In 1962, the second year of his presidency, John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) used his executive authority to impose economic and social change in the United States. He fought resistance from both Congress and the American people and moved forward with his program, called the “New Frontier,” to eradicate poverty, inequality, and prejudice. His administration successfully enforced desegregation at the University of Mississippi. It mandated that American industry benefit the American people. Kennedy persuaded Congress to stimulate the stagnant economy by ordering tax cuts. He also sided publicly with the Supreme Court ruling against school prayer.

Today, John F. Kennedy is often portrayed as a heroic president, but fifty years ago many Americans resisted his new policies. The 1962 mid-term election served as a referendum on Kennedy’s New Frontier program, with record numbers of African Americans enrolled as voters. Their support permitted the Democratic Party to hold sway in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Despite the promise of change, Herblock remained cynical about politicians and the backroom negotiations that went into running for office.

[Flag with dollar sign]

By illustrating a waving flag with a dollar sign above the United States flag, Herblock showed that he agreed with President John F. Kennedy—an increase in the price of steel in 1962 would put business profits ahead of the American people’s need for national security and a stable economy. President Kennedy actively influenced the steel industry by participating in a noninflationary wage agreement between union workers and management, and also pressured the steel industry into rescinding a price increase.

[Flag with dollar sign flies above the United States flag at a steel factory]. Published in the Washington Post, April 12, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05557] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Wait a Minute—That's Not What I Had in Mind”

Herblock used a precarious canoe ride to convey the difficulties of balancing the federal budget without tax reform. President Kennedy presented a narrowly balanced budget to Congress in January 1962, but it was at risk from those who demanded a balanced budget without forfeiting special tax privileges. Influenced by British economist John Maynard Keynes, Kennedy argued that tax reform was essential to move the economy out of stagnation. Kennedy’s “tax reform” oar offered the incentive of tax cuts to balance modification of privileges.

Wait a Minute—That's Not What I Had in Mind.” Published in the Washington Post, January 19, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05526] © Herb Block Foundation

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“It Looks Like a Real Free-For-All”

Herblock depicted the fight over tax reform in 1962 as a process that inflicted pain across party lines in Congress. The Democratic Party donkey and the Republic Party elephant duck for cover from the flying knives in the Senate. Influenced by British economist John Maynard Keynes, Kennedy believed that tax cuts could reinvigorate the stagnant American economy and pushed Congress to introduce reforms. However, it took several months for the House and Senate to agree on the terms.

It Looks Like a Real Free-For-All.” Published in the Washington Post, July 22, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05646] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Leaving Religion to Private Initiative Is Un-American”

When the Supreme Court ruled against state-mandated school prayer in public schools in 1962 in the case of Engel v. Vitale, several Congressmen protested the decision. In his support of the Supreme Court, President Kennedy encouraged Americans to pray privately, which further fueled the congressional backlash. Herblock criticized Congress’s proposal to mandate school prayer in this caricature of Senator James Glenn Beall of Maryland who led the call for an amendment to require school prayer.

Leaving Religion to Private Initiative Is Un-American.” Published in the Washington Post, June 28, 1962. Ink brush and graphite over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05631] © Herb Block Foundation

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Other Foreign News

In October 1962, James Meredith, an African American who believed that “a greater use should be made of the Negro potential,” enrolled at the segregated University of Mississippi in Oxford. When riots ensued and two people died, President Kennedy sent federal troops to Oxford. Herblock showed Meredith studying despite the taunts of white students. The title, “Other Foreign News,” and the students’ sign reading “Go Home American,” expressed Herblock’s belief that violent racists behaved as if they were exempt from the laws that governed the United States.

Other Foreign News. Published in the Washington Post, October 26, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white with overlays over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05716] © Herb Block Foundation

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“What Are You, Some Kind of a Fresh Air Nut?”

Herblock advocated campaign finance reform by showing a man, representing new legislation, opening a window to bring transparency to backroom politics. The President’s Commission on Campaign Costs released its report in April 1962 while the off-year election for House and Senate seats was underway. The Kennedy administration vowed to tighten campaign funding laws and proposed tax incentives to encourage small private donations to election campaigns, thereby reducing the reliance on a few wealthy contributors.

What Are You, Some Kind of a Fresh Air Nut? Published in the Washington Post, April 25, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05587] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I Understand You Plan to Sit Out This Dilemma”

Herblock depicted President John F. Kennedy riding an angry Texas longhorn, while a reporter inquires about the president’s role in the Texas gubernatorial primary. In 1962, John B. Connally, Jr., (a supporter of Vice President Lyndon Johnson), faced Don Yarborough, a Democratic Party candidate who embodied Kennedy’s liberal vision. The mid-term elections tested the popularity of the president’s programs, and, in the case of Texas, pitted Johnson’s conservative Democrats (who won) against the liberal Kennedy supporters.

I Understand You Plan to Sit Out This Dilemma.” Published in the Washington Post, May 9, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05597] © Herb Block Foundation

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“How Soon Do You Think We Can Get Away from Here and Still Come Back Next Year?”

A cynical Herblock portrayed members of Congress as elderly legislators focused on returning home to run for reelection and refusing to pass the legislation proposed by President Kennedy. Republican and southern Democrat lawmakers had not acted on bills for Medicare, youth employment, mass transit subsidies, and agriculture. Liberal Democratic congressional leaders threatened to hold Congress in session until October.

How Soon Do You Think We Can Get Away from Here and Still Come Back Next Year? Published in the Washington Post, July 25, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05648] © Herb Block Foundation

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“I Said, You DO Have Your Hearing Aid Turned On, Sir, Don't You?”

For the 1962 election campaign, Herblock used the metaphor of a door-to-door brush salesman whose patter goes unheeded, because he felt that the political races had bored voters into tuning out. In the 1960s less than two-thirds of eligible voters went to the polls. Newspaper articles pointed out that while African Americans were registering to vote in record numbers, the apathy of white voters kept the turnout low. Herblock reused this cartoon during the 1976 election, with minor modifications.

I Said, You DO Have Your Hearing Aid Turned On, Sir, Don't You? Published in the Washington Post, October 12, 1962. Reprinted in 1976. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white with overlay over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05707] © Herb Block Foundation

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“Let ‘Em Vote for Congressmen—Long As We Can Keep the Congressmen from Voting for Them”

Responding to the introduction of the Twenty-fourth Amendment intended to eliminate poll taxes and improve voting opportunities for African Americans, Herblock depicted B. Everett Jordan, a senator from North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, speaking to a stereotypical southern voter. The men begrudgingly accept African American suffrage while implying that they can still prevent passage of Civil Rights legislation. Civil Rights advocates argued that the Senate Rules Committee blocked key bills through the use of the filibuster.

Let 'Em Vote for Congressmen—Long As We Can Keep the Congressmen from Voting for Them.” Published in the Washington Post, December 19, 1962. Ink brush, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.03.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-05752] © Herb Block Foundation

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