General James Mattoon Scott: James Mattoon Scott ... hasn't the slightest interest in his own glorification. But he does have an abiding interest in the survival of this country.(The entire confrontational scene between president and treasonous general -- with Burt Lancaster as the general -- is available on YouTube.)
President Jordan Lyman: Then, by God, run for office. You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country - why in the name of God don't you have any faith in the system of government you're so hell-bent to protect?
Why has the general organized an armed rebellion to put the president out of office and himself into power? Because President Lyman has signed an arms treaty with the Russians, something that the general thinks weakens us to the point of being sitting ducks for Communist take-over.
This movie came out less than a year after the assassination of President John Kennedy, when possible conspiracies were very much in the air, and it plumbed a certain civic paranoia in a very realistic way. Plus it featured a great cast, including Fredric March as the president, Ava Gardner, Kirk Douglas, and a whole bunch of great character actors.
There was considerable conservative disaffection in the air in those days, particularly in the South and particularly over forced integration. Forget forced health-insurance reform, which in the scheme of things is but a blip of controversy compared to what the Kennedy and then the Johnson administrations were working to achieve ... actual racial justice.
Run for office, sez the fictional president. That's the way our Republic is supposed to work. Let the people decide whether your vision of America is their vision too.
If you think the country is being taken over by socialism, run for office and say so. If you think government will eventually figger a way to confiscate all firearms (including Great-Grandpap’s Civil War musket) and homo-sex-ewe-alls are evidence of the eternal damnation that God Almighty is even now meting out to the United States, run for office and say so.
If you can't run for office and say what you actually want, or fear, then that might tell you something about your own problems, and your own warped perceptions.