While I’ve been sick this week, I’ve taken the chance to do some recreational reading, although it also builds on some ideas I’m developing in my thesis. I’ve been rereading Robert A. Caro’s Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, also a favourite of Zoe’s. It’s a great narrative – Caro as well as being a fine historian is an excellent storyteller. One interesting observation is that no-one quite knows whether LBJ was racist or not in the 1950s. There’s evidence on both sides. But his role in enacting the first Civil Rights Act of 1957 was a pathbreaking moment in the legislative response to the Civil Rights movement. He probably had mixed motives – ambition being prominent among them. But Caro makes it clear that he was a political master – finding compromise where there was no space for compromise, and being able to foresee the long term results of seemingly small and symbolic change. One of the fascinating things about politics is that motivations are often unimportant. Indeed, Kantian “beautiful souls” often do more harm than good in politics, or are simply ineffective. That’s why the great politicians like FDR or LBJ are so fascinating as studies from the human as well as from the political perspective.
Mark Bahnisch « profile & posts archive
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