He was a vice president of a charismatic president adored by liberals. He had a long record in the Senate, with a history of savvy deal-making that was seen as an asset to a less experienced younger president, a newcomer to Washington. And as he ran for the presidency in his own right, he was distrusted by a left newly ascendant in their party. That distrust was born of a record on race that seemed anachronistic to a younger generation.
That description of Lyndon Johnson could easily be used for Joe Biden. And in that symmetry is a lesson for liberals. Because as president, Johnson would have the most effective progressive record on race and class of any Democratic president in the past 80 years. The foundational principles of modern liberalism — civil rights and greater economic equality — took further strides during Johnson’s presidency than any since the New Deal. But ironically enough, as he assumed power and ran on his own for the presidency, his presidency was feared by liberals.
The above excerpt was originally published in USA Today.
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