Sunday, January 19, 2014

Getting Paid: The 1941 Senate Campaign (LBJ: Part One C)

Lyndon B. Johnson

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

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    Written and Produced by David Grubin
    Narrated by David McCullough

    PBS Transcript

    In 1941, when Johnson made a run for the Senate, he needed all the money the Brown brothers could give him. He was just a young congressman reaching beyond his own small district in a race that was pure Texas politics -- part campaign and part circus. Twenty-nine candidates took the field, but in the end, there was only one man to beat, the Governor of Texas, "Pappy" Lee O'Daniel.

    Lewis Gould, Historian:Well, Pappy O'Daniel was a man who had come out of nowhere to be governor of Texas in the late 30s. He was a radio personality and that's what made him so popular. He had a band that played for him called The Light Crust Dough Boys and their theme song was "Pass the biscuits, Pappy." And he became known as W. Lee "Pass the biscuits, Pappy" O'Daniel. He was conservative, but he didn't really believe in anything except getting elected and being popular.

    Mrs. Johnson:He had been on radio for quite a long time with a very popular program of country music.

    E. Babe Smith, Pedernales Electric Co-op:Every day at noon, he had his Texas network, you know, and he played and he sang. The ladies just worshipped him, you know. You couldn't find anybody who voted for him, but he always won the election, you know.

    Homer Dean, LBJ Campaign Supporter:"Now, listen, everybody from near and far, we're The Light Crust Dough Boys." And then, he would sing the [sings] Beautiful, beautiful Texas / where the beautiful blue bonnets grow / We're proud of our forefathers / Who fought at the Alamo / You can live on the plains or the mountains / Or down where the sea breezes blow / And you're still in beautiful Texas / The most beautiful state that we know...

    Rep. James Pickle, (D) Texas, LBJ Campaign Worker:And here was Johnson, an unknown young congressman, so to speak, but he also had the aura that he was going somewhere. He was going to do something and you could feel it. And he could have fun, but he was all business of dreaming and daring, imagining, attempting new things.

    Robert Dallek, LBJ Biographer:There was nobody who campaigned harder than a Lyndon Johnson. He worked night and day, speaking, walking, driving, just doing everything he conceivably could to get his name before the public and convince them of the fact that he would make a first class senator.

    Homer Dean, LBJ Campaign Supporter:I believe that you people are fed up on hired hands doing nothing but entertaining you. You are going to send Lyndon Johnson to the Senate next Saturday by the greatest vote you ever sent a senator there.

    Mrs. Johnson:We went to every small hamlet, walked up and down the street, shook hands with all the merchants who had lined up all the friends that all your friends could summon, your mother and your kin folks.

    McCullough:[voice-over] As the campaign drew to a close, Johnson remained the underdog, but once again, by lifting high the Roosevelt banner, Johnson closed the gap. On election night, he was confident. With 96 percent of the vote counted, he led O'Daniel by 5,000 votes. Congratulations were already pouring in from Washington.

    Mrs. Johnson:We had been declared elected by the Texas Election Bureau on Saturday night, when the votes were counted. Banner headlines on Sunday morning, "Johnson elected to Senate."

    Rep. James Pickle, (D) Texas, LBJ Campaign Worker:The Dallas News, the great Dallas News even ran a story on Sunday morning, "LBJ, Johnson United States Senator." They declared him elected about like they had done with Dewey.

    Mrs. Johnson:But the margin by which we were elected began to dwindle. It was about 5,000 to begin with and it began to dwindle.

    McCullough:[voice-over] The 33-year-old contender was about to get a lesson in the dark side of politics that he would never forget. In the rough-and-tumble world of Texas elections, stuffing the ballot box was not unusual, especially in South and East Texas and no one understood this more than John Connally, Lyndon Johnson's friend and campaign manager.

    John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide, LBJ Advisor:A lot of those counties had political leaders. Sometimes it was the sheriff, sometimes a county judge. They basically carried the county the way they wanted it to go and this had been historically the case and we had the support of most of those political leaders.

    Saturday night about midnight, they call me and say, "We've got the returns. What do you want us to do with them?" I said, "Well, tell me what they are, first, and then report them." The opposition, then -- Governor O'Daniel and his people -- knew exactly how many votes they had to have to take the lead. They kept changing the results and changing the returns and our lead got smaller and smaller and smaller. Finally, Wednesday afternoon, we wound up on the short side of the stick and lost the election by 1,311 votes.

    [The national Democratic Party followed a similar playbook in its endless “recounts” of the Florida tally in 2000, when it sought to steal the presidential election for Al Gore.]

    And I'm basically responsible for losing that '41 campaign. We let them know exactly how many votes they had to have. And I did it, no question about it.

    Rep. James Pickle, (D) Texas, LBJ Campaign Worker:It was a hard pill for Mr. Johnson to swallow because we'd gone out late Saturday to celebrate. I hadn't done that in other campaigns. I always waited till the next day.

    Robert Dallek, LBJ Biographer:Lyndon is asked does he want to challenge Pappy's victory because it is a stolen election, but Lyndon knows that his own folks and supporters have done some pretty untoward things as well, including the fact that they violate all campaign finance laws and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Johnson says, "No, we can't challenge them." He said, "I'll wait my turn and when my turn comes, I'll fix the ballots next time."

    John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide, LBJ Advisor:And we thought it was the better part of wisdom not to contest it, not indicate that we were guilty of just sour grapes and to go ahead and say, "We'll meet again."

    [This is a huge difference between blacks and whites. Even when blacks lose an election fair and square to a white, they never stop trying to steal it, after the fact. Look at Florida 2000, and New York City 2001.]


    Anonymous said...

    JFK in 1960. Illinois was up for grabs and somehow Daley found 10,000 ballots ALL of which went for JFK and victory over Nixon.

    Those close to Nixon wanted to contest the election but Nixon said NO, that was not the right thing to do.

    Anonymous said...

    NOT only do they find the missing or uncounted ballots but then they ALL go for the candidate that is losing the election by a slim margin.

    There is this one voting district in Philadelphia in 2012 where 40,000 votes went for Obama and NOT ONE for Romney.