"If the Democratic Party was going to honestly acknowledge how it came to the point in its history that it was about to nominate a black American for President, no speech would not mention Lyndon Johnson.” Robert Caro
One year ago today, Obama gave his historic Democratic Convention Speech in Denver. It just so happens that it also was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
While Obama had the crowd chanting YES WE CAN, in reality, what was going on in the speech, and the whole convention, was the Democratic Party saying NO WE CAN'T- mention Lyndon Johnson.
Lets be clear: Without LBJ, there is no President Obama. His 2008 election could have never happened. Ever. Not now.
It does not matter how talented you think Obama is, how brilliant he is as a campaigner, or how terrific his is as a public speaker.
He would have had no shot at the Presidency because the game was rigged. It was unfair. And when I say it was rigged & unfair, I mean it was rigged and unfair against black Americans.
But LBJ and his twin monuments (The Civil Rights Act of 1964 & The Voting Rights Act of 1965) codified justice, fairness and compassion into American law.
It changed America-for the better. And it paved the way for Obama.
We live in LBJ's (and Reagan's) America. And we should thank the Lord that we do.
All of the above makes it a disgrace that LBJ's party has scrubbed him from its history.
At the convention they mentioned FDR. They mentioned Truman. And of course, they mentioned JFK. But no LBJ.
They gave Ted Kennedy a video tribute, which was kind of creepy, because it talked about his love of water and showed him on the ocean. (I'm sorry, when I think of Ted and water, I think of Mary Jo, and not of Ted's accomplishments in the Senate. Its like sitting in a white bronco with OJ, and he starts talking about his football career, and the whole time, you think about how he slashed two people to death.)
In fact, Teddy has been omitting LBJ for a long time now. Last night, I watched Teddy's 1980 convention speech where he mentioned that the Democratic Party was the party of the "New Deal" and " New Frontier", which were tributes to FDR and his brother.
But Teddy did not mention that they were the party of the "Great Society" and Lyndon Johnson. In fact, in watching the speech, I got the feeling that after mentioning the " New Deal" & "New Frontier", Teddy would have praised "New Edition" and "Bell Biv Devoe" before giving credit to LBJ.
James Farmer, the leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, told the story of a conversation he once had with Johnson in the White House:
I asked him how he got to be the way he was. He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, here you are, calling senators, twisting their arms, threatening them, cajoling them, trying to line up votes for the Civil Rights Bill when your own record on civil rights was not a good one before you became Vice President. So what accounted for the change?” Johnson thought for a moment and wrinkled his brow and then said, “Well, I’ll answer that by quoting a good friend of yours and you will recognize the quote instantly. ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.’”
The Presidency freed LBJ to do the right thing. And he did.
So happy 101st birthday to LBJ. Your own party does not recognize your accomplishments, but the Stoop does.
Finally, if you never read anything else written by the Stoop, please read Robert Caro's New York Times piece below written one year ago today.
It makes the historical connection between Johnson and Obama, and tells of the speech LBJ gave that moved Martin Luther King to tears.
Johnson’s Dream, Obama’s Speech