislation addressing the problems in our inner cities. At what
point was the moment truly gone lost? (218-19)
· Nixon turns right.
Does Lemann agree with
Reagan’s assessment that “we fought a war on poverty and poverty won”?
· It was a botch.
· Even so, ideas were not tried during the
federal government’s moment of focus on issues of race
Making Head Start a universal program
Major Public Works Program (ala Labor’s proposal)
Major commitment of police to the cities
No replacement for welfare to get the poor back into the mainstream
· A great amount of good work was done to help
the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and the hungry
· Black middle class grew faster than at any
time in American History
· Community Action used up the political capital
and was doomed
What is Lemann’s final
assessment of LBJ? (219-221)
· A racist who probably did more for blacks than
any other President.