September 16, 2009
Steven Hill of the New America Foundation wrote a brilliant piece in today’s Financial Times. Frequently likened to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hill argues that, for the coming battle over healthcare reform, he needs to step into the shoes of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Obama is a fine orator, but has not so far tamed Congress, even though the Democrats control both Houses. LBJ “could sweet talk and horse trade too, using all the tools of legal bribery and persuasion that a president possesses…He got the job done by having a clear compass on what could be bargained away while still maintaining his objectives. What resulted was great civil rights legislation.”
Obama has to line up votes from recalcitrant members of his own party by playing hardball and threatening any Democrats that if they do not support the programme, “he will un-elect them and put in Democrats more in tune with his priorities”. This would be done by funding chosen candidates and campaigning on their behalf. “But to make that threat, Mr Obama has to mean it.”
Johnson, in passing landmark civil rights legislation, fought the same forces now faced by Obama – outdated attitudes, vested interests and fear of change. “Like civil rights in the 1960s, healthcare reform is one of the defining policy debates of our time.”Author : Stanley Crossick