Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu


How It Happened:  The Ruthless Takeover of a State and a Nation
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Robert A Caro
The Years of Lyndon Johnson:  Means of Ascent (NY:  Alfred A Knopf, 1990.  506p.)

See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site

This is an excellent chronological documentation of a key period in Lyndon B Johnson’s political life, running for the US Senate from Texas for the first time.  Caro provides excellent background out of amazing extensive research over a long period of interviews with associates, family members, opponents, aides and others, as well as consulting formal published works and official documents.

Caro documents the unprincipled, amoral power orientation and roguish manipulation and deceit behind Johnson's whole life and career.  This is a powerful but unemotional portrayal in the best tradition of investigative journalism combined with historical reconstruction from fact.  Caro is scrupulous in his documentation, with date, place, hour, and very careful to keep clear sequences and personalities, subtle changes in events and facts, tone and attitudes.

This is informative and enlightening on the dark side of LBJ's early career, and provides insights in to the frontier ruggedness of Texas politics on the ground level.

Caro details, with intriguing times, places, meetings and persons, how Johnson stole elections, used ruthless and illegal pragmatic methods, paid for votes and paid people to keep quiet.  Caro tells all the background stories, references the documents, the personal confessions and cavalier discussions of it by colleagues, and the crucial details of transactions.  Caro gives a play-by-play of court trials in which much of this came out, leading to the conviction of some individuals involved.

He includes important references from interviews he conducted with Johnson insider and campaign manager and fixer John B Connally, sometime Governor of Texas and US Senator from Texas.  He discusses trials and lawsuits and political maneuvers using the courts to hamper investigations.  Lady Bird Johnson likewise contributed important background information and referred Caro to other Johnson society and family insiders.

Johnson used several creative approaches and modified earlier approaches, such as using a traveling band to draw crowds and brand his public persona.  Caro establishes how Lyndon Johnson's campaign for the US Senatorial senate set the stage for modern multimedia politics, changing the way politicians communicate with the people and the way elections are conducted and reported.

LBJ was a powerful networker.  In his years as a US Representative from Texas, he built relationships and learned how to influence decision-makers and power-brokers in overt and covert ways.  He used these deftly in his Senatorial Campaign.

Mrs Johnson's ownership of a radio station in Austin became critical in the senatorial campaign.  This was the first campaign to effectively use radio and its powerful social impact to garner votes and mold public opinion.  The acquisition of that station and its subsequent licensing and upgrading of frequency and power allotments are an amazing testimony to the power of the Johnson Washington support machine to influence decisions.

Johnson started our current spiral of out-of control national debt by borrowing to pay for the Vietnam War and the "War on Poverty."  He borrowed to pay for the ever-growing war and the simultaneous introduction of extensive social programs and financial support programs of "The Great Society."

Johnson further led the Congress to allow the plundering of the Social Security funds by pooling them into the general treasury for government use.  Caro does not comment substantially on this, since he is focusing on the formative period of Johnson's climb to power through he first campaign for the seat of U S Senator from Texas.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[reviews] Hilarity Sounds Alarm for America
[reviews] Losing the Way in the Permanent Campaign
[reviews] One Continent, Three Siblings   
[review] Rationalism, Natural Religion and Tolerance
[review] Surfing and Sliding:  Media in Elections
[review] Too Honest for the White House

See this book with my review on Amazon.com
See my book reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site
See my reading lists
Many other books have review notes with the reading list entry


Initial reading comments written 1 August 2011
Review developed 15 August 2011
Posted on OJTR 20 August 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2011 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu

filename:  carolyndonjohnson.html