Letter: LBJ’s lessons for Elizabeth Warren

Published: 10/9/2019 12:01:22 AM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has captivated the Democratic Party – and many Americans – with her plans to end government corruption if elected president in 2020. President Lyndon B. Johnson once drew similar attention by pledging to build a “Great Society,” promising to restore morality to the American spirit through comprehensive social assistance programs.

However, Johnson’s plan failed to realize its challenging goals, producing legislation ultimately diluted by compromise. The visions behind the Great Society were praiseworthy, but Johnson overestimated the government’s ability to enact so many transformative policies at once.

Sen. Warren would be well-served by paying attention to President Johnson’s errors. The Great Society was flawed in attempting to solve all problems at once, from ending poverty to investing in health care. Strikingly similar are Warren’s promises: Voters will find 44 comprehensive plans on her website, ranging from action on climate change to investing in rural America.

Today, voters must understand the political odds Warren is up against in a partisan climate. Washington is far tenser than in Johnson’s era; compromise with Republicans on far-reaching progressive legislation, even if Warren were willing to engage in it, will likely prove impossible.

If we elect Warren on the basis of her current platform, we risk not only alienating half of the American population but potentially failing to pass realistic legislation on bipartisan issues, such as federal investment in crumbling American infrastructure.

At present, Warren’s radical proposals will tear the already weakened fabric of our democracy a stitch further, paralyzing Congress into deeper ideological gridlock yielding no substantive action. Voters must not allow Warren to repeat Johnson’s mistakes: overestimating the government’s abilities to solve complex problems and underperforming on sweeping promises.

JULIA TILTON

Amherst




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