The news media has a curious approach to the manner in which it frames history: it assumes that little things do not matter very much.
It is arguable that the smallest events are the ones which have the greatest impact on history.
Let us investigate this argument within the frame of the politics of the 1960's.
During the democratic convention of 1960, John F. Kennedy designated Lyndon B. Johnson as his choice for Vice President, an act which baffled the news media and the general population of the United States. Johnson had only recently lost the race for presidential candidate, running on the "Stop Kennedy" coalition he formed with Adlai Stevenson, Stuart Symington, and Hubert Humphrey.
To make it more understandable to a modern audience exactly what this meant in the context of the time: Tip O'neill, a representative from Kennedy's home state, Massachusetts, was approached by Johnson at the convention. He reportedly said, "Tip, I'd like to have you with me on the second ballot." O'Neill, who knew the power of the Kennedy name, replied, "Senator, there's not going to be any second ballot."
Johnson firmly believed he was going to win, but he received only 409 votes on the lone ballot at the convention. The rivalry between Johnson and Kennedy had drawn a line across the democratic regions of the U.S., dividing the pro-Johnson south from the pro-Kennedy north. The idea that the two men would run together on the same ticket was, to put it mildly, shocking to anybody alive at the time.
Why, then, did Kennedy choose Johnson as his partner, after so bitter a contest? A report by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., indicates that Kennedy offered Johnson the position of vice presidential candidate as a courtesy; Johnson was not expected to accept the offer.
W. Marvin Watson suggests instead that the Kennedy campaign was struggling desperately against the campaign of Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.; Watson implies that Johnson's influence on the southern states would carry Kennedy through the election.
Other sources state clearly that Kennedy loathed Johnson and did not want him as a running-mate; JFK preferred Symington.
History shows, regardless of your preferred media sources, that on November 5, 1960, Lyndon Baines Johnson won election for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America on the Kennedy-Johnson ticket, and he also won a third term as Senator, which he resigned in favour of the "higher" office. Here is where we see how history is truly made: behind curtains. Lyndon Johnson decided the Vice Presidency would be his, and he would pressure Kennedy to give it up to him. Furthermore, while Johnson was running for VP, he was also running for a third term in the Senate, after having Texas laws altered to permit him the chance at both offices, simultaneously.
How was Johnson able to do this? Let us examine the hidden details. Historians consider Lyndon Johnson to be, by far, the most effective and authoritative Senate majority leader to hold office. Among other things, he had a knack for gathering information, maybe even, as one biographer notes, "the greatest intelligence gatherer Washington has ever known," finding precisely what views each Senator held, his fears and weaknesses, and his beliefs. Johnson could find what it took to win over anybody. Furthermore, Johnson had ways of preventing trouble from those he could not persuade: he would send them on NATO assignments outside the country to avoid their dissenting votes.
According to two journalists, Johnson's control existed chiefly because of one very unique talent he had: "The Treatment."
The Treatment could last 10 minutes or 4 hours. It came, enveloping its target, at the LBJ Ranch swimming pool, in one of LBJ's offices, in the Senate cloakroom, on the floor of the Senate itself... wherever Johnson might find a fellow Senator within his reach.
Its tone could be supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint, and the hint of threat. It was all of these together. It ran the gamut of human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one direction. Interjections from the target were rare. Johnson anticipated them before they could be spoken. He moved in close, his face a scant millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows rising and falling. From his pockets poured clippings, memos, and statistics. Mimicry, humour, and the genius of analogy made The Treatment an almost hypnotic experience and rendered the target stunned and helpless.
-Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Lyndon b. Johnson: The Exercise of Power (1966), p. 104
It was understood by every target of The Treatment that, one way or another, Johnson would find a way to hold power. If the Vice Presidency did not accommodate him, he would be a Senator. Any who presented Johnson opposition would find himself denied funding for his state. Any who assisted Johnson would discover how very friendly a politician can be.
"You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours."
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. This is how Senators become Presidents. This is how Octavian becomes Caesar, Imperator, Princeps, Augustus. History is on the battlefield and the front pages, yes, but history is also in the closet, behind the warehouse, in the swimming pool, whispered in hushed and hurried tones... history hides, and it defies explanation by conventional means.