Lyndon Baines Johnson: Face of the Modern Democratic Party

The current hand-wringing among the Democratic Party elite regarding association with Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson for fundraising purposes has led to an obvious question: with whom to replace these “fallen” heroes of the Republic? One humble suggestion springs to mind. A “progressive” champion whom modern Democrats can hold aloft as a glittering example of their own superiority and benevolence before the hoi polloi. A man who so perfectly personifies the Democratic Party it would be nonsensical to avoid using his visage when eliciting donations from useful dupes. This man is none other than Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Johnson is the perfect candidate as his scorn, pettiness, infidelity, opportunism, selfishness, duplicity, and above all his unbridled lust for power ooze leftist politics. Truly, Johnson is the once and future king of the Democratic Party.

Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Johnson is a masterful study of a man so consumed by the quest for power that his singular focus from childhood had been its accumulation. What follows is a short-listing of the reasons why Johnson epitomizes today’s Democratic Party:

1. Hypersensitivity to insult – As a young teacher, Johnson taught for one year in a poor, predominately Mexican town in Texas. His vision of destiny already well established, Johnson took offense when a ten-year-old boy mocked him in front of his classmates.

Garcia recalls, “He turned me over his knee and whacked me a dozen times,” and as Garcia felt the force of the blows, he realized that Johnson was angrier than he had ever seen him. And when he re-entered the now hushed classroom, Johnson said something that the students considered quite striking… “He told us we were looking at the future President of the United States.”

This over-the-top reaction of a grown man cannot be excused as a teacher seeking to instill discipline in an unruly student. Rather, Johnson’s megalomania was offended that a group of children did not appreciate his destiny as a future president.

The episode would be laughable if it were not evidence of a larger trend among progressive politicians. President Obama’s recent outburst directed at CBS correspondent Major Garret for having the temerity to ask a probing question regarding the Iran nuclear deal is but one of the latest examples. Far Left politicians maintain that they are infallible, and any disrespect towards that omniscience is met with fury.

2. Duplicity -- Johnson was a master of being all things to all people. When he determined that someone could be of value to his advancement, he adopted their views and values for as long as they proved advantageous. Caro writes:

[Johnson’s gift] was an ability to transform his outward personality, his demeanor and mannerisms -- not to change his nature, but to conceal it -- an ability that had always been one of Lyndon Johnson’s most striking characteristics, as had a strength of will that enabled him to make a transformation remarkably thorough.

Today’s Democrats follow this example. The immense success of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign rested largely on his ability to portray himself as a centrist, a blank canvas on which many American’s projected their hopes and dreams. How many Democrats were for the Iraq War before they were against it? Or how about gay marriage? Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton’s “evolving” views on the subject are but a YouTube click away. Johnson was the original master, and his mercurial political loyalties would pay their largest dividend with the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

3. Bullying -- For all the Far Left’s concern regarding bullying among children, their ranks are filled almost exclusively with bullies of the first order. Lyndon Johnson topped them all. Working as a staffer for Lyndon Johnson ensured a daily dose of verbal abuse. Man or woman, he would hurl the nastiest invectives imaginable at his staff. He threw violent tantrums for the smallest of mistakes, in one instance hurling a mistaken drink order against the wall of his office, and then forcing the young secretary who had brought it to kneel and pick up the broken glass as he stared. Caro notes that he had a talent for exploiting his victim’s most sensitive spot, saying to one recently divorced woman, “No wonder you couldn’t keep your husband. You can’t even make coffee.”

4. Scorn -- Ronald Kessler relays illuminating experiences of Secret Service agents protecting Johnson in his book In the President’s Secret Service. The agents recall Johnson boarding Air Force One and waving to gathered crowds while muttering, “You dumb sonsofbitches. I piss on all you.” In a later chapter the same book highlights agents recalling an instance during Hilary Clinton’s 2000 Senatorial bid where she was to speak at a 4-H club meeting. Kessler writes, “[When] she saw people dressed in jeans and surrounded by cows, Hilary flew into a rage. She turned to a staffer and said, ‘What the [expletive] did we come here for? There’s no money here!” Or President Obama’s remarks about the rubes who “cling to their guns and religion.” Elitism and scorn for the people they mean to serve is not the exclusive province of Democrats, but their barely concealed contempt is more often visible.

5. The Lust for Power -- Lyndon Johnson’s entire life revolved around his personal acquisition and advancement of power. By affixing his signature to the Civil Rights Act, Johnson assured his place as a transformative president. Despite a twenty-year record where he opposed all civil rights legislation, this shining moment wiped his long history of vicious racism clean. What’s more, it reinvented the Democratic Party entire as the party of equality rather than the party of the Ku Klux Klan and segregation. Yet a serious reading of Johnson’s personal history (and his continued, private contempt for blacks) suggest that he signed the Civil Rights Act not out of conviction, but for his own personal gain. National interest was incidental to Johnson, his primary concern was, and always had been, the advancement of Lyndon Johnson.

Now we live in an era of “progressive” leaders more concerned with their personal legacy than the long-term benefits of the nation. The creeping suspicion that President Obama’s Iran and Cuba “deals” were not for the benefit of the United States, but to establish his personal legacy are unshakeable. Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to earn his place in the sun with a Nobel Peace Prize, and Hilary Rodham Clinton continues to harp on the history-making potential of electing the first female president. As the mad scramble for personal power and influence continues unabated, Democrats need no longer fret regarding the face of their Party. Lyndon Johnson looms as mentor to them all.