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The Great Society

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Another golden age of liberalism -- rivaling Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" of the 1930s -- came in the 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" scored an amazing array of breakthroughs.

It coincided with the historic counterculture upheaval that spurred America's sexual revolution, women's liberation, "green" environmentalism and other liberal transformations.

First, politics: The 1964 election gave Congress a large Democratic majority, and Democratic President Johnson seized the opportunity to pass landmark social changes.

Four different new laws locked in black equality, guaranteeing African Americans (1) the right to vote, wiping out bigoted southern tests that had blocked blacks from the polls, (2) equality in public accommodations, (3) equality in job opportunity, and (4) equality in housing. These breakthroughs infuriated white southern racists and gradually drove Dixie -- formerly the Democratic "Solid South" -- into the conservative Republican Party.

LBJ, a master manipulator, also gained passage of these monumental advances:

Medicare, providing health treatment to retirees.

Medicaid, giving care to the poor.

The Job Corps to train high-school dropouts for brighter futures.

Headstart to give lower-income tots an early school advantage.

Public radio and television, commercial-free educational broadcasting.

Consumer protection laws, guarding against scams.

Strong laws against industrial air, water and land pollution.

Rent supplements to help less-privileged families have better homes.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)

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