Alternate History

The Bullet Misses! Kennedy's Second Term

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Attempted Assassination of John F. Kennedy

November 22nd, 1963

12:30 PM- Kennedy survives an assassination attempt while riding in his motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

12:34 PM- The Dallas police report Lee Harvey Oswald, an American communist, missing.

1:12 PM- Dallas police officer JD Tippet is shot by Oswald

1:50 PM- Lee Harvey Oswald is caught in a local movie theatre and is arrested by the police.

November 24th, 1963

11:21 AM- Jack Ruby shoots and kills Lee Harvey Oswald, and is also jailed.

Presidential Election of 1964

The United States presidential election of 1964 was the sixth-most lopsided presidential election in the history of the United States behind the elections of 1936, 1984, 1972, 1864, and 1980 (in terms of electoral votes; in terms of popular vote, it was the fifth-most). President John F. Kennedy has been the President since his inauguration in 1961. Kennedy also successfully painted his opponent, Republic Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, as a right-wing legislator who wanted to abolish the social welfare programs created in the 1930s (such as Social Security). JFK advocated more such programs, and after 1965, instituted three: Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty. Kennedy, who dealt with such crisises as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Berlin Crisis of 1961, had experience on waging the Cold War. His opponent, Barry Goldwater, wanted to use nuclear weapons and supported nuclear warfare against the Soviet Union. This scared the American public. With these factors working for him, Kennedy easily won the Presidency, carrying 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As of 2009, Kennedy's 22.6 percentage point-margin of victory in the popular vote is the fifth-largest such margin in Presidential election history (after the margins of the 1920, 1924, 1936, and 1972 election). Kennedy won 61.1% of the national popular vote, which remains the highest popular-vote percentage won by a U.S.presidential candidate since 1820. The election is also remembered due to Goldwater's status as a pioneer in the modern conservative movement.

Kennedy's Second Term

Civil Rights

In conjunction with the civil rights movement, Kennedy overcame southern resistance and convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed most forms of racial segregation. The act was originally proposed in 1962 and had lined up the necessary votes in the House to pass his civil rights act by the time of the election, but Kennedy pushed it through the Senate and signed it into law on July 2, 1964. Legend has it that, as he put down his pen, Johnson told an aide, "We gotta get the South back on track", anticipating a coming backlash from Southern whites against the Democratic Party.

In 1965, he achieved passage of a second civil rights bill, the Equal Voting Act, which outlawed discrimination in voting, thus allowing millions of southern blacks to vote for the first time. In accordance with the act, several states, "seven of the eleven southern states of the former confederacy" - Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia — were subjected to the procedure of preclearance in 1965, while Texas, home to the majority of the African American population at the time, followed in 1975.

Viola Liuzzo, Kennedy went on television to announce the arrest of four Ku Klux Klansmen implicated in her death. Kennedy denounced the Klan as a "hooded society of bigots," and warned them to "return to a decent society before it's too late." Kennedy was the first President to arrest and prosecute members of the Klan since Ulysses S. Grant about 93 years earlier. He turned the themes of Christian redemption to push for civil rights, thereby mobilizing support from churches North and South.


Kennedy signed the Immigration Act of 1965, which substantially changed U.S. immigration policy toward non-Europeans. While European-born immigrants accounted for nearly 60% of the total foreign-born population in 1970, they accounted for only 15% in 2000. Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970, and doubled again between 1970 and 1990. Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled,from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.

The Golden Society

The Golden Society program, with its name coined from one of Kennedy's speeches, became Kennedy's agenda for Congress in January 1965: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, Medicaid, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or amending, enacted many of Johnson's recommendations.

Federal Funding for Education

Kennedy made education a top priority of the Great Society, with an emphasis on helping poor children. After the 1964 landslide brought in many new liberal Congressmen, he had the votes for the New American Education Act (NAEA) of 1965. For the first time, large amounts of federal money went to public schools. In practice NAEA meant helping all public school districts, with more money going to districts that had large proportions of students from poor families (which included all the big cities). However, for the first time private schools (most of them Catholic schools in the inner cities) received services, such as library funding, comprising about 12% of the NAEA budget. As Dallek reports, researchers soon found that poverty had more to do with family background and neighborhood conditions than the quantity of education a child received. Early studies suggested initial improvements for poor kids helped by NAEA reading and math programs, but later assessments indicated that benefits faded quickly and left students little better off than those not in the programs. Johnson’s second major education program was the Standards for Education Act of 1965, which focused on funding for lower income students, including grants, work-study money, and government loans. Although NAEA solidified Kennedy's support among K-12 teachers' unions, the Standards for Education Act mollified the college professors and students growing increasingly uneasy with the war in Vietnam.

War on Poverty

In 1964, upon Kennedy's request, Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, which was in association with Kennedy's "War on Poverty". Kennedy set in motion bills and acts, creating programs such as Head Start, food stamps, Work Study, Medicare and Medicaid, which still exist today.

Medicare and Medicaid

The medicare program was established to offer cheaper medical services to the elderly, today covering tens of millions of Americans. Kennedy gave the first two Medicare cards to former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess after signing the medicare bill at the Truman Library

Lower income groups receive government-sponsored medical coverage through the Medicaid program.

Space Race

During Kennedy's administration, the first human spaceflight to the Moon, Apollo 8, was successfully flown by NASA in December 1968. The President congratulated the astronauts, saying, "You've seen the world in a different way, up there. Time will tell when all free peoples will be able to."

Urban Riots

Major riots in black neighborhoods caused a series of "long hot summers." They started with a violent disturbance in Harlem in 1964 and the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, and extended to 1970. The biggest wave came in April 1968, when riots occurred in over a hundred cities in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Newark burned in 1967, where six days of rioting left 26 dead, 1500 injured, and the inner city a burned out shell. In Detroit in 1957, Governor George Romney sent in 7400 national guard troops to quell fire bombings, looting, and attacks on businesses and on police. Kennedy finally sent in federal troops with tanks and machine guns. Detroit continued to burn for three more days until finally 43 were dead, 2250 were injured, 4000 were arrested; property damage ranged into the hundreds of millions; much of inner Detroit was never rebuilt. Johnson called for even more billions to be spent in the cities and another federal civil rights law regarding housing, but his political capital had been spent, and his Great Society programs lost support. Johnson's popularity plummeted as a massive white political backlash took shape, reinforcing the sense Johnson had lost control of the streets of major cities as well as his party.

Kennedy's Success in Vietnam

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