This article is intended to show you that JFK’s beliefs and policies would line up more with current Republicans than Democrats. This article is not intended to convince you that JFK would be a strong conservative or Republican today. It’s also possible that he would have adopted the new Democrat beliefs of today. We will never know. What we do know is that many of JFK’s beliefs are incompatible with Democrats today.
MYTH: John F. Kennedy (JFK) would still be a Democrat today.
REALITY: This is most likely false. Although, JFK supported social programs, deficit spending, and raising the minimum wage, most of his other policies would line up with Republicans today.
Kennedy supported capitalism, the NRA, tax cuts, nationalism, and limited government. He opposed abortion, racial quotas, and Marxism.
One contributing factor that explains why Kennedy’s beliefs would line up as Republican, is that the Democrat Party has become very radical from what it was during his time.
(To read more about how Democrats have become more radical, check out my article “The Republican Party Has Changed Myth”)
Check out JFK’s beliefs—
JOHN F. KENNEDY BELIEFS THAT WOULD BE REPUBLICAN OR CONSERVATIVE TODAY
JFK supported a strong military
JFK was against Marxist ideologies
JFK was a 2nd amendment supporter and an NRA member
JFK was against racial quotas
JFK supported tax cuts, even lowering taxes on the top income bracket
JFK was against abortion
JFK supported capitalism and free trade
JFK supported a limited government
JFK was a nationalist
(Check below for evidence)
Kennedy supported a strong U.S. military. He believed a strong military would deter foreign adversaries. Kennedy said, “We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”
President Kennedy, at a press conference, said his Administration had increased the defense budget by more than 14%. Kennedy added, “In strategic forces, which are the nuclear forces, we have ordered a 50 percent increase in the number of Polaris submarines to be on battle station by the end of 1964; a 50 percent increase in the number of strategic bombers on 15-minute ground alert at the end of runways, which is already in effect; a 100 percent increase in our capacity to produce Minuteman missiles against the day when that production capacity may be needed, and a similar increase in Skybolt, and other programs which affect our strategic arm. To strengthen our non-nuclear forces…we have called up two additional divisions, and many thousands more, particularly in the air. We have increased by 75 percent our modern long-range aircraft capacity by. We have increased our anti-guerilla forces by 150 percent. We have stepped up the delivery of the M-14 rifle from a maximum of 9,000 a month to 44,000 a month. We have taken other steps to bring the Army and Navy and Marine units to full strength in terms of manpower and equipment.…”
JFK was adamantly against Marxism. Kennedy believed that the United States was the best country in the world that had even more to offer the world. He believed Marxism led to self-destruction.
Here’s what Kennedy said, “I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa of the Foreign Relations Committee, and every African nationalist 20 or 25 or 30 years ago quoted Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now many of them quote Marx: many of them are Marxist if not Communists. Many of them believe that that represents the way of the future. What has happened to the vitality of the United States that they should feel that history moves in the direction of the most reactionary system of government ever devised? Why is it that we who represent the final flowering of the human experience in self-government should be regarded as a tired country, as a country which has seen its best days? I don’t hold that view. think our high noon is yet to come. But I think if we devote ourselves to the public interest, if we are willing to bear the burdens which go with self-government and the maintenance of freedom in a country such as the United States, if we say that we will have a defense second to none, if we concentrate on building our economy so that we are the No.1 productive power in the world and maintain that position, if we provide equality of opportunity for our citizens, regardless of their religion and regardless of their race, then what we will be will speak far louder than what the Communists say we are. I think that is the responsibility of this generation of Americans.” (JFK, September 29, 1960)
Kennedy also said, “Marx is proven wrong once again: for it is the closed Communist societies, not the free and open societies which carry within themselves the seeds of internal disintegration. The disarray of the Communist empire has been heightened by two other formidable forces. One is the historical force of nationalism and the yearning of all men to be free. The other is the gross inefficiency of their economies. For a closed society is not open to ideas of progress–and a police state finds that it cannot command the grain to grow.” (JFK, January 14, 1963)
Kennedy was one of the few presidents who was a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Kennedy strongly supported the Second Amendment. Here’s what he said, “We need a nation of minutemen – citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life, and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.”
According to an Economist/YouGov Poll from 2018, “73% of Democrats strongly support banning semi-automatic guns. These are most handguns and rifles. In addition, 58% of Democrats want stricter firearm regulations, compared to 14% of Republicans; and 24% of Democrats strongly support the removal of the 2nd Amendment, compared to 4% of Republicans.
According to a Gallup poll, conducted in June 2018, only 24% of Democrats held a favorable view of the NRA, compared to 53% of all Americans who had a favorable view. A total of 88% of Republicans have a favorable view of the NRA.
Kennedy was against using preferences and quotas. He believed racial quotas prevented equal opportunity.
Here’s what Kennedy thought of racial quotas— “I don’t think quotas are a good idea. I think it is a mistake to begin to assign quotas based on religion or race or color, or nationality. I think we get into a good deal of trouble. Our whole view of ourselves is a sort of one society. That has not been true. At least that is where we are trying to go. I think that we ought not to begin the quota system. On the other hand, I do think that we ought to make an effort to give a fair chance to everyone who is qualified, not through a quota, but just look over our employment rolls, look over our areas where we are hiring people, and at least make sure we are giving everyone a fair chance, but not hard and fast quotas.”
In 1962, Kennedy decreased the top income tax rate from 91% to 65%. This is the opposite of what Democrats would do today.
On Sept. 18, 1963, Kennedy stated, “A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget. Every taxpayer and his family will have more money left over after taxes for a new car, a new home, new conveniences, education, and investment. Every businessman can keep a higher percentage of his profits in his cash register or put it to work expanding or improving his business, and as the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues.”
Kennedy appointed one of the few Justices on the Supreme Court who opposed Roe v. Wade.
Kennedy was also against Japan’s use of abortion as a way of controlling the population size.
During an interview, in 1960, Kennedy was asked about his concerns about the growing population. He replied, “On the question of limiting population: As you know, the Japanese have been doing it very vigorously, through abortion, which I think would be repugnant to all Americans.”
CAPITALISM AND FREE TRADE
Kennedy supported free trade and capitalism. Here was Kennedy defending capitalism and insulting Marxism— “But this country is still far from fitting your description of a “senile capitalist system – (an) exhausted, limping and stumbling * * * horse.” For while you may be an expert on Karl Marx, Karl Marx was not an expert on modern American capitalism, with its unique combination of public effort and private competition, dynamic, progressive, and still evolving. It may, from time to time, pause or show weakness. But it is still capable of reaching greater heights than any you have ever seen or imagined. It is still capable of building all the defenses we need, and all the schools and homes and public works – and help stabilize the non-Communist world at the same time.” (JFK, September 16, 1960)
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, despite capitalism being viewed favorably by a majority of the nation (60%), a majority of Democrats view capitalism unfavorably. Democrats approve of socialism more than capitalism. The poll shows that only 47% of Democrats approve of capitalism, while 57% approve of socialism.
According to Gallup, “A majority of Democrats have viewed socialism positively each time Gallup has measured the concept since 2010, and — despite the increased visibility given to the concept this year — those views have not changed substantively. But the drop in Democrats’ positive views of capitalism this year has for the first time left Democrats more positive about socialism as a concept than about capitalism.”
According to another Gallup poll, conducted in 2019, 74% of Democrats say they’d vote for a Socialist for President.
This one can go either way. Although he believed in government-run social programs, he believed the federal government should have as little to do with state matters as possible.
Here’s what Kennedy said about Federal powers—
“The ever-expanding power of the federal government, the absorption of many of the functions that states and cities once considered to be the responsibilities of their own, must now be a source of concern to all those who believe as did the Irish Patriot, Henry Grattan: ‘Control over local affairs is the essence of liberty.’” (JFK, January 29, 1950)
“The Federal Government cannot do for us what we must do for ourselves, but it can, with more progressive leadership, set the atmosphere in which our economy can be revitalized, introducing a new era that will bring new business and new jobs and new income to New England.” (JFK, September 02, 1960)
“Big government is just as much a threat to our liberties as too little government… I want as much of this done without Federal intervention as possible. I am against big government but I am for effective government. But only the Federal Government can build atomic weapons and interstate highways. Only the Federal Government can maintain a national tobacco program, a tariff on cotton, social security for retired mill workers, and protection for all Americans of every race in the enjoyment of their full constitutional rights – and only the President of the United States can provide the national leadership we must have in the 1960s to meet these and other needs.” (JFK, October 10, 1960)
According to a 2020 Pew Research survey, “About three-quarters of Republicans (74%) say they prefer a smaller government providing fewer services. A nearly identical share of Democrats (76%) says they prefer a bigger government providing more services. Among conservative Republicans, more than eight-in-ten (83%) prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services; an identical share of liberal Democrats prefer a larger government that provides more services.”
I believe this one leads more in favor of what Republicans believe in. Kennedy is in opposition to big government. Like Republicans, Kennedy wants a limited but effective government. Kennedy’s words would not be well received by Democrats today. That being said, he did support social programs, which Democrats would be more in favor of.
Here’s the definition of “Nationalism” according to Merriam-Webster— a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on the promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.
By this definition, JFK was a nationalist. Here are speeches by Kennedy displaying his nationalist pride—
“We are a great and strong country – perhaps the greatest and strongest in the history of the world.” (JFK, September 17, 1960)
“Today the United States is the greatest nation on earth and today we all agree that we are the most powerful nation on earth… I think as individuals and as members of the greatest country on earth, we, too, are going to be called out of the ranks and we too in the 1960s must give the affirmative answer.” (JFK, August 26, 1960)
“This is a republic of proud citizens who are united by our common conviction that America is the greatest nation in all of history. We are, and must always be, a land of hope, light, and glory to all the world. This is the precious inheritance that we must safeguard at every single turn.” (Donald Trump, January 19, 2021)
That last one was by Donald Trump. The speeches are very similar.
REPUBLICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AFTER 1964
Democrats, today, claim that Kennedy would be a Democrat currently because he supported Civil Rights. This would be false and history tells a different story. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Republicans were responsible for just about every civil rights action on record. So, what about after the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Here’s a list of the civil rights achievements by Republicans after 1964—
Enforcing one of America’s first affirmative action programs (Philadelphia Plan)
Desegregating the schools
Instituted an executive order mandating equal opportunity in federal employment (Executive Order 11478).
Officially recognizing black history month
Creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Signing Voting Rights Act Extension
Appointing African Americans to high ranking positions.
Appointing the second African American Supreme Court Justice.
Designating August 12th National Civil Rights Day
Signing the Hate Crime Statistics Act
Signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1991
(Read my article “the Southern Strategy Myth“)
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Elder, L. (n.d.). If John F. Kennedy was alive today, he would be a Republican. PragerU. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.prageru.com/if-john-f-kennedy-was-alive-today-he-would-be-a-republican
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Publisher. (n.d.). News conference 60, August 20, 1963. JFK Library. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/john-f-kennedy-press-conferences/news-conference-60
Publisher. (n.d.). Legislative summary: Defense & military. JFK Library. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/legislative-summary/defense-military
Publisher. (n.d.). Congress Increases Kennedy Defense Budget. CQ Almanac Online Edition. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal61-1372707
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Philips, C. (1963, August 21). Kennedy Opposes Quotas For Jobs On Basis Of Race; Says Education Is Greatest Need of Negroes–Doubts U.S. Can ‘Repair Past’ Rights Bills Pressed Congress Urged to Act This Session–Election Year Pressure in ’64 Cited Calls Education Vital Kennedy Opposes Racial Job Quota Protests Illustrate Plight. New York Times , p. 1.
Reinhart, R. J. (2018, July 28). Record U.S. partisan divide on views of the NRA. Gallup. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/236315/record-partisan-divide-views-nra.aspx
McCarthy, J. (2019, May 9). Less than half in U.S. would vote for a socialist for president. Gallup. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/254120/less-half-vote-socialist-president.aspx
Newport, F. (2018, August 13). Democrats more positive about socialism than capitalism. Gallup. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/240725/democrats-positive-socialism-capitalism.aspx
Publisher. (2020, September 4). Americans’ views of government: Low Trust, but some positive performance ratings. Pew Research Center – U.S. Politics & Policy. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/09/14/americans-views-of-government-low-trust-but-some-positive-performance-ratings/
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The End of Southern Exceptionalism – Byron E. Shafer, Richard Johnston. Harvard University Press. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674032491&content=reviews
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Shultz, G. P. (2003, April 30). How a Republican Desegregated the South’s Schools. Hoover Institution. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.hoover.org/research/how-republican-desegregated-souths-schools
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