How the left hated Lyndon Baines Johnson back when I was in college! “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?” A version of Macbeth—Macbird, I believe was the title–accused him of killing Kennedy among other vile deeds. He was hated because he waged the Vietnam War. And yet LBJ was the most liberal president in the post-war era, having passed more social programs than just about anyone since FDR, including the Civil Rights Bill, the various measures that constituted the War on Poverty, and the ambitious government initiatives designed to create the Great Society.
But now LBJ is back in fashion among Democrats and others on the left, nostalgic for the way he could pass social programs.
History offers a rough kind of justice.
As the nation’s current president and three of his predecessors gathered this week at the University of Texas for an LBJ Library conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, they confirmed what has been building for many years now: a thoroughly justified revival of Lyndon B. Johnson’s standing.Former president Bill Clinton praises Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential leadership at the Civil Rights Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Former president Bill Clinton praises Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential leadership at the Civil Rights Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
If historians still don’t quite go “All the Way with LBJ,” as his 1964 campaign slogan would have it, they have moved a good part of the way in his direction since he departed the White House in 1969, leaving behind a country torn by the Vietnam War and weary of the conflicts the 1960s unleashed.
The Johnson comeback brings with it a new appreciation of the durability of the reforms enacted on his watch.