OTHERIZATION AND US: Lyndon Baines Johnson's fragility problem!


Otherization of the [white] South: Did American president Lyndon Baines Johnson have a type of "fragility" problem?


In November 1964, Johnson scored one of the largest victories in American presidential history. Nationwide, he won 61.1% of the popular vote, defeating his opponent, Barry Goldwater, by almost 23 points.

He won 44 of the 50 states. He racked up a rather substantial 486 electoral votes.

It was a gigantic win—but in the spring of 1964, Johnson may have doubted that he could win that election at all. Beyond that, he apparently felt that this sprawling nation would never be able to "unite behind" a president of his particular type.

In yesterday's report, we quoted the following passage from a lengthy essay in the New York Times. We assume the essay was drawn from The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963–1969, Johnson's long-forgotten 1971 memoir.

Did Johnson have a fragility problem? In his lengthy essay for the Times, the passage to which we refer went exactly like this:

JOHNSON (10/19/71): The burden of national unity rests heaviest on one man, the President. And I did not believe, any more than I ever had, that the nation would unite indefinitely behind any Southerner. One reason the country could not rally behind a Southern President, I was convinced, was that the metropolitan press of the Eastern seaboard would never permit it. My experience in office had confirmed this reaction. I was not thinking just of the derisive articles about my style, my clothes, my manner, my accent, and my family—although I admit I received enough of that kind of treatment in my first few months as President to last a lifetime. I was also thinking of a more deep‐seated and far‐reaching attitude—a disdain for the South that seems to be woven into the fabric of Northern experience. This is a subject that deserves a more profound exploration than I can give it here—a subject that has never been sufficiently examined.

Johnson's rumination continued from there. But again, we pose today's basic question:

Did former president Lyndon Johnson have a "fragility" problem? This is why we ask:

In the spring of 1964, Johnson was 55 years of age. He'd already fashioned a career as (author Robert Caro's) "Master of the Senate." 

He had served three years as John F. Kennedy's vice president, becoming president upon Kennedy's death.

Johnson was extremely powerful and highly accomplished—but was he perhaps a bit "fragile?" In the passage we've posted, he says he didn't believe, and apparently never had believed, that the nation could unite behind a Southern president.

He said he'd been subjected to "derisive articles" in the national press—derisive articles concerning his style, his clothing, his manner, his accent. He said this derision in the national press was part of "a more deep‐seated and far‐reaching attitude—a disdain for the South that seems to be woven into the fabric of Northern experience."

For the record, Johnson was speaking about alleged derision aimed at the white South—at white Southerners only. Interestingly, he described this disdain for the [white] South as "a subject that deserves a more profound exploration than I can give it here—a subject that has never been sufficiently examined."

Was Johnson displaying a "fragility" about the way he'd been covered in the press? We'll let others comment on that, but we think his comments about that deep-seated, far-reaching "Northern" attitude remains true to this very day.

Has "Northern experience" produced a type of "disdain" for the (white) South—the type of disdain Johnson alleged in that intriguing passage? 

We'd be inclined to say that it has—or at least, that it has among our own self-impressed liberal tribe. Consider those recent, appalling comments concerning "East Bumfuck County."

As we start, doggone it! This episode starts with an unwise remark by Kevin Drum, an experienced, sane and intelligent person who is normally vastly wiser. The background went like this:

A ten-member school board in one mid-sized Tennessee county had removed a certain book from the school district's eighth-grade curriculum. 

The district was going to continue teaching two separate "modules" in eighth grade—the first about the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, the second about the Holocaust. 

The district would continue to teach that subject matter to its eighth-grade students. But the board had decided that one particular book should be replaced within the mandated curriculum concerning the Holocaust.

At this point, doggone it! Drum, who is normally perfectly sensible, offered a post in which he referred to this Tennessee jurisdiction as "East Bumfuck County." 

That struck us as amazingly unwise—but after that, the deluge!

Commenters crawled all over Drum's site, voicing their highly unintelligent disdain for the most dangerous group in human history—for the group they described as "These People." Behaving like yahoos and galoots, the various dimwits of West Bumfuck County behaved in something resembling the way Johnson had once described.

In our view, Drum made a very unwise offhand remark—and then the floodgates opened! It was not unlike Johnson's description of the 1967 events in which a remarkably similar group of yahoos had crawled out onto the land:

JOHNSON: July 20, 1967, was another day when conservatives mounted an attack, this time a day of shame and defeat. On that day a simple, uncomplicated bill came before the House of Representatives which proposed to provide Federal grants to local neighborhoods for developing and carrying out rat control and extermination efforts...

Everything seemed in order for quick and easy passage of the bill. But something happened in the House that afternoon, something shameful and sad. A handful of Republicans joined together not merely to defeat the bill but to try to make low comedy of the entire program. Congressman Joel Broyhill, a Republican from Virginia, helped set the tone: “Mr. Speaker, I think the ‘rat smart thing’ for us to do is to vote down this rat bill rat now.”

The floodgates opened. The House, as it is prone to do on occasion, had a field day...

After the floodgates opened that day, (some) House members staged a gruesome display. We were reminded of what they did when we read the comments which were triggered by Drum's unfortunate reference last week.

In July 1967, the yahoos of an older white South ran roughshod on the floor of the House. The yahoos of our own liberal tribe ran roughshod just last week in their comments to Drum's post. 

They got busy Otherizing a wide swath of people, often for very dumb reasons.

Were these yahoos perhaps revealing the accuracy in Johnson's ancient claim concerning that Northern derision? We'd have to say that they pretty much were—and yes, we lose elections, and we lose the world, when our yahoos behave in these ways.

Our liberal tribe boasts quite a few galoots. As is true of all human tribes, we tend to have a very hard time seeing this blatantly obvious fact about our own imperfect selves and about the persistent own goals scored by our own failing tribe.

Tomorrow: Concerning the Pentecostals!

Friday: Otherizing "These People"—the things our own yahoos said


  1. Oh dear. Apparently Lyndon Johnson uttered a lot of words. A hole bunch of words his speechwriters typed for him.

    And here's the way Mafia Joe talks (h/t Howie Carr):
    I don’t think there’s been much on any incoming president’s plate that’s been a bigger menu than the plate I had given to me I’m not complaining knew that coming in.

    A year of living dangerously with Biden at the helm

    ...but then, dear Bob, who cares what words they say? Seriously. Anyone -- ...well, sorry: almost anyone -- can read words from paper or teleprompter.

    You really should be smarter than paying attention to the words they're saying, dear Bob. You really should...

  2. "We assume the essay was drawn from The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963–1969, Johnson's long-forgotten 1971 memoir."

    Why would Somerby call this a "long-forgotten" memoir when it is well-remembered and is a source document for historians? It seems to disparage LBJ, who doesn't deserve that treatment.

    1. This is the same post as he did yesterday, when Somerby is so demonstrably wrong, he just phones it in. Morally corrupt and lazy, what a guy.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The northerners do affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the southerners.

    1. Yes, there is discrimination against those with Southern accents when jobhunting, but there is similar treatment of Northerners who visit or move to the South, a distrust of yankees. There are stories about people remaining outsiders even after 20-40 years.

      We in California can point to Woody Allen and other celebrities who dislike and malign California, especially Los Angeles. Does that excuse Trump for withholding wildfire relief from CA when he was President?

    2. When there exists a youth/talent/brain drain from rural areas to big cities, why wouldn't a "metropolitan superiority" be justified?

    3. Any chance there is evidence that Republicans vote due to contempt from liberals?


      Ok then.

  5. Somerby is disingenuous when he considers whether there is a bias against white Southerners. Studies of discrimination against job applicants based on Southern accent go back to the 1960s and the phenomenon predates that. An attitude that the South is backward in terms of its economy, quality of education, public health and divorce statistics, and so on, is well known and justified by the numbers.

    But I don't believe Somerby is pointing this out now out of concern about that bias. I think he is using the negative attitudes about the South to diminish concerns about racial prejudice, by making a specious comparison between what white Southerners experience and what African Americans have and still do experience in terms of racism. The two are not comparable and the existence of one doesn't mitigate the other. It is NOT TRUE that racism is less of a concern because some Southerner was treated in a snobbish manner by a Northerner.

    One important reason why Northerners are disdainful of the South is because of their backward attitudes towards race, sex, gender, religion, expertise, and many other things. Those backward attitudes result in the deplorable behavior that has been the focus of discussion here, and those attitudes contribute to the stronghold Trump and similar politicians have in the so-called red states, which largely coincide with the confederate South and rural areas of the midwest and Northwest.

    I personally believe that the disdain is justified and is not a "prejudice" at all, since there is a legitimate basis for the dislike of those who behave and think like Trump supporters. There is no reason to laugh at Florida-man stories when they reflect the qualities and problems that make the South the shithole of America. To the extent that the less beknighted Southerners show little concern about their own problems, the attitude toward them seems warranted.

    Somerby's attempt to deflect from racial bigotry by claiming that liberals are bigoted too, toward the South, is not a call for less bigotry and better treatment of all people. It is an attempt to call liberals hypocrites and trivialize the impact of racism on people of color. Because whatever slights Southerners feel about their accents, that is not the same as the hostility experienced by black people, often at the hands of white Americans with Southern attitudes, white supremacists, and ignorant white people from rural areas (where they have often fled to avoid contact with diversity).

    You can see Somerby's motives in this sentence:

    "In July 1967, the yahoos of an older white South ran roughshod on the floor of the House. The yahoos of our own liberal tribe ran roughshod just last week in their comments to Drum's post. "

    And this is despicable both-siderism that compares an abandonment of children in rat-infested tenements to voicing of opinions by a bunch of commenters on a blog who dislike Trump. If those two acts seem equivalent to you, then you will feel right at home in Oklahoma.

    All those years of slavery are not excused by the disdain of Northerners for those living in the Southern colonies (and practicing slavery). The desire to see Trump and his miscreant conspirators in sedition and insurrection brought to justice has nothing to do with their accents and everything to do with their actions.

    It seems to me that Joe Exotic and the Tiger King Zoo could only happen in someplace like Oklahoma, with its long history of mistreating human beings because of the skin color. And in the South, those who are treated well because of their skin color happen to be white, and that is why the dislike of Southerners is not comparable to racial bigotry.

    But Trump is claiming that the prosecutors who are working to indict him are black and thus there is racism in their investigations of his crimes, being that he is white. So Somerby furthers that victimhood by pretending that the white South is the real victim and liberals are the real racists (except he prefers the word "otherization"), because LBJ said so.

    1. That's one hell of a nasty accusation.

    2. This person keeps changing their name. Yes, I can prove it.

    3. It's okay, as far as we're concerned. Our tampermonkey script hides comments based on names and/or keywords. And it's easy enough to find keywords to hide this particular kind of machine-generated drivel.

    4. Somerby is one hell of a nasty person.

    5. Rationalist -- no one here is using their real name except Somerby. There is nothing wrong with changing your nym.

    6. Changing one's name repeatedly for the purpose of trying to establish the appearance of a majority of opinion is deceptive, also annoying. But maybe they are schizophrenic and I'm misreading their motives.

    7. ok Rationalist, thank you for pointing out that very important issue, you are a mensch

    8. No problem at all, you are too kind.

      And I am sorry to rock the boat. I inevitably retreat and let Cerberus go back to spewing forth its bile. As I shall do now.

    9. You have no evidence whatsoever that anyone was changing their name for the purpose you describe.

      There is a peculiarity of Blogspot affecting whether it will accept anonymous comments and sometimes it won't accept them at all and will only accept those with blogspot accounts. That forces someone to comment a certain way, whether they want to or not. But that has nothing to do with trying to fool anyone.

      Lately Greg has been posting "test" comments. I suspect he is having that same problem.

    10. Actually the proof is extremely simple. I can prove without doubt that this person "Lily" is changing their Blogspot name. Multiple times. I don't even need to do anything shady to do so.

      In fact, I can prove it in two different ways!

    11. Well that’s an extremely important use of your and everyone else’s time on a VERY substantial issue, rationalist. Why don’t you go away and do that research and provide us with the documentation to prove that some commenters are using multiple nyms. What an important finding that may be! And in the course of your investigation you will be interested to find out that I am none of these other people, that I am myself and I am not commenting as anybody else. Would you have the courage to admit that truth which you can apparently easily find?

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. Rationalist, of course I (Lily) am changing my name. I said I was going to do it after you complained about Corby (who was me). I've been doing it for more than a week now. I am trying to show you that you don't need the names to keep track of the players here. As noted elsewhere, whenever you change your name, your previous comments are all revised to show the new name.

      But I only comment as either anonymous or a Blogspot account, the latter when forced to do so by Somerby's blog settings.

    14. I am going to stay anonymous here because right wingers are easily agitated and have violent tendencies, I would rather not have someone like Cecelia or David or Mao or AC/MA coming after me as right wingers are able to freely do violence against others with no consequence.

    15. "whether it will accept anonymous comments and sometimes it won't accept them at all and will only accept those with blogspot accounts. That forces someone to comment a certain way, whether they want to or not."

      Just clear you cash grandma.

    16. Or in your case or the dipshit dumbass Greg's case you should read "Listen, Liberal" and then clear your cashe.

    17. That's spelled cache, sonny boy.

    18. C'est? J'n sais pas! ;)

  6. "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that it is an insult to black women that Joe Biden would put one on the Supreme Court."

    But people with disdain for such Southerners are galoots and yahoos, according to Somerby.

  7. “In July 1967, the yahoos of an older white South ran roughshod on the floor of the House. The yahoos of our own liberal tribe ran roughshod just last week in their comments to Drum's post. “

    Yes. 8 of the 12 commenters did that. Not exactly a vast number of supposed liberal “yahoos”.

    These yahoos, excuse me, commenters, differ from those House members from way back when: the commenters have no political power. (By the way, many southern congressmen also voted against the bill, according to Johnson. The Republicans mentioned by Johnson were mostly northerners. Somerby seems somewhat confused about this).

    Also, unlike those congressional yahoos, the commenters are not making fun of anyone because of their geographical location. They are not making fun at all. They are expressing genuine disagreement and displeasure with the freely chosen viewing habits and attitudes of Fox News viewers. Kind of the way Somerby chides liberals for their (supposed) Maddow viewing habit.

    Just because Somerby recommends we regard all Fox News viewers as victims (a sentiment he expressed the other day), doesn’t mean anyone else should.

    And what’s with the dredging up of something that happened over 50 years ago? Is Somerby trying to emulate Rachel?

    1. Thing is we on the Left already regard Fox News viewers as victims - just not in the way Somerby wants, we are the only ones supporting policies to help them. These are people likely suffering from unresolved childhood trauma.

  8. Going back to Somerby’s comment the other day that we should regard Fox News viewers as victims - I think that is one of the weirdest comments I have ever heard.

    It was the Republican rank-and-file, Republican primary voters who picked Trump from a field of 20 to 25 candidates. The republican party didn’t support Trump, Fox News didn’t support Trump at that time. It was the voters who selected him and foisted that demented asshole on this country.

    I absolutely hold those voters responsible for their own actions. I do not view them as being forced to vote for Trump because liberals are mean or because Fox News told them to vote for Trump or that they have no mentality to resist the thoughts that are coming in from the airwaves into their brains.

    You do not change bad behavior by pitying the person who commits the bad act. You force them to take responsibility for their own choices and their own actions. They are adults for heaven’s sake. Aren’t they?

    Or is Somerby suggesting that they must all be treated as mentally deficient children? That may be their chosen stance, but it is a hell of a thing for a democracy to have people like Somerby describes.

    1. "It was the Republican rank-and-file, Republican primary voters who picked Trump from a field of 20 to 25 candidates."

      Good point: it was a working class rebellion. Against the corrupt war-mongering globalist establishment. Lock 'em up!

      You're right: dear Bob doesn't get it. He thinks he and his buddy Kevin are smart, and Others are stupid:
      typical liberal mindset. Tsk. Oh well.

    2. 1:55 has to be a Leftist trolling the Right:

      "corrupt war-mongering globalist establishment"

      is just too on the nose for describing Trump and the Republican Party.

      Republican voters are not going to have some awakening, their values are baked in, likely a function of child abuse.

      Dem's strategy needs to focus on motivating their voters to actually vote, not Somerby's dumb strategy of trying to get voters to switch their vote, which is never going to happen.

    3. Mao says: "it was a working class rebellion"

      The only problem with this is that Trump voters are not primarily working class. They tend to be middle and upper middle class white males. The income levels of Trump voters are higher than those of Democratic voters.

  9. Here is more evidence that Somerby is equating prejudice against Southerners with racism. Somerby asks:

    "Did American president Lyndon Baines Johnson have a type of "fragility" problem?"

    This is a clear reference to the book "White Fragility" which is about racism. Yet Somerby goes on to talk about LBJ's complaint against the media for being down on Southerners. Southerners are not a different race, so LBJ's complaint clearly has nothing to do with racism. It is Somerby who makes that link.

    I again contend that making such a comparison is inappropriate and trivializes the problems of African American people in our culture.