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LBJ And Obama: More Similarities Than You Might Think

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Obama has said LBJ made it possible for him to become president

"The laws President Johnson signed [are] why im standing here today -- because of those efforts, because of that legacy."

-President Obama on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act


They both presided over a very divided country

Johnson’s America was in upheaval over race and the recent assassination of JFK. Obama has presided over an America with high levels of income inequality. Racial tensions have also mounted - a series of police shootings of black men led to the Black Lives Matter movement.


“All The Way,” a new HBO film starring Bryan Cranston, explores Johnson’s first year

Bryan Cranston won a Tony for his performance as Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway play - the film adaptation also stars Anthony Mackie as MLK and will hit small screens on May 21st.


Often, liberals like to complain that Obama is "no LBJ"

“Few things irritate Mr. Obama and his team more than the comparison to Johnson, which they consider facile and unfair. The notion that Mr. Obama should exert more energy in cajoling, bargaining and even pressuring lawmakers is a common assessment.”

-Peter Baker, New York Times White House Correspondent


Both Obama and LBJ had a very productive first two years

Both presidents had terrific track records of pushing through progressive legislation -- the 111th Congress ranks right below the 89th (Johnson’s) in terms of productivity.


Johnson changed the landscape of America with his accomplishments

In his first few years as president Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, created Medicare and Medicaid, and passed the Higher Education Act, which created low-interest loans that later helped Obama pay for his college education.


And Obama significantly transformed both domestic and foreign policy

Obama’s legacy will include the Affordable Care Act, the auto industry bailout, Wall Street reform, and the end of the Iraq War. Grassroots progressivism helped him achieve these milestones, just as the activism of Martin Luther King and SNCC helped Johnson.


With Congress on their sides, a lot more was possible

At the beginning, Obama and Johnson both had Democratic majorities in Congress -- Johnson had 68% of the Senate and 295 House members, and Obama had 257 House members. This made pushing through legislation significantly easier.


But as Obama lost his majority and Johnson’s majority shrank, productivity dwindled

It is well-known that Obama has been hindered for years by GOP majorities in the House and Senate that has resulted in endless political gridlock. And Johnson, too, lost his legendary ability to push legislation through Congress as Republicans gained seats and complex issues like the Vietnam War took the stage.


Recently, Republicans tried to stop Obama’s SCOTUS pick by invoking the “LBJ precedent”

“When a SCOTUS vacancy occurred near the end of LBJ’s presidency, conservatives successfully argued it wouldn’t be fair for Johnson, a lame duck, to choose the replacement. When Justice Antonin Scalia recently died, some Republicans discussed a similar course of action.


Johnson's legacy is an inspiration to Obama

“What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression. It required the presence of economic opportunity. A decent job. Decent wages. Health care. Those too were civil rights worth fighting for.”

-President Obama on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act