Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels analyzed the sweep of American political history. It showed how power, and social movements intersect to produce rather hopeful, and sometimes disturbing results. Meacham stated that America has had some good and bad presidents. But they inevitably made political decisions to further their chances of being elected or re-elected to this office.
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 that freed the slaves later led to much Southern resistance. Edward Pollard’s Lost Cause became the rallying cry for many Southerners. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan to epic proportions served as a reminder that their struggle continued. Huey Long and Father Coughlin were demagogues that further fanned fears during turbulent times. Senator Joseph McCarthy stirred up Americans about communism before he was brought down. These were moments that led to terrorism, injury, death, wrongful dismissal of workers, and citizens being ostracized.
Presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson had to lead during such dysfunction. FDR had the Great Depression and a world war on his hands. Yet, he successfully put in place economic growth and social programs for Americans. A Southerner, Lyndon Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson was the architect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legislation providing for gender protections, and outlawing segregation in public accommodations. Nor must we forget the work done by the civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and John Lewis.