Sunday, June 29, 2014
Can Americans Ever Work Together Again?
This morning I watched Bob Schieffer's Face the Nation, as I often do. Bob's calm and disciplined look at politics and political issues is a refreshing break from the hyperbole found on the highly partisan cable news networks. People are not yelling at each other but actually talking with each other.
One of Bob's guest commentators this morning was Todd S. Purdum, author of a new book about the passing of the landmark civil rights legislation during another time of great political partisanship, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964
After discussing the book, Bob Schieffer wondered if we would ever see this type of cooperation between the political parties again. Please keep in mind that is was a coalition of a majority of Republicans with only some Democrats who actually passed the Civil Right's Bill.
The answer to Schieffer's plaintive plea is actually in the book. The answer in 1964 was President Lyndon B. Johnson's incredible style of management of the political process. Johnson never once even imagined, let alone threatened that would "bypass Congress" or usurp the Constitution to accomplish his difficult task. Instead Johnson masterfully worked across the aisle to win support.
Lyndon B. Johnson picked up the phone, quite literally all day, every day and talked with supporters and opponents of the bill. He wanted to understand, genuinely understand, the reasons so many in Congress opposed the bill. He wanted to learn how he could win the support of those who wavered. He used the power of persuasion and politics. He horse-traded. He cajoled. He begged and he promised. And he enacted what is one of the single most contentions pieces of legislation even enacted in our nation's history.
I genuinely believe President Barack Obama could get immigration reform passed if he could just bring himself to stoop down to the level of one of the greatest politicians in our nations's history, and one of our greatest statesmen, Lyndon B. Johnson.