Between Guns and Butter: Cold War Presidents, Agenda-Setting, and Visions of National Strength
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This project investigates how the emergent ideological, institutional, and political commitments of the national defense and security state shape the domestic programmatic agendas of modern presidents. Applying a historical and developmental analysis, I trace this dynamic from its origin in the twin crises of the Great Depression and World War II to examine how subsequent presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have navigated the intersecting politics of this warfare -welfare nexus. I use original, archival research to examine communications between the president and his staff, cabinet members, administration officials, and Congressional leaders to better appreciate how the interaction of these dual political commitments are reflected in the formulation and promotion of the president’s budgetary requests and domestic policy initiatives. More directly, I focus on the relationship between the national security politics of the Cold War and the efforts of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to support their objectives in either the expansion or retrenchment of the New Deal-liberal welfare state. My research suggests that Cold War concerns occasionally aided the growth of the welfare state in areas such as public health and federal aid to education, while at other times defense and security anxieties provided the backdrop for presidential efforts to diminish the political capacity of the welfare state. More specifically, I find that both Truman and Eisenhower constructed visions of national strength which framed their initiatives in national defense and social welfare as interrelated goals. In the end, I argue that the changing institutions, ideologies, and international commitments of the warfare state present both opportunities and challenges for presidents to articulate political visions in service of domestic policy advancement.