Monday, July 9, 2012

Lyndon Johnson and Advertising.

I am reading right now book 1 of Robert Caro's four-book biography of Lyndon Johnson, "The Path to Power." It is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. And I read a lot.

It doesn't matter if you care about Johnson or American politics. Rarely--and this includes Shakespeare--will you find a better, more fully-painted portrait of a man, an era, an area and a country than you'll find here. Caro's work is painstakingly researched--he seems to have interviewed everyone (that's not hyperbole) who ever knew Johnson.

Today I am reading about Johnson's first run for Congress as a 28-year-old outsider running outside his district. Things are looking bad for him. He is way behind.

His opponents are hammering away at his youth, his "unelectability," that is, don't vote for him because he can't be elected. Johnson had tried to get prominent local Texans to introduce him at speeches. They turned tail and ran when polls revealed he would lose by thousands.

His father, Sam Johnson, turned it around.

Embrace your youth. Harangue the your opponents' age. And have your cousin, eight-year-old Corky, "the best young cowboy in the Hill Country" introduce you with this:

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
      But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
      At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Johnson out-thought, out-spent and out-worked his opponents. He refused to knuckle under to conventional wisdom or pollsters.

Edgar Guest is not exactly John Donne or A.E. Housman, he's more of a Kipling sort. But there's a lot of wisdom here.

No comments: