Like the state he loved, Lyndon Baines Johnson was a large and imposing man. His head, ears and hands, even his voice, seemed to overwhelm those around him, traits that helped him make deals with timid, cowering colleagues. In the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Johnson, who had never cared much for JFK’s policies, decided to remodel the Kennedy presidency after his two idols: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. After Kennedy’s assassination, LBJ finally had the chance to live up to the legacy of his “second daddy” and make the spirit of Roosevelt proud.
LBJ had “a specific objective” in mind that guided his presidency from the start: Outdo Franklin Roosevelt as the champion of everyday Americans to become the next generation’s FDR. He would be what he called “their daddy,” whether they liked it or not. Wilson had successfully organized progressivism as a political force and FDR built new progressive economic institutions during The Great Depression. LBJ would build on that legacy by spreading progressivism into mainstream America at a time of similar tumult and disorder. He would set in motion the destructive forces of nihilism, hedonism and blasphemy that marked the 1960s, a decade that would change America fundamentally, forever.