Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy: The Political Significance of a Personal Rivalry
Connor J. Stangler
Dr. Mark Y. Hanley, Faculty Mentor
Lyndon Johnson was the most formidable politician of his era. Given his unparalleled candor and forcefulness, Johnson's renouncement, and perhaps surrender, of the Presidency in March 1968 was one of the most surprising political events of the twentieth century and has left historians bewildered as to the reasons behind the decision. While conventional scholarship points to an amalgam of factors - most notably a deteriorating war in Vietnam - my research singles out a different cause: Robert Kennedy. Longtime personal and political rivals, Kennedy and Johnson routinely assigned subversive motives to each other. Most importantly, Johnson feared Kennedy more than any other political opponent. My paper demonstrates not only that Kennedy's entry into the 1968 Democratic Primary proved to be a decisive source of Johnsons insecurity, but also that deeply personal factors must be a part of any comprehensive explanation of Johnsons decision to exit the presidential race.
Keywords: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, 1968 Presidential Election, Vietnam War
Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Location: VH 1324