The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson : The Drive for Power, from the Frontier to Master of the Senate

The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson : The Drive for Power, from the Frontier to Master of the Senate

The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson : The Drive for Power, from the Frontier to Master of the Senate

The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson : The Drive for Power, from the Frontier to Master of the Senate

Excerpt

Because of electric speed, we can no longer wait and see. George Washington once remarked, "We haven't heard from Benj. Franklin in Paris this year. We should write him a letter."

—Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore in The Medium Is the Message, 1967

The burdens and terrors of the twentieth century are embodied in the politician as in no other professional. Wilson, La Follette, and Taft, Churchill, De Gaulle, and Sadat, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler (somehow once we call a man a dictator we forget that he is also a politician). Of the great American politicians of the century—Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, George Wallace—Johnson was the master; he was the archetype. Through the refractions of his life we can see the causes for our collective progress and our common peril.

We may scorn politicians, but politics dominates us, and the politician who is the president dominates our politics. "We kid ourselves all the time about our personal lives," wrote the critic Alfred Kazin. "It's politics that rules the roost, that makes much of our 'personal feeling' these days."

Yet the politicians seem to be as helpless as everyone else. Something rather subtle has overtaken American politics. It was the tradition that society and citizens should be left alone as much as possible; things would work themselves out. Since 1931, however, we have had to evolve an entirely new idea. We expect politics to correct reality. The politicians, therefore, have taken up the habit of claiming that they do just that. But reality is not sufficiently corrected; politics is not sufficient to the new expectation for it. The Reagan-led reaction against this general failure of reform politics would carry us, if it could, clear back to the nineteenth century.

What has gone wrong? What should we learn?

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.