I have to write an essay discussing major policy shifts in American history over the long twentieth century Reconstruction and its end, Progressivism, the New Deal, Labor Reforms and their reversals, Civil Rights, New Conservatism, etc.
I am needing help with some of the kinds of things U.S. leaders responded to and the things that they did not respond to and why. What were their decisions based on (voting constituencies, special interests, protest movements, American self-image, international pressure)?
THINGS TO CONSIDER or KEEP IN MIND:
So you've hit it right on the head regarding the basic areas that impact decision-making and policy shifts (i.e. voting constituencies, special interests, protest movements, American self-image, international pressure)...with that I will try to provide you with a foundation to guide your thinking as you write and I think you will be able to identify information in what I have to say that relates to each of the points you've noted - especially your reference to voting constituencies, protest movements, and the American self-image.
To get started...consider that any discussion (essay) on the Civil Rights Movement needs to take place within the context of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union. With the African continent being a major battlefield - the United States was looking very hypocritical (in its self-image and the image it is trying to project towards the rest of the world) as the 1950s turned into the 1960s and the American government was still trying to assert its nation's social, cultural, economic, and 'moral' supremacy over the Russian way of life in regards to individual freedoms and equality within their respective societies and what they could offer to citizens of other nations around the world if they would just join their "sphere of influence" and not the Russians.
Now take that within a deeper context of considering...as you know..."HOW"...African American citizens in the United States obviously still could not vote in political elections and so forth, yet thousands of them found themselves drafted into the Vietnam War at the age of 18 or 19 and sent off to fight for "their country" in the name of "freedom" for the Vietnamese people overseas in a land they had never heard of until the U.S. went to war. If African-American males resented their own country before Vietnam...image how much they did so afterwards.
And then if they survived and managed to make it home...they ...
This in-depth solution provides suggestions on the context of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union - "How" and "Why" did the United States shift its policies on African-American Civil Rights during the 1960s. All references used are included.