Peter F. Drucker on Business and Society by Peter F. Drucker

Peter F. Drucker on Business and Society by Peter F. Drucker

Author:Peter F. Drucker [Peter F. Drucker]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Published: 2020-08-24T16:00:00+00:00

The Opportunity

The comparison with 1896 also suggests that such an election creates a tremendous opportunity. It is a great emotional trauma, which tears people off their old political moorings and sets them adrift—ready to be caught by new currents. It forces people who normally react to politics in terms of simple clichés—the great majority for whom politics is only of peripheral importance—to reexamine their stand. Altogether the year from President Kennedy’s assassination to President Johnson’s election was a year of shock, of self-questioning, of self-doubt such as must leave lasting effects. And it demonstrated that there is no going back to yesterday, even for the most nostalgic. As a result there is wide awareness of the need for something new, and receptivity to it.

The emotional shock of 1896 was used by Mark Hanna to forge a new and lasting majority, built around the skilled industrial worker in alliance with business and with the successful commercial farmer. By designing this alignment around the “full dinner pail,” that is, around strictly economic issues, Mark Hanna determined the character of American politics for the next sixty-five years.* Shortly after Hanna, Teddy Roosevelt grasped the opportunity for political innovation. He came out with an altogether new political program—one which created a strong, positive Presidential government to tackle the new issues of the Welfare State and of the social control of economic activity.

In retrospect these achievements may seem easy, if not inevitable. But, at the time, they were inconceivable to most Americans. And the world of 1896, which to us seems so simple, appeared to the men of that time (as any reader of The Education of Henry Adams may remember) complex beyond human understanding.

A similar opportunity awaits today. The man to seize it could well be Lyndon Johnson. In the first year he succeeded to the Presidency, Mr. Johnson proved himself effective, shrewd, energetic, and self-confident.

Still, will Mr. Johnson have the courage, the vision—above all, the self-discipline—to tackle the new, the difficult, the controversial? Or will his very virtuosity at managing the old alignments and the old issues keep him busy doing yesterday’s jobs for yesterday’s national consensus? If Lyndon Johnson misses his chance in that fashion, then the yet unknown men who will rebuild a second party from the shambles of the GOP will have a unique opportunity to forge a new majority to cope with the new issues. For no one—neither Johnson nor Goldwater nor anyone else—will be able to push this country back onto the old slope of the political watershed we crossed in the 1964 election.


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