Kennedy's labor advisors and friendly Democrats in the House attempted to aid the NLRB in its work by formulating a reorganization plan. It allowed the board's regional offices to make final reviews on issues of fact, rather than allowing appeals to the board itself. Their aim was to decrease the large backlog of undecided cases, which grew from 410 in 1958 to 1,151 in 1961, due in good part to the increasing number of requests by corporations for board-level reviews. But the Chamber of Commerce and the NAM objected vigorously, claiming that any delegation of authority would deny the right of review by "presidentially appointed board members," which they preferred because they thought that board members "were more vulnerable to political and public pressure than trial examiners obscured from public view" (Gross 1995, pp. 157-159). The conservative coalition then blocked the reorganization plan by a 231-179 vote in the House in July 1961. This outcome served notice that the NLRB was under close scrutiny by ultraconservatives in the corporate community as well as Congressional conservatives. It was also another defeat on labor issues for the liberal-labor alliance.
Wage-price guidelines aside, by late 1966 tax increases seemed to be the proper remedy for dealing with inflation in a situation in which government spending could not be cut due to the escalation of the Vietnam War and the need to spend money to deal with rising tensions in inner cities. Tax increases for high-income earners and profitable corporations appeared to be especially needed. Johnson completely understood this basic point, but political considerations once again made him hesitate. Asking for a tax increase would be to admit that the Vietnam War was expensive and going badly. It would also incur the wrath of the large number of Americans with strong anti-tax sentiments, and perhaps put the large contingent of new Democratic members of Congress at risk in 1966 in their traditionally Republican districts and states. Equally problematic, the conservative coalition made it clear that the price for such an increase was cutbacks in social spending. But the reductions in social spending sought by ultraconservatives risked more conflict among black activists, organized labor, and city officials.
As many as two million people in over two hundred cities and towns participated in Moratorium activities. Participants ranged from at least 15 combat soldiers in Vietnam wearing black armbands, to 100,000 listening on the Boston Common to South Dakota senator George McGovern and setting a record for the largest political crowd in the city’s history, to 250,000 in New York who attended rallies in Bryant Park and on Wall Street. Many Broadway shows canceled their matinees that afternoon and Republican Mayor John Lindsay ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on municipal buildings. As many as 90 percent of high school students in New York failed to show up for class that Wednesday. Turnouts were impressive as well in Chicago, Washington, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh, where the city council endorsed the demonstration. Even more impressive were the dignified silent vigils and prayer meetings held in several hundred small towns where antiwar demonstrations had not been very popular.
Criticism of imperious U.S. policies in Vietnam began long before U.S. troops were deployed. During the 1950s, insightful critiques were proffered by investigative journalists Bernard Fall and I. F. Stone, political scientist Hans Morgenthau, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and peace leaders A. J. Muste and Sidney Lens, to name a few; and in publications such as I. F. Stone’s Weekly, The Christian Century, The New Republic, The Nation, Dissent, Monthly Review, and Liberation. In the November 1952 issue of The Christian Century, for example, the editors castigated the U.S. for supporting French imperialism in Vietnam and ominously warned, “American boys are not dying in Indo-China – yet. But American policy is getting into a deeper and deeper morass there.” In the June 1954 issue of Monthly Review, following the defeat of the French, Marxist scholars Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman issued another warning:
By 1971, the political formula for ending the war had been established. U.S. troops would be withdrawn in stages, in deference to public demand, while the administration would do what it could to help South Vietnam survive without U.S. troops. President Nixon refused to acknowledge the likelihood that continued troop withdrawal would lead to the demise of South Vietnam, whether by treaty or by war. He used every rhetorical sleight-of-hand to present the American exit as “honorable.” The antiwar movement’s political agenda at this point was to ensure that the administration did not backslide and to push up the timetable for withdrawal, which the House of Representatives refused to do.
Tocqueville argued that local democracy frequently represented democracy at its best: “Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people’s reach, they teach men how to use and enjoy it.” City mayors regularly get twice the approval ratings of national politicians. Modern technology can implement a modern version of Tocqueville’s town-hall meetings to promote civic involvement and innovation. An online hyperdemocracy where everything is put to an endless series of public votes would play to the hand of special-interest groups. But technocracy and direct democracy can keep each other in check: independent budget commissions can assess the cost and feasibility of local ballot initiatives, for example.