How LBJ’s ‘Box 13’ foretold America’s future of stolen elections

By Jack Cashill

It is not often I “go” to the movies these days, but the trip to see the recently released “Turn Every Page” proved to be worth it. The movie documents the 50-year working relationship between writer Robert Caro and his editor, Robert Gottlieb. Trust me, it is better than it sounds.

Caro, now 86, is working to complete the fifth and final volume of his classic series on Lyndon Baines Johnson. Gottlieb, now 91, is helping him polish it.

I have read the previous four volumes as well as Caro’s debut book about legendary developer Robert Moses, “The Power Broker.” Among his contemporaries, Caro has no peer.

The story in the movie that caught my attention and that of the generally liberal audience involved the Democratic Senate primary of 1948. So intriguing was the primary that Caro thought it worthy of its own volume. This caused him to expand his projected three-volume series to five.

In 1948, Johnson, then a congressman, was challenging popular three-term Texas Gov. Coke Stevenson for the Democratic nod – at the time, a guarantee of a general election victory. In the initial vote, Stevenson beat Johnson handily, but a third candidate drained off enough votes to mandate a run-off.

In the run-off, Johnson had to make up a 72,000-vote differential. He pulled out all the stops, picking up 88,000 additional votes to Stevenson’s 17,000 and eventually “winning” by an 87-vote margin. This election earned him the derisive nickname “Landslide Lyndon.”

“Election-denier” Stevenson protested through every means available. Represented by attorney Abe Fortas, Johnson, an FDR acolyte, persuaded Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black, an FDR appointee, that this was a party issue and not a federal issue.

The courts having weighed in, the election was stamped as valid as Katie Hobbs’ 2022 “win” in Arizona or, for that matter, Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential “victory.”

Oh, as an aside, Johnson later named Fortas to the Supreme Court, but Fortas was forced to resign after getting caught up in an insider trading scandal. Shocking, I know.

As Caro tells the story, he could not content himself with writing that the election was “reportedly” stolen and move on. So he expended enormous energy and time in running down the one man who knew the truth, Luis Salas, an election judge in Jim Wells County, now an old man Caro found living in a Houston trailer park.

As Democrats had been doing since at least Boss Tweed, Johnson preyed on ethnic and racial minorities to harvest the necessary votes, in this case Hispanics, many of whom did not speak English.

“Johnson did not win that election – it was stolen for him, and I know exactly how it was done,” said Salas. Salas was ordered by the county boss to produce 200 votes, and that is how many Salas found in the now notorious Box 13, all with the same colored ink and all in alphabetical order.

As Caro told this story in the film, I imagined my fellow moviegoers getting nervous. “What? You mean Democrats actually do steal elections?” Yes, Virginia, they always have and still do. And reporters used to care.

As Caro proved, Johnson manufactured at least 10,000 votes that election, the great majority among Spanish speakers.

As Caro would report in a later volume, John Kennedy surprised almost everyone with his last-minute pick of then Senate Majority Leader Johnson as his running mate in 1960. JFK knew the election would be close, and he knew Johnson had the wherewithal to win Texas – by hook or by crook.

The ticket did carry Texas by 46,000 votes, well within Johnson’s wheel house. Thanks in large to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s vote-manufacturing machinery, the ticket carried Illinois by 8,000 votes.

Those two states had electoral votes enough to put Kennedy-Johnson over the top. Conventional wisdom was – and remains – that the election was stolen. Like a good little Republican, Richard Nixon chose not to protest. He should have.

Democrats steal elections. In 1982, I found myself in the middle of a contested mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey, my hometown. I watched the sausage get made. It was sometimes amusing, but never pretty.

For the record, JFK carried New Jersey by 22,000 votes in 1960. I don’t doubt that the pols in Newark manufactured enough votes to carry the state.

Robert Caro is a self-professed liberal. He openly agrees with LBJ’s “ends” but not to the point he is willing to ignore the “means” he used to attain those ends. In reporting those means, Caro is relentless.

Today, if the major media discover a Robert Caro in their midst, they spit him or her out. Ask Sharyl Attkisson or Lara Logan or Matt Taibbi or Bari Weiss.

Say what you will about Democrats, but they have stayed true to their election-rigging ways over the years. It is our journalists who have betrayed their profession.

Jack Cashill’s newest book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” is available for pre-order.

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