Inside and outside

Credit for the Civil Rights Acts goes to LBJ to the exclusion of MLK?
Does Hillary Clinton really know so little about how big changes get made?

Even in the fuller version quoted by Josh Marshall, Hillary Clinton’s comments about how the legislative aspect of the Second Reconstruction are not just politically tone-deaf (for seeming to diss a national icon) but historically wrong, and suggest a serious deficiency in her understanding of how major social and political change actually happens.

As Josh recounts it:

The exchange starts at 3:40 in. Fox’s Major Garrett reads Clinton a quote from a speech Obama gave earlier in the day.

Here’s the Obama quote he reads …

“False Hopes. Dr King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the magnificent crowd, the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, sorry guys, false hopes, the dream will die, it can’t be done, false hope, we don’t need leaders who tell us what we can’t do, we need leaders to tell us what we can do and inspire us.”

He then asks if she would respond and she says …

“I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the President before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became a real in peoples lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished.”

LBJ is my hero. But he would have understood &#8212 better than anyone else &#8212 that without the Civil Rights movement led by (among others) Martin Luther King, there would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1964, no Voting Rights Act of 1965, and no Open Housing law of 1966. Yes, getting those laws passed took all of Johnson’s skill and muscle and guile, and all the chits he’d accumulated since he got to Washington. But they wouldn’t have been enough &#8212 they wouldn’t even have been a start &#8212 without the movement, and without TV coverage of the violent reaction it generated in a large chunk of the white South.

Major change requires both “inside” and “outside” leadership. It is said &#8212 I believe accurately &#8212 that when a group of labor leaders came to FDR and proposed what became the Wagner Act, he replied, “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.” And that outside, social-movement leadership requires not only organization but oratory. HRC’s insistence on a radical distinction between “speaking” and “working” really makes no sense whatever, and is among the strongest argument that, by electing her President, we’d be denying the Senate a natural-born Majority Leader.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: