The Political Situation After the Assassination Austin President Johnson now has more nearly unanimous support among Texas Democrats than any Democratic president has in the last two decades. Leaders of the Democratic Coalition, in effect the liberal wing of the Texas Democrats, pledged to support Johnson’s nomination and election in 1964. Commending Johnson for calling for enactment of the late President’s civil rights program and for Johnson’s “prompt and bold action to forward the cause of liberalism and to still the voices of hatred and intolerance,” the four co-chairmen of the Coalition said: “The Democratic Party will go forward to nominate and elect Lyndon Johnson the next president of the United States, and return Senator Ralph Yarborough to the Senate for the aid he can give the cause of sound, progressive government. This committee dedicates the Democratic Coalition to the achievement of these goals within a harmonious Texas Democratic Party.” The resolution was written by attorney Franklin Jones of Marshall and signed by Jones, Hank Brown, state labor president; W. J. Durham, chairman of the Texas Council of Voters; and Albert Pena, chairman of PASO, the Political Assn. of Spanish-speaking Organizations. The four also sent a letter to President Johnson re-stating the pledge to work for the election of Johnson and Yarborough next year. According to reports from the closed meeting in which the decision to take these steps was ‘reached, liberals who have been critical of Johnson in the past were filled with a sense of dilemma and had no answer to the question, “What else can we do?” As President, Johnson is not only the leader of the country; he is almost the dictator in his party, a fact that is politically just as germane to the course of action that has been taken by the leaders of the Coalition. Underlying that course was the widespread consensus among Demoliberal President, or a good and a liberal or not, the nomination of someone other than he for president is most unlikely in the light of history and the nature of con vention politics. These developments, considered in association with the large margin by which the President’s friend, Jake Pickle, won the Central Texas congressional seat last week, means that prospects for genuinely com petitive two-party politics in Texas next year have faltered and may be foundering. Republican Jim Dobbs had been running an anti-Kennedy, pro-Goldwater campaign, and his supporters had erected signs that said, “Scratch Lyndon’s Boy, Jake,” when President Kennedy was assassinated. The signs were withdrawn, but the last week of the campaign voters were reminded about them in the Austin American. On Nov. 20, Pickle had charged that Dobbs had threatened him with physical violence if he, Pickle, did not stop calling Dobbs such things as H. L. Hunt’s boy. Dobbs resigned his job as a commentator on the “Life Line” radio series to run for Congress; the series is backed by the hyperconservative oil billionaire from Dallas. Planning to run again next year, Jack Ritter, the pro-Kennedy Democrat edged out of the runoff the first primary, at first refused to endorse Pickle. Then came the assassination. President Johnson and Gov. Connally announced they were voting for Pickle; Sen. John Tower backed Dobbs. Election eve, Ritter endorsed Pickle. Dobbs’ main pitch became his continuing opposition to the public accommodations section of the pending civil rights bill. Mail-outs designed to persuade the Ritter vote to stay home or vote for Dobbs were widely distributed Monday before the voting, and Dobbs’ ads began to contain direct references to Pickle’s previous paid services for politicians of different persuasions which reminded liberals that Pickle once worked for Allan Shivers. But Dobbs finished with almost exactly the same proportion of the electorate, 37 percent, that supported him against Rep. Homer Thornberry, a liberal Democrat, in 1962. In eight of the ten counties of the district, the turnout was higher than it had been in the first go-round, when three men had been running; and Pickle carried all ten counties. Pickle said his election was a victory for unity among -Democrats and for the Johnson Administration, which it obviously was. Republicans made the best of the situation, but there was not much to say. The day after he was elected, Pickle said he is againSt medicare but will work for full civil rights for all Americans. He said he is a friend of the President’s, but will not be a rubber stamp. He could become one of Johnson’s lieutenants in the House and in any event will be sensitive to signals from the White House. ANOTHER SIGN of the unity among the Democrats was the White House’s disavowal, in statements from spokesmen, of the story by Les Carpenter [Ups. Dec. 13] in which a congressman was quoted alleging Kennedy had told Yarborough Nov. 22 to ride with Johnson or walk, an allegation Yarborough called a base falsehood. Certain dressings-down were reported, but not confirmed. It was pointed out that President Johnson had invited Yarborough to fly to New York with him for the funeral of Sen. Lehman, which Yarborough had done. Thursday after the story appeared \(and caused long distance calls ough was Johnson’s guest at the White House swimming pool, and a short staff story in the Austin American for which Carpenter writes quoted the President responding to a question whether they had discussed problems in Texas politics with the remark that they didn’t have any such problems. The paper also said that Johnson had made it “completely clear” he will not intervene in any Texas primary election next spring. A new spate of news stories about opposition to Yarborough next springfrom Allan Shivers, Jim Wright, Joe Kilgore, and/or Lloyd Bentsen, who was reported to have told Austin friends he will definitely run, but has not said so on the record yetseem to be proceeding mainly from the possibility that it can be contended Yarborough cannot get along with the President. Another consequence of all these. considerations may be politically menacing challenges to the two Texas Republican congressmen, Ed Foreman of Odessa and Bruce Alger of Dallas, next year. Foreman recently included Cong. Henry Gonzalez, San Antonio, on a list of congressmen on whose politics Foreman cast several aspersions. Gonzalez, a regular Democrat, has been close to Johnson, as well as to Texas liberals. Earle Cabell, the conservative or moderate Democratic mayor of Dallas, is an allbut announced candidate against Alger next year. The Dallas Times-Herald turned against Alger months ago. The fact that Johnson and Alger do not pass the time of day except shafting each other cannot be regarded in the same light as it was before Nov. 22. It is possible that a resolution among some Dallas leaders to change that city’s “image” might affect Alger’s political prospects. BEYOND such relatively provincial considerations, what else does all this mean for the Texas Republicans? A lot, as they well know, and as they will doubtless begin making apparent as the fact of President Kennedy’s assassination becomes objectified in public feeling and the holiday period passes. Texas Republicans have officially committed themselves to the candidacy of Sen. Barry Goldwater for president. Because December 27 1963 9
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