Let it be borne on the flag under which we rally in every exigency, that we have one country, one constitution, one destiny. -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Ascent of Lyndon Johnson

I am now finishing Means of Ascent, the second book in the Robert Caro trilogy, The Years of Lyndon Johnson.    I had already completed the first book in the set.

The present volume deals with Johnson's lean years in the House of Representatives.  These were years of marking time, as Johnson had long had greater ambitions.

The last portion of the book deals with Johnson's second U. S. Senate campaign, in 1948.  (Johnson lost his first campaign for the Senate.)  It is a fairly sordid tale in the end, as it is known things were not kosher in the vote counting in Texas that year.

What stands out for me is the venality of the Johnson effort.  While he claimed he didn't have direct involvement, the record shows otherwise.  Yes, there were minions carrying out the dirty work, but Johnson knew extraordinary efforts, including the buying of blocs of votes, were being made.

While this buying of blocs of Mexican-American votes in south Texas was not new, the scale on which it was done by the 1948 Johnson campaign was breath-taking even by Texas standards.

Johnson was able to carry on this stealth campaign through the use of lavish funds, supplied by the Brown and Root firm, and others.  By this time the Brown Brothers and the others had too long a history with Johnson to do anything other than spend whatever it might cost to elect him to the United States Senate where he was considered sure to support government largess to their benefit.

The Johnson campaign, in its scale, was to prove a watershed in Texas campaigning.  And because of Johnson's power and his eventual ascension to the Presidency, the election of 1948 had national significance.  And eventually, of course, we got Viet-Nam.  The Viet-Nam War is something America has never apologized for, to its shame.

There is not exactly a direct line from the Lyndon Johnson Senate campaign of '48 to today's campaigns awash as they are -- with few exceptions -- in vast amounts of money from private sources.  Yet that campaign showed a new kind of politics, one combining radio and helicopters with seemingly inexhaustible financial resources, producing a tainted but ultimately successful result.

In future posts I will explore the power of the media in the current campaign.  Do come back.

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