Alternate Political History: LBJ
February 3, 2007
Lyndon Johnson was one of the great larger-than-life characters from American history. Widely considered one of the greatest senators in history, Uncle Baines was famous for advancing the art of personal manipulation through intimidation, otherwise known as “the treatment.” Unfortunately for Johnson, his main legacy is his escalation of the Vietnam War to catastrophic levels, marring what otherwise could have been one of the greatest presidencies. In another world, however, Johnson never would have had the chance to become president.
In 1960, Johnson sought the Democratic nomination. Avoiding the primaries, Johnson hoped to convince the convention delegates to forsake Kennedy and nominate himself. LBJ, however, misread the strength of the Kennedy campaign, who was nominated on the first ballot, thus removing most convention politicking. Johnson was offered the second spot on the ticket mostly because the pro civil rights Kennedy felt he needed him to help win the South. Other stories suggest that Kennedy offered the spot only as a courtesy and never expected the powerful senator to give up his position and assume the thankless role of VP.
Kennedy and Johnson never got along particularly well and it is likely that Kennedy wanted to replace Johnson on the 1964 ticket, with North Carolina governor Terry Sanford being the preferred option. Had Kennedy done this, LBJ might have been able to mount a run for the nomination in 1968, but it is more likely that he would have retired or returned to the senate. Being four years out of office would put him at a disadvantage to Vice President Sanford, who would likely have enjoyed strong support from the Kennedy clan. A Sanford/Kennedy (Ted) ticket in 1968 would not have been out of the question.
Guess it was good move for LBJ to have the CIA/Cubans/Mafia kill Kennedy in ’63.