An effective bill dealing with matters of great delicacy was passed. The party that seemed about to be torn in two by the controversy achieved greater unity than it has had in two decades.
-- Richard Rovere in The New Yorker, August 31, 1957
"I want to run the Senate. I want to pass the bills that need to be passed. I want my party to do right. But all I ever hear from the liberals is Nigra, Nigra, Nigra."
In 1957, these were the words of Lyndon Johnson, spoken to friends in privacy. He was expressing deep frustration at the political and social disorder, a century in the making, and its corrosive effect on his own political future. Often, as he contemplated the most difficult choice of his political career, Johnson would speak these words--bitterly, emotionally, and, indeed, truly. Because the bound of civil rights nipped ever closer at his heels.
In the early 1950s, when Johnson began to complain increasingly about the intrusion of the race issue into the Senate's legislative affairs, his targets were such all-out liberals as Paul Douglas of Illinois and Herbert Lehman of New York. These liberals, Johnson thought, aggravated the temper of the Senate, forcing Southerners to retaliate in kind by constantly intruding civil rights into almost every issue that came to the floor--thereby preventing Johnson from passing the bills "that need to be passed."* But by 1957, "Nigra, Nigra, Nigra" was the____________________