Washington Window: Johnson first southern president since Andrew Johnson

By LYLE C. WILSON  |  November 23 1963
share with facebook
share with twitter

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 1963 (UPI) - President Lyndon B. Johnson is the first southerner to hold that office since Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who also succeeded an assassinated president.

Andrew Johnson was not nominated for a full term. The Republicans in 1868 elected a war hero president, Gen. U.S. Grant. His running mate was Schuyler Colfax of New York.

There will be now an instant coalition of forces within the modern Democratic Party to challenge the nomination of Lyndon Johnson next year for president. There was a similar coalition against Harry S. Truman in 1948 but it did not prevail. It is next to impossible to prevent the nomination of a sitting president for another term.

The left wing of the Democratic Party has been unhappy with Lyndon Johnson. Left wing protests against Johnson's 1960 nomination for vice president were expressed in bitter terms. Johnson is known to have been unhappy in the vice presidency. It was no secret in Washington that he was bored and dissatisfied by his responsibilities and the power limitations necessarily placed upon him.

Johnson denied, however, any intent to drop off the ticket and to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate. President Kennedy firmly assured all comers that Johnson would be renominated in 1964. It remains now to be seen how vigorous an attack the left wingers will be able to mount against Johnson.

It just could be that if they attacked him hard enough, the new president might be driven into the arms of the Democratic conservatives and find among them ample support to assure nomination for president next year.

Organized labor aggressively opposed Johnson's nomination for either president or vice president in 1960 but finally accepted him in second place with grace and some enthusiasm. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) balked. In September, 1960, ADA endorsed John F. Kennedy for president and acclaimed the Democratic platform. But the ADA announcement neglected to even mention Johnson.

After Johnson's nomination for vice president in July, 1960, Joseph L. Rauh, former chairman of ADA, said:

"It (the nomination) may prove to be a disaster in November, but more important in my opinion, is that it throws doubt on the sincerity of the entire party in adopting that wonderful platform."

The causes of Rauh's distress were spelled out in an ADA pre-convention statement opposing Johnson's nomination for president. The statement said: "He (Johnson) is a conservative, anti-civil rights, oil and gas senator. He has supported all of the major anti-labor legislation enacted during the past two decades - and bragged about it."

Johnson's labor record includes votes as a representative to pass the Taft-Hartley Act in the first instance and again to enact it over President Truman's veto. That voting record may have been in the mind of a labor leader in Los Angeles in July, 1960, who commented after the Democrats had adopted their platform, nominated Kennedy for president and, finally, Johnson for vice president. This man called the Democratic National Convention the occasion of the briefest victory, ever, for organized labor.

There are some indications that some lefties think better of Johnson now than in 1960. New York's lefty Liberal Party honored Johnson last October as principal speaker at the party's annual dinner. The New York Liberal Party traditionally has used its annual dinner to spotlight some politician of whom it approved.

The AFL-CIO mid-campaign statement in 1960 endorsing the Democratic ticket put much emphasis on Johnson. The AFL-CIO said that on balance Johnson had a liberal record in Congress and that he had become increasingly liberal with the years.

But Johnson is much more of a budget balancer than was Kennedy. In off-record conversations Johnson has indicated that he sees too much federal spending especially in the fields of agriculture and national defense.

Another Treasury drain President Johnson once suggested should be plugged a bit is the outgo for interest on the public debt. That charge can be reduced only by debt reduction or by lowering interest rates. Debt reduction can be achieved only by keeping federal spending well under federal revenue. Lower interest rates are not likely nor, in fact, is much if any economy.

Talking economy is easy. It is a political fact that Johnson cannot expect to hold any left wing support whatever if he seeks to impose budget balancing economies on the federal government. Under such circumstances up to now, Democratic presidents have folded to left wing pressures for more and bigger spending.

Trending Stories