Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Eyes of Texas

The Moose observes that they aint makin' Texans like Lyndon anymore.

Well, not exactly. As a member of the Great Texas Diaspora, the Moose has deep love, affection and respect for the Lone Star State. However, the recent crew of Bush, DeLay and Armey don't exactly measure up to Johnson, Rayburn and Yarborough. It makes one question the whole theory of evolution.

As the Moose has previously pointed out, Texas has a long and proud tradition of progressive populism. Today, Harold Meyerson reminds us of that point in a marvelous piece in the Washington Post, A Tale of Two Texans. He makes the insightful point, that Lyndon Johnson's heroic commitment to civil rights enabled southerners to occupy the Presidency,

"By ending southern exceptionalism, by steering to passage the great laws that ended legal segregation and enabled southern blacks to vote, Johnson made it possible for southerners to run for president freed from the burden of defending a profoundly racist system. He made it possible for them to win."

Bush and Johnson represent two profoundly different Texas traditions. Johnson was literally weaned on an economic populism that was bequeathed to him by his father who took on the big boys in the Texas legislature. Despite his populist cultural affectations, W. is an economic royalist who represents the big money that was embodied by the fictional character J.R. Ewing in the old Dallas TV series. In fact, you can almost imagine W. dining with his frat brother Bobby Ewing at the Oil Barons Club in Dallas where he is introduced to J.R. who suggests that he run for Governor some day.

It may be a cruel fate that Lyndon and W. share a similar legacy - they return to the ranch with a failed war. However, Lyndon has something that W. will never achieve - a domestic legacy in which he attempted to improve the lot of the little guy. This is how Meyerson put it,

"That Lyndon Johnson made George W. Bush's presidency possible, then, has to rank as one of those great ironies that history apparently adores. For Johnson's mission was to bring Texas up to the standards of the United States. And Bush's mission is to bring the United States down to the standards of Texas."
-- Posted at 10:45 AM | Link to this post | Email this post