Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson and the Pitfalls of
Political Biography: A Critical Evaluation of
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to
Power and Means of Ascent
EVAN ANDERS *
ROBERT CARO IS WORKING ON A MULTIVOLUME BIOGRAPHY OF LYNDON
Johnson. Just recently Caro has completed the second volume,
which extends his coverage of Johnson's life through the notorious
senatorial campaign of 1948. As the title of this article suggests, Robert
Caro has experienced some serious problems in studying and evaluating
the life and career of Lyndon Johnson. At one level, these problems are
all too understandable and would probably affect any prospective biog-
rapher who had reached adulthood, or at least late adolescence, by the
mid-196os. For people of my generation and older (Caro is fifty-three
years old), Lyndon Johnson is an unsettling enigma. The former presi-
dent generates emotions that are not only contradictory but still deeply
felt after all these years.
On the positive side, Johnson steered through Congress a program
of liberal reform that is surpassed only by the accomplishments of
Franklin Roosevelt in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Johnson's legislative breakthroughs included federal aid to education,
health insurance for the aged, the expansion of public housing, the
Model Cities program, federal support for the arts and humanities,
and a vast array of programs designed to alleviate poverty in this coun-
try. Even more praiseworthy was Johnson's role in the passage of the
three most important pieces of civil rights legislation since the ratifica-
tion of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution during Reconstruction. This contribution to
the overthrow of the system of racial repression in the South would be
* Evan Anders is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlngton.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed May 28, 2016.