Lincoln’s shutdown advice: Seize the bipartisan moment

Paul Goldman Former Chairman, Democratic Party of Virginia
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The New York Times revealed recently that even if the Affordable Care Act goes into effect right now as is, it will “leave out two-thirds of poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers. … the very kinds of people” we Democrats intended to help. The Supreme Court upheld the ACA but with a potentially crippling asterisk, as some of us pointed out. Without a new bipartisanship, the Times article predicts these vulnerable Americans will be passed by.

I voted for the president three times, told my radio show listeners he would defeat Senator Clinton months before the Iowa Caucuses. The Cruz-Palin-Limbaugh-Hannity-Ingram-Coulter-Tea Party caucus has disrespected him personally and the office in general. It makes me furious.

But I am old school, having cut deals with Confederate Flag-waving Southern boys to help my friend Doug Wilder twice make history, tearing down the “No Blacks Need Apply” sign, first in Dixie, then America, at the statewide office level. It required staring down both the Democratic and Republican establishments.

On August 22, 1862, President Lincoln famously replied to Civil War critic Horace Greeley, later the 1872 Democratic Presidential nominee. “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union.” What “I do … and what I forbear” is done for the cause, scolded the beleaguered president. Since his “house divided” speech, Lincoln knew what that required.

“Honest Abe” would therefore advise Democrats to reach for the inner FDR and Lyndon Baines Johnson. As a fiscal conservative, I know money doesn’t grow on trees. But Pope Francis wisely advises the political elite that it is immoral to forget the poor.

The following 11 initiatives have long had conservative support. Senate Democrats should agreed to back all 11 in exchange for House Republicans taking the necessary actions to appropriately fund the government and prevent America’s first-ever default.

  1. Keep the 1960 GOP education promise: The Party backed a federal initiative to make sure children attended modernized K-12 facilities capable of teaching a world class education. Republican Congressman Eric Cantor put in a bill two years ago to fix the nation’s oldest, most rundown schools that would reduce federally subsidized debt by the $hundreds of billions, and allow private enterprise to save localities to save upwards of 33% on construction costs.
  2. Keep Gingrich’s promise: His “Contract for America” said reigning-in federal spending required giving the President line-item veto authority.
  3. Adopt a key 2012 GOP platform plank – Republicans promised to “[e]liminate the taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for lower and middle-income taxpayers.” .
  4. Enact Boehner proposal to end congressional/White House health subsidy: But since this reverses a legal Presidential order, make it effective January 1, 2015.
  5. Create commission to consider metallic basis for currency: Another 2012 GOP Platform, modeled after a similar panel created by President Reagan.
  6. Adopt the GOP’s ‘level playing field’ proposal in the 2012 platform: The GOP called for the “restoration” of presidential Trade Promotion Authority.”
  7. Enforce the GOP’s “Takings Clause” proposal: Another 2012 GOP platform pledge to ensure just compensation whenever private property is taken by Uncle Sam. This would include water rights.
  8. Keep 2012 GOP platform promise to save family farms: It said “Uncertainties in estate and capital gains laws threaten the survival of multigenerational family farms.” Fix them.
  9. Create the private pension plan protection commission: Another GOP platform plank to “review the private pension system in this country of only those private pensions that are backed by the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation and to make public its findings.”
  10. Implement the GOP’s history and civic education plan: The 2012 GOP platform says a key to improving learning is “renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of the Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation.”

These are all conservative ideas originally. Democrats should further agree to delay until 2015 the imposition of any tax penalties for individuals who violate the “individual mandate” provision of the ACA, sinc they will fall most heavily on the poor and working class. Since imposing it at all by 2014, much less actually collecting the fines, will prove difficult at best, this delay makes practical sense.

In 1964 and 1965, President Lyndon Johnson let Republicans take credit for historic domestic progress even though Democrats supplied most of the votes. The Times article puts a heavy burden on today’s Democratic party. Cementing a new bipartisanship will not be easy. Tea Party bloggers will make their life miserable. But if laying some groundwork merely requires allowing Senator Ted Cruz and his posse to crow about “victory” over the Democratic and Republican establishments, I’m with Rhett Butler: Frankly Ted, I don’t give a damn.