When learning about Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, I saw a parallel between the Great Society and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign. First off, they both contain the word “great”, meaning they want to improve society. Things start to become less parallel, however, when considering what they each thought was in need of improvement. Johnson’s definition of a “great” America was wildly different than the one Trump has proposed. It’s interesting to look at the contrast between the liberal and conservative definitions of a “great society”.
The first thing to look at would be the manner in which Johnson worked towards his vision versus the way Trump has handled things. The Johnson administration worked through congress, submitting 87 bills total. Trump, during his first few months in office, has passed 34 executive orders. I think this really shows a huge difference between the two: Johnson wanted to work with the people, while Trump wants to rule us.
However, they differ even more when it comes to their actual goals.
Johnson’s “War on Poverty” attempted to bridge the socioeconomic gap in our country. He passed many acts to help reach this goal, including the Food Stamp Act, the Social Security Act, and the Economic Opportunity Act, which created the Job Corps. All of this legislation was meant to help decrease the poverty rate and help out communities struggling economically. Strangely, the desire to help end poverty and inequality is a uniquely liberal idea. Trump’s conservative plan has marginalized struggling communities. His legislation will likely increase poverty rates. Through his new health care act as well as his proposal to lower taxes (for the upper-middle class), he will be putting poor communities at even more of a disadvantage.
Another goal of the Johnson administration was to create a better public education system. After the passing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, the federal government was free to fund programs in public schools, especially those that helped children from lower-income families. Johnson also passed a number of other laws to give more educational opportunities to lower-class citizens, as well as to improve the overall quality of our education system. Trump obviously doesn’t see the same value in having strong education in his “great” America, as he has already cut funding for the Education Department by 9.2 billion dollars.
There’s one more huge difference between the two plans for a “great” America: equality. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Immigration Act. All three of these were meant to prevent discrimination, whether it was at the polls or when entering our country. Trump, on the other hand, encouraged discrimination just through his campaign. His vision of a “great” American society seems to be one color: white. After Trump’s win in the election, there was an influx in reports of racism, especially in schools. And with his plan to “build a wall” and his Immigration Ban, he has effectively marginalized Latinos and those of Islamic faith.
Perhaps Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great” Society was just an alternative definition.