Monday, July 13, 2009

When Our Presidents must be Bold and UNCOMPROMISING!

Take a look at this Bill Moyers Video Essay reflecting on King, LBJ and Civil Rights:

Powerful stuff.

Now imagine if LBJ had followed "we shall overcome" with "but we won't draw a line in the sand," or attempted to "compromise," or had a young Bill Moyers announce to the press that though the President "would like to pass comprehensive civil rights legislation .... he will not insist on it."

I think you catch my drift.

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  1. Very cool. Vietnam aside, Johnson was one of the best presidents we've ever had.

  2. In due respect to Nathan, I cannot put Vietnam aside. Like a idiot, Johnson ignored McNamara's super late advise to get out of the war "immediately".
    Johnson hated King and treated him condescendingly and "tolerated" him as opposed to endorsing him. He did, in fact, know the country would explode into riot if he didn't lead an effort for the CR Act of '64, and act actually written by JFK.

  3. I agree with the cause of health care reform but your latest posts have entered the land of left wing fantasy. The clip is an incredible condensaton of the liberal American myth. Two heroes meet in a dramatic showdown. MLK is the righteous prophet and defender of justice. He converts LBJ and the two of them lead America to Civil Rights salvation. Such populist idealism will steer supporters of health care reform (or anything else on the liberal agenda) away from the sausage-making of politics that will get something accomplished.

  4. This is interesting. Russ you raise a very fascinating point ... how wil it lead them away from what will get something accomplished? I'm not doubting you, for you may be right, just wondering how the idealism would do that?

    Dell brings up a good point about Johnson. He signed Civil rights legislation - but not without much pressure and a long history of civil rights struggle. And even then, civil rights has never gone all the way - we still are far from full civil rights!

    My only point is that, when he decided to push ahead with Civil rights, Johnson did not try to "compromise" with his opponents, or "refuse to draw lines in the sand." He twisted arms and refused to budge. Obama should do the same.

  5. I understand the connection that you are attempting, but I'm not sure that the there is enough of a similarity between the civil rights movement and Obama's compromises. First, the civil rights movement had immense American support. If the civil right movement hasd such small American support that Obama has right now, then a compromise surely would have been made. But, with that compromise the door would then be open for greater strides. Obama could certainly draw a line in the sand that several democrates in congress and many republicans would not vote on, paralyzing the government. Obama could stand and say: "This or nothing. I will not budge." The majority of America's politicians that Obama needs to pass anything would say: "OK, nothing." Then there would be four years of nothing. But, by compromising the door is open to further legislation, to even greater strides. If there is to be change in the American government, then it will be accomplished in small steps.

    As far as I can see, if Obama does not compromise, then nothing will happen. America will flounder in the same state that it is in. Further, the civil rights movement did not happen in all one leap. 'Super America jumps over the civil rights problem in a single bound!' The people involved said: "I want this perfect utopia to pass now, or nothing." Then the opponents said: "We cannot stand against Super King and Super LBJ. We must acquiesce. We cannot defy the line drawn in the sand." The civil rights movement was accomplished in little steps in which all that Super King and Super LBJ was not accomplished. The civil rights movement was a fight from 1954 to 1968. It took 12 years! The civil rights movement fought little battles that led, eventually, to great reform. But it took time and it wasn't accomplished by one super president.

    Next, (I believe that you are referring to Health Care reform) I am not sure that civil rights and free or cheap health care are analogous enough for your connection. No one denies anyone health care. It only costs so much that people go into a lot of dept. No one is getting lynched, denied to be admitted to a hospital etc. Further, there are many ways for people to get health care when they can't afford it. For instance, all the homeless people that I work with get as much health care me.

    Finally, I'm not sure that your expectations of Obama and the American government are entirely reasonable. It seems that you want Obama to refuse to take stock of the facts, which are that there is so much resistance to his original package that it will never get passed. There is so much money against Obama's plan that it will never get passed. Remember, the civil rights movement took twelve years. Civil rights legislation did not happen in one night like you imply Obama should be able to push his legislation through.

    Great reform, and that is what Obama is attempting, happens in small steps and it takes time.

  6. Very well said Mr. C. I was not, however, suggesting that LBJ and King just decided one day to pass civil rights. That would be a rather stupid suggestion. I am saying that when the time came for legislation LBJ did not compromise, but instead twisted arms.

    As for 12 years of civil rights. We have been fighting for Health Care reform since Jimmy Carter was elected, 32 years ago! Obama is far from the "beginning of this." Just like Johnson, Obama is President at a time when a very long fight has been underway ... he should act like Johnson did.

    And there was a great deal of this country and corporations oppossed to civil rights, even more opposition than to health care. Polls how that about 70% of the American Public wants a Public health care plan, there was not that much support for civl rights.

    So for health care reform: we have been fighting far more than 12 years and far more people support it.

    So Obama has no excuse.

  7. Sorry Ross! By means of a typo I called you Russ in my reply above! My bad.

  8. Thanks for hearing me out. Idealism by itself might tempt those who want a national health care plan to think that vision are rhetoric are enough. See the fineanalysis of Mr. C. above. He explains why drawing a line in the sand would be a losing strategy at this moment. Right now, the country does not have the wide consensus that would successfully support a head-to-head confrontation with the health care establishment and its allies. Note that it was not all or nothing for Johnson either. The Voting Rights legislation and Affirmative Action had to follow the anti-segreation laws. At the moment, the conservatives in Congress have been able to sidetrack consensus-formation by sowing confusion and doubt. To counter that, Obama needs to effectively re-frame and re-define the issues and get Congressional Democrats to agree on one plan. If that is what you mean by drawing a line in the sand, I agree. However, the main obstacle to any kind of plan right now is its supposed cost. Obama needs to start talking about the cost to America is the Congress DOES NOT adopt some sort of government plan. He might if workers start complaining about funding health care for those without insurance; the public starts hollering about the long waits in emergency rooms clogged with people who waited for medical care because of the lack of insurance; and the Democrats start pointing out the tremendous costs resulting from the monopoly of the drug companies, insurance companies, medical specialists, and hospitals.

  9. I see your point Ross. And Mr. C's as well. And it is a good point. Many people like the health care they get from their employer and many fear "socialized medicine." If such people simply looked at the work of Economists and health care experts, and/or did real statistical comparisons with countries that have national insurance they would see the error of their ways.

    But most folks have neither the time nor inclination for that.

    So perhaps Obama must walk a very careful line ... perhaps indeed. But I still thik that, despite opposition, he must make the Public Plan non-negotiable. Without a public plan any reform we have will be reform only in name.

  10. Matt, it is starting to look as if Obama has been reading your blog on health care!


Comments from many different points of view are welcome. But I will not publish any comments that are hateful, insulting, or filled with profanity. I welcome and encourage dialogue and disagreement but will not publish any hate speech.