Sample History Essays on Vietnam and the 1964 Election: Lyndon Johnson

The presidential election that Lyndon Johnson participated in was decided by unique personality than specific issues. In essence, Johnson presented himself as a peaceful and rational candidate, which worked on his favor because he won by 61 percent, a considerable margin compared to the previous candidate. The win was a clear testament that the Americans wanted a lasting peace as opposed to the war with which his fierce competitor was associated. Indeed, Lyndon’s portrayal as a peaceful leader effectively worked against his rival. His opponent was frequently referred to as a warmonger because his statements depicted affinity for conflict. The electorates feared that nuclear wars would increase under Goldwater, Lyndon’s opponent. The electorates saw Lyndon as the best alternative because he presented himself as a ‘peace’ candidate and rational. Hence, the quest for world peace played a significant role in Lyndon’s victory. The public failed to see through Lyndon’s lies since after his election, he did not fulfil his promise of maintaining peace.

While Lyndon’s portrayal as a ‘peace’ candidate helped him to ascend to power, it posed a problem for him after he seized power. The world began to view him as an unreliable leader who would do anything to win an election, including deceiving his people.  Majority of the electorates accused him of dishonesty because they thought that Lyndon had portrayed himself as a peaceful candidate only to be elected. In reality, he wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam upon ascension to power. The presence of American soldiers in foreign soil partly contributed to his the decline of his popularity. Lerner opines that Lyndon’s major problem came from the apparent discrepancy between his peaceful campaign conversations and the conscious decision to escalate America’s involvement in Vietnam (752). Besides, the American population felt that Lyndon’s administration was not sufficiently transparent in its intervention in Vietnam. It was believed the Lyndon was funding an international war project yet the economy of the U.S. could not support the endeavor. This led him to lose his moral credibility as an honest, peaceful, and outspoken leader who could properly implement policies to drive America forward.

Lyndon Johnson portrayed himself as a ‘peace’ candidate. He manipulated the media to think that he would not support the Vietnamese war. He publicly claimed he wanted a world that was devoid of war. Nevertheless, his advisors expected Lyndon to directly involve America in the Vietnam War (Lerner 753). Lyndon’s peaceful assertions are also adequately documented in some of his speeches in which he pledged to ensure South Vietnamese attained their independence. Furthermore, he criticized the reduction in foreign aid because he thought that the budget allocated to international intervention could not sufficiently support programs initiated to restore peace in other countries, including Vietnam, where America had dispatched soldiers. Lyndon demonstrated his ideological commitment to spread communism and restore peace using such statements. His portrayal of himself as a peaceful candidate is also evident in a letter he sent General Minh. In the letter, Lyndon reaffirmed his decision to continue with his support in the struggle for freedom in Vietnam (Lerner 753). He ended the note by declaring that America would offer the soldiers and equipment necessary to help South Vietnam to achieve victory in its quest for freedom (753). This was perceived by many as his peaceful assertion on the need to find a lasting solution and peace in Vietnam.

The population ignores the red flags of Lyndon’s deception during the campaign period, especially concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam for various reasons. Foremost, he packaged his information in such a way that it seemed factual hence convincing. His explicit statements and those of his advisors seemed to affirm the candidate’s determination to honor commitment to peace and search for a long-lasting solution in Vietnam. The candidate also took advantage of propaganda. Ultimately, the population failed to notice Lyndon’s deliberate intentions because he constantly portrayed Goldwater as an aggressor and himself as the best alternative. He made it seem as though Goldwater’s main agenda was to go to war rather than merely involve the country out of necessity.

Lyndon understood that in politics, it is easy for the public to fail to see truth if a near-true statement is made repeatedly. While the people may question such a statement at first, the more it is repeated, the more they learn to accept it as the truth. A similar approach has been successfully used by political candidates around the world. An example is Donald Trump, who managed to paint his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as deceptive or crooked. Indeed, Trump managed to turn attention from his flaws and lies to those of Clinton and managed to win the election. For example, Trump said he that the wall that he had promised to prevent illegal immigration would be funded by Mexico yet he did not have way of making the country pay for the wall.

To conclude, Lyndon’s ability to deceive the American population worked in his favor toward his election as the president. In the opinion of many, Lyndon, as he portrayed himself as a ‘peace’ candidate was better placed to move the country forward. Regrettably, he never lived to the expectations of voters. Instead, he participated in the escalation of war in Vietnam against the wishes of his people. His failure was later demonstrated by his inability to seek for a re-election. Deception is common in democracies around the world where candidates portray themselves as better than their opponents using lies. Lyndon failed because he was driven by the selfish interest to popularize communism and portray America as a powerful state.

Work Cited

Lerner, Mitchell. “Vietnam and the 1964 Election: A Defense of Lyndon Johnson”. Presidential

Studies Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, Perceptions of the Presidency, 1995, pp. 751-766, Wiley, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27551510.