Wednesday, November 16, 2016

the political advantage of being hit on the head


"[The] only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

~~ U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt



The third book on our Suggested Reading list for the President-Elect is Lone Star Rising (Lyndon Johnson and His Times.  1908 - 1960.  Robert Dallek - copyright 1991 - Oxford University Press)



--------------------- [excerpt 1] --------------- The next day, before delivering their acceptance speeches, Kennedy and Johnson met with black delegates at the Biltmore Hotel.  Although the Kennedys had encouraged the convention to approve the most liberal civil rights plank in Democratic party history, liberals saw Johnson's selection as evidence of backtracking or an intention to accommodate the South. 

To dispel the belief that Kennedy was adopting a "Southern strategy," Lyndon assured black delegates that he was "going to run on the platform that this convention adopted....I assure you from the bottom of my heart that I have done my dead-level best to make progress in the field of civil rights -- that I have done it against great odds, both in the Senate and at home, at times." 

He promised that if they were elected in November, 'you will find....that you have made more progress in 4 years than you have made in the last 104 years....I want to campaign from coast to coast on the platform of this convention."

Liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr told Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., that if the Democrats had nominated a northern liberal for Vice President after adopting so strong a civil rights plank, it would have "confirmed the South in its sense of isolation and persecution. 

But the nomination of a southern candidate who accepted the platform, including the civil rights plank, restored the Democrats as a national party and associated the South with the pursuit of national goals." -------------------- [end, excerpt] ------------------------


-------------------------- [excerpt 2] ------------- At the end of July, Lyndon went to the Kennedy Compound at Cape Cod to discuss campaign strategy and the congressional session beginning on August 8. 

Some of Kennedy's aides privately criticized Johnson's overbearing manner and verbosity during the two days of talks, but Kennedy considered the meeting a success.

Lyndon's ebullience at a joint press conference, in which he did most of the talking, pleased Kennedy, who felt it dispelled talk of any incompatibility between them. 

Johnson encouraged the picture of mutual congeniality in a press release to Texas papers:  Texans like Johnson and New Englanders like Kennedy shared a sense of pride, tradition, and fearlessness that Texans would see for themselves when Kennedy came to the Lone Star state.

The press handout reflected a decision that Kennedy would campaign in the South.  But it spoke principally to the belief that Lyndon had to do a selling job for the ticket in the South without alienating northern liberals. 

Sometime during the two-day meeting, Kennedy had asked Robert Troutman, Jr., a prominent Georgia Democrat, to invite leading southern Democrats to an informal meeting with Lyndon in Nashville. 

Kennedy explained that Lyndon was coming there to tell a convention of Young Democrats that "though he was a Southerner...he had to be more an American than a Southerner." 

It "had some racial connotation at that time and it was a very sensitive thing," Troutman said later. 

In his speech, Lyndon stressed his determination to speak "as an American to Americans -- whatever their region, religion or race." ------------------ [end, excerpt] ---------------------


------------------------ [excerpt 3] ----------------- Bill Moyers, a young staff member, later described Johnson as "a man of time and place" who "felt the bitter paradox of both." 

During the 1960 campaign, he gave Moyers "a vivid account of that southern schizophrenia he understood and feared. 

We were in Tennessee.  During the motorcade, he spotted some ugly racial epithets scrawled on signs. 

Late that night in the hotel, when the local dignitaries had finished the last bottles of bourbon and branch water and departed, he started talking about those signs.  'I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it,' he said. 

'If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you picking his pocket.  Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.'" ------------------------------ [end excerpt] ----------------------


------------------------ [excerpt 4] --------------------- No single incident in the campaign involving Johnson did more to help the ticket than the public abuse of Lyndon and Lady Bird by right-wing opponents in Dallas four days before the election.  Lyndon confronted a mob of angry protestors at a downtown hotel on November 4. 

Led by Dallas congressman Bruce Alger, Texas's only Republican representative, they carried signs denouncing Johnson as a Carpetbagger controlled by Yankee socialists. 

As Lyndon and Lady Bird walked across the street from the Baker to the Adolphus Hotel and then through its lobby to an elevator, the crowd, partly of Junior League women, "the Mink Coat Mob," some called it, verbally and physically assaulted the Johnsons, hitting Lady Bird on the head with a picket sign and spitting at them.

Although Lyndon was genuinely outraged by the abuse, he immediately saw the political advantage in Texas and throughout the South in the televised pictures of a shrieking mob assaulting an unprotected vice-presidential candidate. 

Indeed, as they inched forward through the crowd, Johnson asked the police to leave:  "If the time has come when I can't walk through the lobby of a hotel in Dallas with my lady without a police escort, I want to know it.'" ----------------------- [end excerpt]   


Lyndon Johnson; Bobby Kennedy; John Kennedy

a Norman Rockwell painting of Kennedy at the Convention


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