As usual, I need to start by revealing my personal disclosure of perhaps bias, my origin of interest in, and the backdrop for this somewhat offbeat, whimsical comparison and view of these two men as Presidents. And as a sop to my own ego, I must reveal/declare that I think this is an analogy that I, personally, though perhaps still mistakenly, very likely NO ONE has thought of.
The personal source of part of how this goofy metaphorical comparison came to me is indeed, “personal.” My father’s late sister was a teacher and a big cheese in American education in the 1960’s. Her name was Antoinette Miller of Houston Texas. My father and his family grew humbly in East Texas in a now ghost town that no longer exists named then, “El Mina,” Texas in the New Waverly-Conroe area and later moved during their childhoods to Huntsville. My father’s sister was the eldest and ambitious and went to college at “Texas Teachers’ College” as it was called then. One of her then classmates and somewhat close friend whom she came to know was Lyndon Baines Johnson. She rose to prominence in the NEA early in her career and was actually national President of the NEA at somewhat earlier age than most in that position. She was a national reformer and advocate and believer in the public schools as a national resource and treasure. She worked in the post-WWII years to strengthen the University of Texas state university branch system. She also in the same spirit of working to make higher education more affordable and available in this country helped in a minor but significant, persistent way, to push for the educational benefits in the FDR administration and completed by President Truman, in the GI Bill for returning veterans of World War II. my aunt’s friendship with President Johnson was deep, though largely not known nationally, but it was the basis for his appointing her his educational ambassador at large. She focused for several summers during his presidency years, visiting and studying the educational systems in India and Russia of all places! My aunt maintained her friendship and working relationship with President Johnson in her own behind the scenes style during his rough years in the Vietnam War era. I remember her stories of calling up “Lyndon,” and according to both my father and “auntie Antoinette,” she would give the President, her old college buddy, blunt Texas type unsolicited advice on his conduct of the Vietnam War. Knowing my incredibly strong-willed aunt, I can only imagine that poor LBJ had to grit his teeth and hear her out for the sake of their long-term, not well-known friendship dating back decades.
So based on that personal source of once removed familiarity with LBJ based on literally dozens and dozens of stories about him from my aunt, though I of course, never met him, and watching President Trump in action through the months of his campaign and now into the early days of his own Presidency, I would like to venture some tongue in cheek parallels that I see in both of them. So here goes….
1 They both were/are well known for their hats. Now granted this is not very profound, but this piece is not intended to be politically profound or worthy of being a talking head on some national news forum. This is personal and hopefully will be a bit entertaining for the reader. So here are my instances of “proof,” offered in the light spirit of this post.
2 They are both famous for, in the old phrases, using the “bully pulpit of the Presidency,” and “jawboning the press:”
3. They both have already generated an enormous of unflattering caricatures from the editorial cartoonists of the Press.
My other comments concern the contrasts of these two master politicians.
- Trump came from “congenital” wealth. LBJ came from hardscrabble poverty of central Texas.
- . Trump came out of nowhere in politics and is/was not a “party man.” LBJ was always a party politician starting with his on the back of a flatbed truck in his initial 1948 campaign for his first term Congressman from his unknown in Washington DC congressional district. LBJ made a career of making friends and forging alliances for decades.
- Trump so far is effecting his Presidential initiatives outside his regular Party structure and mechanisms, while LBJ did everything by old-fashioned politicking whether it was “in your face” one on one lecturing, jawboning, and hectoring that few could resist, while Trump has a completely different style that is White House and his inner circle centered and seems to ignore almost the traditional Party structure and legislative process.
But my final point and HOPE is that Trump might resemble LBJ in one crucial, perhaps good-for-the-country characteristic. LBJ got a tremendous of legislative initiatives passed during his tenure such as the Civil Rights Act, improvement of Social Security, the “Great Society” initiatives, and the Voting Rights Act.
Trump seems intent upon doing things that are needed such improving the infrastructure of this country, bringing back American companies and jobs, jump-starting the economy and other ‘new’ directions that are greatly needed and cross party lines.
LBJ pushed around the Southern racist, conservative Dixiecrats and bludgeoned them into voting for his initiatives that were previously an anathema to them. There persist that some of LBJ’s persuasive tactics were ‘borrowed’ from J. Edgar Hoover, in possibly literally using embarrassing, even salacious material on such politicians into voting for his revolutionary initiatives. The method may have been less than ‘kosher,’ but it got the job done.
Trump seems to be following the same party, going against the traditional ideologies of his adopted Party and also hammering, shaming and outflanking them into supporting his radical (at least for the Tea Party and Far Right wings of the Republican Party). He has done this in his own way, going directly over the traditional Party to the People with his tweets, almost daily speeches of pronouncements and his avalanche of Executive Orders, and the legislative process of Congress, doing a never seen before “end around” leaving out both Parties. Some or much of his initiatives effected in this manner may yet be overturned as perhaps unconstitutional, but at least he is doing what he said he would get things started.
So my small hope that through all this somehow the effect of Trump’s surprising approach is that gridlock will be broken, and many needed national repairs will start to be put into place and some long overdue repair of America and at least, its long-sputtering economy.