Painting the Picture
The role of American domestic policy in the Cold War
When the Cold War was brought into an election, naturally it was discussed in terms of America. Sometimes foreign policy issues were decisive factors in the outcome of the vote, showing their relevance in American lives. Even so, this did not always mean these issues directly related to the rest of the world. The quoted interpretation is strong in its recognition of the America-centric view in translating domestic policy into foreign policy. However, this does not mean America had an inaccurate perception of the Cold War. On the contrary, the Cold War ultimately was defined by the United States’ perspective on the war, and more specifically, the issues on which its people voted. American viewpoints dictated American action, which was at the center of the Cold War. Including Cold War issues in presidential elections was common. In the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, it was because fear of nuclear war was widespread. Citizens were terrified of the supposed “missile gap” between the USSR and the United States. Kennedy benefitted from this fear, denouncing Nixon for not having a plan that would increase production of weapons. The voters agreed, and Kennedy was elected. What had become a large issue in the election, however, did not even exist. It turned out there was no missile gap. In this case, the political discussion was essentially irrelevant to the greater scope of the Cold War, as the quote contends. But, for example, in the 1964 election the main issue was more legitimate. Johnson’s famous campaign ad featuring a young girl amidst an explosion represented the valid threat of nuclear war. This looming possibility was not just a reality of the United States, but of the entire world. With the support of the people, these decisive issues helped shape the term of the winner. Presidents always worked toward America’s interests, frequently at the expense of other...
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