The Fierce Urgency of Now

Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society

The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts; the War on Poverty; Medicare and Medicaid; the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities – these are just a few of the programs Lyndon Johnson spearheaded in what became known as the most transformative agenda in American political history since the New Deal.

But his plans for a “Great Society” didn’t come without bitter resistance. While most recount this era as an unprecedented “liberal hour” in America, Julian Zelizer’s The Fierce Urgency of Now paints a more complex picture in which Congress, religious groups, media, political action groups, and activists often had divergent views about the legacies they would leave. Our politics may have changed, but in many ways the Great Society legislation remains a center of gravity for the country we live in today.


Julian Zelizer is a fellow in New America's Political Reform program. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and writes a weekly column for