This post was originally posted at FRS Daily Post on WordPress
When was the last time that a Congressional leader was loved and respected by both parties. That is how much Congress has changed since Everett Dirksen was there because he was loved and respected by both parties when he was in Congress and when he was the Senate Republican Leader. But now Republicans and Democrats in Congress tend to look at each other as enemies and not colleagues or even opponents. Not many people being more familiar with how Congress worked than Everett Dirksen, who served a total of thirty-four years in Congress. Both in the House of Representatives and Senate. House from 1933-49 and the Senate from 1951-59. And was also Senate Minority Leader from 1959-69.
You might be able to say that Minority Leader Dirksen had all the power in the Republican Party in Washington in the 1960s. Excluding 1960 with President Dwight Eisenhower and 1969 with President Richard Nixon. You might be able to say that from 1961-69 Minority Leader Dirksen was the Washington power structure for the GOP. Because Democrats held the White House and both chambers of Congress from 1961-69 in this period. Huge majorities in both the House and Senate from 1961-67. Which meant for Congressional Republicans to get anything done in this period or to stop legislation that the Congressional Democratic Leadership was pushing, they needed both Leader Dirksen and the Southern Caucus of right-wing Democrats in Congress.
The 1960s was also a much different time as far as Washington politics and Congressional politics. Not all Democrats were liberal or progressive. The Democratic Party had the right-wing Southern Caucus in the House and Senate. The Democratic Party leaned Left, but had a large right-wing faction. Not all Congressional Republicans were conservative, but certainly leaned right. And they had a progressive faction in the Northeast. Which meant for either President Jack Kennedy or President Lyndon Johnson to get things done in Congress, especially in the Senate, they needed Minority Leader Dirksen’s help to cutoff filibusters from Conservative Republicans and right-wing Democrats. And to bring along some of his Progressive Senators.
Similar to Senator Robert Byrd and Everett Dirksen was sort of the Bob Byrd of him time, but if neither one of them weren’t in Congress for so long, they could’ve both been Congressional historians. And of course a lot of the knowledge they picked up about Congress had to do how long that they were in Congress. Both serving in the House and Senate, but also because they both served in the Congressional Leadership. So when you hear Everett Dirksen talk about Congress, you know you’re hearing from someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Someone who was not just respected, but loved by both Republicans and Democrats and someone who represents the best of our Congress and its two chambers.