For scholars who wish to stress the way in which JFK grew in ofﬁce, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a key milestone. It marks his maturity. But the actual scale of change is debatable, since the October 1962 crisis did not change many things. First and foremost, the defusing of the immediate crisis could not in itself eliminate the profound mistrust of the USSR that the episode fueled on the American side. Consequently, for much of the next nine months there was pressure on Kennedy to ensure that the terms of the agreement over Cuba, speciﬁcally the removal of offensive weapons, were met. The crisis had also erupted in the immediate run-up to the midterm congressional elections and Kennedy had worried that any weakness or failing on his part would be punished with Republican gains. Given the narrowness of his own victory in 1960 and the gen-
eral tendency of the ruling party to lose seats in the midterms, Kennedy genuinely feared a Republican resurgence that would jeopardize his reelection hopes. Thus he had to appear a resolute Cold Warrior. In the event, the party balance remained the same. Republicans gained two seats in the House, and the Democrats four in the Senate, including Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts. Pollster Lou Harris reported privately that local issues had been the main factor determining outcomes, rather than the international crisis, but the perception was that Kennedy had helped his party. The successfully managed crisis had seen a signiﬁcant bounce in
the president’s personal popularity-up 12 points to 74 percent-but Harris warned Kennedy that behind the reassuring Congressional
results were some worrying trends. Many Catholic and Jewish voters who had turned out for JFK in 1960 were disillusioned. There was a marked tendency for ethnic Catholics to vote Republican the longer they lived in suburbia. This was especially the case over the race issue, with most ethnic Catholics in the industrial states as unsympathetic to civil rights reform as white Southerners. While Kennedy’s November 20, 1962 executive order integrating federally supported housing was the belated fulﬁllment of his 1960 electoral promise to African Americans, it was also a source of further mistrust among socially conservative, white Democrats. For many in the white working class, African American gains in relation to housing, employment, education, even political inﬂuence, seemed to come directly at their expense. Their hard-won homes lost value. Their prospects of employment or advancement became less certain. Their children’s schools faced more challenges, and their political voices appeared to be drowned out by minority demands.