Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, with opposing parties, leadership styles, and personalities, were two of the most impactful figures in America in the 1960s. During a period of political turmoil--global superpowers on the brink of nuclear war, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK Jr., war, and racial strife--two men from different parties shepherded monumental legislation (the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Great Society, etc.) through the Senate with bipartisan consensus. How did they pull it off?
In this episode, we talk with author and historian Marc Johnson about these two men, their leadership styles, their relationship with each other (and with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson), and their accomplishments. Importantly, though, we talk about whether or not it's possible in today's political environment to do what they did the way they did it. We talk about the lessons that political leaders, including those in Oregon politics, can learn from these two men--and how specifically their approach might have been fundamentally different than most politicians' today.
If you enjoy The Oregon Bridge podcast, you will love this book ("Mansfield and Dirksen: Bipartisan Giants of the Senate"). For young people who have only ever known a dysfunctional Congress, it's a beautiful portrait of two fascinating leaders who guided the US Senate during turbulent times. For everyone, it's a reminder of what's possible when exceptional leaders use political power to solve big problems.
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