Wonder what LBJ would think of the Democratic Party today
About ten years ago, our family was driving in South Texas, and we a saw a sign about the birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson.
It was a reminder that LBJ was born here. He was born August 27, 1908 not far from Johnson City, a place that his family had settled.
It was an even bigger reminder of how irrelevant he's become to the Texas Democratic Party.
The legend of LBJ is a lost memory in Texas politics.
In 1948, a young LBJ performed a miracle to win the U.S. Senate election.
In 1960, Texas Democrats voted for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in a controversial election.
In 1976, Texas voted for Carter in another very close contest. Texas gave then-governor Carter the 26 electoral votes that helped him get to 290 and victory.
What a difference for today's Democratic Party.
Not long ago, there were Texas Democrats like Senator Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Democrat. He defeated then-businessman George H.W. Bush for the U.S. Senate in 1970.
The history of Democrats in Texas makes for very enjoyable reading, as you can see in this rather lengthy but fascinating history of the party. I found this part on recent Texas history so important:
Factional infighting in the Democratic party declined during the 1960s. First Johnson's presidential ambitions and then his presidency dominated Texas politics in that decade. In 1959 the state legislature authorized a measure moving the Democratic primary from July to May and permitting candidates to run simultaneously for two offices, thus allowing Johnson to run for the Senate and the presidency. (This measure, dubbed the LBJ law, also benefited Lloyd Bentsen's dual run for the vice-presidency and the Senate in 1988.)
Despite efforts by the Democrats of Texas to secure the support of state convention delegates and power within the party machinery, conservative Democrats retained control. Through the work of LBJ and the Viva Kennedy-Viva Johnson clubs, the Democrats narrowly carried Texas in 1960, reversing the direction of the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections in Texas.
Similarly, the 1961 special election to fill Johnson's Senate seat had a lasting effect on Democratic party organization in Texas. After Yarborough's unexpected victory in the 1957 special election, conservative Democrats in the state legislature amended the election laws to require a run-off in special elections when no candidate received at least 50 percent plus one vote. In 1961, within a field of seventy-two candidates, three individuals made a strong claim for the liberal vote, thus dividing liberal strength and opening the way for a runoff between William A. Blakley, the interim senator and a conservative Texas Democrat, and John G. Tower, the only viable Republican candidate in the race.
Liberal Democrats thought Blakley as conservative as Tower and opted either to "go fishing" during the run-off or support Tower, thinking it would be easier to oust him in 1966 with a more liberal Democratic challenger. Tower, however, easily won his next two reelection bids and eked out a third in 1978. Liberals also hoped that a Republican victory would encourage the development of an effective Republican party in the state and allow moderates and liberals to gain control of the state Democratic party. Indeed, Texas Democrats statewide remained divided between liberals who supported Ralph Yarborough and moderates who backed LBJ. The two factions waged war over the gubernatorial contest in 1962, when John B. Connally, a moderate to conservative Democrat associated with the Johnson wing of the party, was elected.
As governor, Connally concentrated his efforts on economic development but received criticism from liberals who thought he neglected minorities and the poor.
The Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, which traumatized the citizens of Texas, also deeply shook the state Democratic party since it propelled Johnson into the White House and created the need for a greater degree of accommodation between moderate and liberal Texas Democrats. In the 1964 presidential race Johnson carried his home state with ease.
In the middle to late 1960s, however, Connally's iron rule of the State Democratic Executive Committee further weakened the liberal forces within the state Democratic party.
The results of the 1968 presidential election in Texas also emphasized the sagging fortunes of the Democratic party in Texas, as Hubert Humphrey barely managed to carry the state.
My guess is that most of today's Texas Democrats do not have a clue of this history or the names mentioned.
Texas Democrats all sound alike today. There is no ideological diversity as you saw in the state party that produced a man like Lyndon Johnson and others.
There are no conservative Democrats – just very liberal Democrats who subscribe to the same message of income redistribution and identity politics. They are Obama Democrats rather than Texas Democrats.
Where are the Texas Democrats calling on the party to be more centrist? They don't exist, and that's why the party is so boring and cannot compete statewide in a dynamic state.
Yes, there is calm in the Democrat ranks – the kind of calm that happens when nothing is going on.
Wonder what LBJ would say of his party today, especially the ones who want to take down symbols of the old South? To say the least, LBJ would not recognize his party on another anniversary of his birth in 1908. Sadly, most of these liberal Texas Democrats would not identify him, either.