VIVA KENNEDY: MARKETING JFK TO LATINO VOTERS DURING THE 1960 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
“A Time for Greatness 1960.” This was one of John F. Kennedy’s slogans for his 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy wanted to get the country moving again and his narrow victory over Republican Richard Nixon brought about a New Frontier. Crucial to Kennedy’s success was the creation of Viva Kennedy clubs. The Kennedy campaign set up these local clubs with the purpose of appealing to Latino voters by organizing rallies, meetings, and voter registration drives. This thesis addresses how Kennedy marketed himself as a candidate within the Viva Kennedy campaign to Latino voters during the 1960 presidential election. Through a political marketing framework, this thesis analyzes the effectiveness of the different strategies used by the Viva Kennedy clubs to mobilize the Latino vote. This thesis pays particular attention to Kennedy’s constructed image and how the Viva Kennedy brand with its logo and slogan originated. Using local newspaper coverage and campaign documents, this thesis argues that grassroots efforts in the Southwest, with large Mexican American populations, and New York, with a large Puerto Rican population, allowed Kennedy to carry the Latino vote. More importantly, these clubs built upon already-established Latino political organizations by bringing new voices to the table and politically empowering them in the longer term. This thesis matters because it was the first time a major party candidate actively coordinated with a minority group and the Viva Kennedy clubs are in part the main reason why Latino voters are so closely associated with the Democratic Party today. Presidential candidates must reach out to different groups to build their coalitions. The strategies used by the Viva Kennedy clubs have been expanded upon to not just include symbolic appeals, but strong policy proposals as well. It is imperative that presidential candidates from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party pay attention to the needs of the Latino community because it is a key voting bloc.
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