The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society

Penguin Pr. 2015. 384p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781594204340. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101605493. HIST
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson named his domestic program for civil rights and reform—in the areas of voting, housing, health care, and education—the "Great Society"; Zelizer (history and public affairs, Princeton Univ.) refers to it as our second New Deal. At the same time, the author argues that a shift in the mood of Congress offered a temporary opening for this epic run of lawmaking. By early 1965, with Congress reverted to its more usual position, it was all over. While Johnson had the political skill to take advantage of this brief window, Zelizer argues that our view of the Great Society is too "Johnson-centric" and the role of Congress is underplayed. He challenges implicitly our view as being too "Caro-centric" as well, since the latest volume in Robert Caro's Johnson biography, The Passage of Power (2012), is the historical script for most readers today. Zelizer, a regular commentator on CNN and elsewhere, is also an accomplished political historian, with books such as Governing America.
VERDICT The author will engage academic readers with the nuance of his argument. While general readers will not find the grandeur of Robert Caro here, they will appreciate the clarity of Zelizer's writing and the brevity of his account. All readers will take note of his apt references to current Congressional dynamics and will discover in this book a fine complement to Caro's work. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.]
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing