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50 Years Ago: America Votes

The mid-term elections in America provided the customary festival for the devotees of the Great Man Theory.

Disgruntled Democrats were ready to blame President Johnson for their losses. The Daily Telegraph's Washington correspondent passed on a report that Democratic leaders in Michigan were thinking about opposing Johnson as their Presidential candidate in 1968.

On the other side, jubilant Republicans surveyed their leaders — Reagan, Romney, Percy, Nixon — and began planning the build-up to present one of them as the nation's saviour at the polls the year after next.

Whichever party is defeated at the election, the Great Man Theory remains unbeaten. The Democrats who now blame Johnson for their setbacks are conveniently forgetting that they once adored him as the man who would build the Great Society. The only remedy they have to offer is to peddle the same sort of nonsense about another man.

In the same way, the Republicans who are now come to praise men like Reagan and Percy may yet stay to bury them in unforgiving recrimination.

This is a familiar spectacle. Capitalism's leaders are always being credited with more power over the system than they actually have. No man, and no government, has ever been able to control capitalism; in the end the system wins.

When we have an election in which the votes reflect a developing knowledge of that fact, we shall be somewhere near getting rid of the problems the great men are always promising, and always failing, to solve.

(Socialist Standard, December 1966)