It’s Still Easier To Be An Effective President If Your Party Owns Both Houses (aka, A Quick Note On One Reason Why LBJ Was Effective In Ways Obama Is Not) Now! With More Wrestling.

May 6, 2013, 4:49 pm


As a followup to the FDR post:

88th Congress (January 1963 – January 1965):

63 Democrats,
35 Republicans

258 Democrats,
177 Republicans

89th Congress (January 1965 – January 1967):

Senate: 68 Democrats, 32 Republicans
House: 295 Democrats, 140 Republicans

90th Congress (January 1967 – January 1969):

Senate:64 Democrats, 35 Republicans
House: 247 Democrats, 187 Republicans

The caveat here is that many of the Democrats were southern, and LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) alienated quite a few of them (Much honor to “Smilin’ Ralph” Yarborough, Democratic Senator of Texas, and the only Southern Democrat in the Senate to vote for the CRA). The flip side, of course, is there was still that rare and mythical beast, a liberal Republican, in those times. [Update: 27] of those Republicans voted for the CRA, helping break the filibuster.

This is not to absolve Obama of his failures, but to point out that it’s a lot easier to deal with those failures and flaws if – as did both FDR and LBJ – your party has substantial majorities in both houses of Congress throughout your administration.

The Undercard

After the match

This is one of those posts where the research led me to an unexpected and excellent bit of historical minutiae. Apparently, during the implementation of the CRA, Strom Thurmond waged a guerrilla war against it (hello, Obamacare!) by delaying where he could the appointment of people to the necessary offices. At one point, this led he and Yarborough to have a wrestling match in the hall outside of a committee hearing. No, really, a wrestling match:

The 200-pound Texan and the 170-pound South Carolinian, both with their coats off, were rolling and thrashing across the marble floor to the startled dismay of an audience of secretaries and clerks. At one point in the 10-minute encounter Senator Thurmond, who had Senator Yarborough pinned to the floor, offered to quit if the Texan would give up. They did struggle to their feet once, but immediately fell to again without any pretense of playful good humor. They swayed back and forth across the corridor for a minute or two, shoulder to shoulder, and then Senator Thurmond threw Senator Yarborough to the floor again. The Texan narrowly missed a bad bump on his head when he landed.

Eventually, the committee chair came out and broke it up. Now that’s what I call Democratic infighting.

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