I love history, but quite honestly, I don’t know a lot about President Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency. I consider this slightly odd, since I was born during the last year of his Presidency. I should know something. Suffice it to say, that I know more about Nixon’s Presidency (plus, I can remember his Presidency) than Johnson’s. What I do know about President Johnson, I learned from The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro.
Anyway, I came across an article from 1973 in The Atlantic called “The Last Days of the President“. It’s a fascinating look at a man. I highly recommend it.
Here’s a part I found most fascinating. Lyndon Johnson “never doubted that he could have won the 1968 election against Richard Nixon…” In 1971, he told Leo Janos (the author of the article), “My daddy was only sixty-two when he died, and I figured that with my history of heart trouble I’d never live through another four years. The American people had enough of Presidents dying in office.”
According to the article, President Johnson had an actuarial study completed on his life, which predicted that he would die at age 64, which he did on January 22, 1973. Making an assumption that he might have gone earlier, Hubert Humphrey would have been the next President. It is, also, quite possible, that Humphrey would have beaten Nixon, if he ran again in 1972. It is quite possible that Nixon would never have run again and there wouldn’t have been a Nixon Presidency.
Think about that – No Nixon Presidency means no Watergate, no open door to China, no Presidential visit to China, no resignation, and no Ford Presidency. I wonder if that would have ushered in a Ronald Reagan Presidency before the 1980s?
I think the main thing would be no Watergate. Watergate opened the flood gates of government distrust that has exploded into this massive hatred and distrust of our own leaders. I wonder why it would be like to trust your government? Would that mean we wouldn’t have Bundy in Oregon pointing rifles at Federal Agents? Would there have been a Waco? A 9/11?
What would have changed if President Johnson had decided to run again and won?
I don’t have the answer to that question, but it is fascinating to think about.
The next item on the list was how Johnson knew what was the score. In the article, he is quoted as saying, “The first thing Democrats do when they take power is find where the control levers are. But the first thing Republicans do is investigate Democrats. I don’t know why they do it but you can count on it.” It appears that some things haven’t changed at all.
It just goes to show how the past can be seen in the future and present. The more things change, the more they stay the same.