Mansfield and Dirksen
Bipartisan Giants of the Senate
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
296 Pages | 6 x 9 | 26 b&w illus.
Working together, with the Democrat often ceding public leadership to his Republican counterpart, Mansfield and Dirksen passed landmark civil rights and voting rights legislation, created Medicare, and helped bring about a foundational nuclear arms limitation treaty. The two leaders could not have been more different in personality and style: Mansfield, a laconic, soft-spoken, almost shy college history professor, and Dirksen, an aspiring actor known for his flamboyance and sense of humor, dubbed the “Wizard of Ooze” by reporters. Drawing on extensive Senate archives, Johnson explores the congressional careers of these iconic leaders, their intimate relationships with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and their own close professional friendship based on respect, candor, and mutual affection.
A study of politics but also an analysis of different approaches to leadership, this is a portrait of a U.S. Senate that no longer exists—one in which two leaders, while exercising partisan political responsibilities, could still come together to pass groundbreaking legislation—and a reminder of what is possible.
“In today’s era of polarized politics, it seems extraordinary that the Senate’s majority and minority leaders could put aside party rivalries to work together for the common good, but Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen shaped partisanship to create room for significant compromise. Marc C. Johnson deftly reveals how they made that work.”—Donald A. Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the US Senate and author of Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents
“In Marc Johnson’s masterful retelling, readers will see how the most effective bipartisan leadership team in the history of the modern U.S. Senate confronted the enormous issues of the 1960s—a remarkable contrast to what the Senate has become in the twenty-first century. Richly documented and deftly written, the book reminds us of a simple truth: who leads matters.”—Frank H. Mackaman, Historian Emeritus, The Dirksen Congressional Center
“Now, in one of our country’s most pressing hours, Marc Johnson’s exhaustively researched recollection of the bipartisan efforts of Republican senator Everett Dirksen and Democrat senator Mike Mansfield confirms that things don’t have to be as they are today. The mutual efforts of Dirksen and Mansfield reveal that there is a better and infinitely more effective way to confront immensely complex issues while simultaneously preserving our union and the life of the longest-functioning democracy in human history.”—Marc Racicot, Governor of Montana (1993–2001)