Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was quite a politician, who wielded power in the Senate like few others have. And he probably won an election or two under, shall we say, somewhat questionable circumstances. (My favorite is what happened in LBJ's 1948 Senate race against then-Governor Coke Stevenson, in which 200 dead people conveniently voted in alphabetical order, giving LBJ an 87-vote margin that won him the statewide race.) He kept the Vietnam War going when it was already evident that the mission there was a disaster, and his Great Society programs largely failed.
But despite his shortcomings, LBJ's singular most important achievement is one that will stand forever. Using the Kennedy assasination as an argument for creating a legacy for the late president, LBJ channeled the passions of the Civil Rights movement into legislation that finally gave African-Americans and other racial minorities equal political and citizenship rights in our country. It cost the Democratic party the support of the South, and the effects of that rift still affect our politics today. His civil rights achievements are worth honoring.