Light at the End of the Tunnel:
Evaluating the Major Biographies
of Lyndon Johnson
THREE YEARS AGO I ANALYZED THE FIRST TWO VOLUMES OF ROBERT
Caro's ongoing biographical study of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to
Power and Means of Ascent, in a review article for the Southwestern Histori-
cal Quarterly.' As I lamented Caro's heavy-handed vilification of Johnson,
I suggested that we might have to wait another generation for a histori-
an or popular writer to produce a balanced account of this remarkable
politician's life and career. Even now, twenty-five years after he left of-
fice, many Americans, including scholars, continue to react emotionally
to the .legacy of Lyndon Johnson. Scars still linger from the war in Viet-
nam, the civil rights battles in the south, the race riots in the cities, and
the upheavals on college campuses. Conflicting images of aborted op-
portunities for progress and a society on the verge of chaos are still too
painful for many people to bear with any sense of detachment. The
force of the conservative cultural, religious, and political movements
over the past generation, the stridency of participants in the debates
over race and gender, the muckraking zeal of journalists, the pervasive
distrust of government, and the uncertainty about America's role in
world affairs-all these phenomena are, at least in part, products of the
Johnson era, the 196os.
Nor have universities escaped the fallout. Frustrated scholars of the
Left, many of whom cut their political teeth on the campus activism of
the 196os and 1970os, have tried to convert universities into instruments
* Evan Anders is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington.
'Evan Anders, "Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson and the Pitfalls of Political Biography: A Criti-
cal Evaluation of The Years of Lyndon Johnson" The Path to Power and Means of Ascent," Southwestern
Histoncal Quarterly, XCIV (Apr., 1991), 581-598 (cited hereafter as SHQ).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed March 5, 2015.