On his 100th anniversary is it not time we gave a great liberal his due??
by tarheel74, Thu Aug 28, 2008 at 05:37:21 PM EDT
Lyndon Baines Johnson (08/27/1908 - 08/27/2008)
If you ask me if there was one president in the past 100 years who did as much for the progressives causes of fighting poverty, civil rights, equal voting rights, education and healthcare then that person is Lyndon Johnson (a close second to FDR).
Now I am not a historian and I don't pretend to be one, but for most of my life I have grown under the impression that the one great Democratic president in the 60s who fought for progressive causes was John Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson was vilified as a conspirator by the nutjob Oliver Stone in his movie JFK, as a child-killer by the 60s anti-war activists. Yet no president has done more for progressive causes than LBJ.
Unlike his more illustrious contemporary LBJ was born in a poor Texan family and started his life as a teacher for poor Mexican immigrants in Cotulla. It was here as an educator that he first got the seeds of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to "to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education". When he came back to Texas after the act was signed to law he had this to say:
I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.
It was during his tenure as president that LBJ pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (that was on the table for many years but Kennedy was too timid to pursue lest he turned off the Southern Democrats whom he needed for re-election), the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Great Society program of 1965 whose main purpose was to "aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote"and the 1965 amendment to the Social Security Act that laid the foundations of Medicaid and Medicare for the healthcare of milions of elderly and low income people, culminating finally in the appointment of Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1967 as the first African American judge to the Supreme Court. At the Howard University commencement address of 1965 he laid out his goals for the government and nation:
To shatter forever not only the barriers of law and public practice, but the walls which bound the condition of many by the color of his skin. To dissolve, as best we can, the antique enmities of the heart which diminish the holder, divide the great democracy, and do wrong -- great wrong -- to the children of God..
Yes, here was a man who put his political career on the line, who in his own words lost the South for a generation all to do the right thing and not the political expeditious thing. Was he flawed? Yes he was. His greatest flaw perhaps was to pursue and expand the failed Vietman policy that was initiated by his predecessor.
Yet on his 100th anniversary we stand on the cusp of electing our first African American president. However neither yesterday nor today have we seen any substantial tribute to this great president, visionary and progressive who gave us the modern ideals of the Democratic party. Is it not time we rectified this wrong?