WHEN THE SYSTEM WORKS

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an episode of “The American Experience.” It was part two of two and it focused on Lyndon Baines Johnson, Selma, Alabama … and the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights acts.

This is American history, but it’s also part of our personal histories. Those were titanic times. Garry was already a working reporter. I was finished with college and out in the real world.

We remember. It was a very big deal. It was a massive shift in our culture and the reality in which we lived. It was the consummation of centuries of racism and oppression plus decades of the ongoing battle for equal rights — still a work in progress. Of wondering, doubting, if change was even possible.

Selma alabama 1965 resized

Selma, Alabama, March 1965

After John Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson, a traditional Southern politician who had never shown any special liberal or progressive leanings, came forward and decided enough was enough. Of all the presidents I would never have expected to be the one who would make it happen, LBJ did it. He decided it was time, that this unfairness had gone on long enough.

Against all odds and current political wisdom, he succeeded. Not because he was the most honest politician. Not because he was the most popular guy on Capitol Hill. Possibly the reason he could get it done was because he was a practical, pragmatic, politician who did whatever he needed to do to get an enormously important task accomplished. A freshman senator or any of those idealistic pie-in-the-sky guys couldn’t have done it. A newbie wouldn’t even know where to start.

Later, after he’d gotten mired in Vietnam — huge mistake — he knew that his running again would blow up the party, so he did the unthinkable. He stepped aside.

Who in the modern political pantheon would do that? Is there anyone concerned more with America than with his or her own career? Do I hear any names?

72-WE HAVE SEEN THE SYSTEM WORK-080816_07

We don’t just theorize the possibility that it could work. We know it can. We’ve seen change happen. We’ve been part of that change.

We know politicians don’t have to be the most honest or idealistic to do great things. In fact, often the most effective people are the ones who’ve been around a long time — and know where the bodies are buried.

The system can work. It does work. It has worked. We’ve seen it at its best. Right now, I think we are seeing it at its worst.

That things are ugly is not a reason to give up. Exactly the opposite. Now is the when we need to put shoulders to the wheel and exert some effort to make things better. To elect responsible, intelligent, sensible, practical people who know how to get stuff done and have a grasp of what the issues are. And who believe their first loyalty is to the country and its people.

It’s not “outsiders” who accomplish great things. It’s insiders who care enough to do it.



Categories: #American-history, Government, History, Politics

Tags: , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. These are tough political times with plenty of strong feelings to go around. November will certainly be interesting. 🙂

    Like

  2. It was a big deal and think of how hard many people fought for it. It did work and it can work again.
    Leslie

    Like

    • Yes. There have been quite a few forward movements in my lifetime. Roe V Wade, making abortion legal. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act. Medicare. Medicaid. ACA (Obama’s medical plan). The end of the military draft. The end of the Vietnam War. The ousting of Richard Nixon. The end of Jim Crow. The legalization of Gay Marriage. I’m not really surprised about the backlash. A lot of people have been dragged more or less kicking and screaming into this future and they hate it and everyone connected with it. Hell, the election of Obama was world-shaking. In this country? And twice no less? The system is pretty sturdy. We need some sturdy citizens and sensible legislators to make sure it KEEPS working.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very true, thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A few weeks ago I watched a documentary series about the 1960s and could not help but think of you and Garry especially during the episode that dealt with the civil rights issue. I wondered how those days seemed to you being right there. I was a child in the 60s and very far away in England or Australia so for me it was events that I only learned about in school or saw on the news without really understanding what had lead up to it. Even now i am still horrified by the actions of the county and state authorities in Alabama. However, you are right, the system worked on that occasion and things changed for the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Memories of the 60’s (and 50’s) are still crystal clear. I was a young adult cutting my teeth in radio and tv news. I’ll never forget the dark days or the hope that followed. A lot of the sound and fury we hear today comes from people who’ve never been in the middle of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Is there anyone concerned more with ******* than with his or her own career?”
    You could substitute almost any country here and the silence would still be deafening.”Vision” and ‘Idealism” are regarded with scornful sniggers these days, and “pragmatism” as an Achilles heel.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, but the reality of the situation is that, as long as we allow money to run the political movement in this country, and believe me when I say, money talks, chances for someone that actually cares about Americans and the American way becoming President are about as good as a snowballs chances of not melting in you know where and that my friend is a sad, but true fact of our political process today. The mere fact that one needs to raise a billion dollars to run for president eliminates the type of candidate needed to turn the tide so to speak.. Just one man’s opinion!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re wrong. Money has always ruled politics. It always will. You need better politicians who actually want to do something meaningful. It’s not about money. It’s about people.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Good point. I guess I just get tired of the name calling and let’s see how much dirt I can dig up on the other candidate type politics and long for a candidate that wants to do good for the American people no matter what the other candidate says about him or her. Some day. Thanks for reminding me that there are some good politicians out there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s hard NOT to be angry and cynical given the current state of affairs. But I’ve had a close up view of things – the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t give up hope.

          Liked by 2 people

        • My point was that the people who get stuff done are the people who have been around long enough to know HOW to get things done. They know their fellow congresspeople and senators and how to work with them. They know how to write a bill and get it passed. Outsiders? When has an outsider to congress accomplished ANYTHING?

          Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, money has always fueled politics. It has so …from the birth of our nation to this day. I agree we need more people committed to public service rather than just stroking their egos and lining their pockets. I’ve seen it work – up close — with LBJ as exhibit A in my working lifetime.

        Like

%d bloggers like this: