Congress Should Remember Richard Nixon As Health Care Reform Vote Nears
Every now and then all that collected stuff in my head finds the proper use. This is one of them.
We elect men and women to go to Congress and lead, not cower in fear. The timid reactions from too many of those who never show pause when asking for campaign money, or our vote, are now cautious and nervous as the health care vote approaches. Some of the freshman Democrats are acting like they saw the headless horseman in the forest and do not know if they should hunker down, or run and scream. These members, instead of looking to the health policy included in the bill, and the need for national reform, seem intent to just shake in their boots. Richard Nixon would surely have some advice for this Congress and their concerns over the upcoming vote.
First, Richard Nixon would remind congress what leadership is all about. After all, it was in 1947 when Nixon was sworn in as a freshman member, and soon thereafter faced his first major political dilemma. The Marshall Plan was designed to rebuild Europe and steer nations away from communism. It was a hated proposal by many Republicans who were not about to carry water for President Truman. But after listening to the words of Truman at a White House meeting, and then visiting Western Europe, Nixon was convinced the plan was essential for the nation, and the world.
Republican Senator Taft at the time was a strong vocal opponent who raged that the country could not afford such a plan, and referred to it as “the European T.V.A.”. Richard Nixon then proved what leadership was all about as he separated himself from the party on this issue, and helped bring the nation along to his way of thinking.
Congressman Nixon took a poll of his district and found that 75% of his constituents were opposed to the Marshall Plan. But that did not deter Nixon from voting his conscience on the bill. He then worked over-time to educate and convince those who were opposed. In fact, he spent almost a month in California selling the Marshall Plan. In the face of just plain wrong information that voters thought to be true Nixon repeated over and over the need for the plan. Many have argued that this was Nixon’s finest hour in politics as he soared over partisanship and dealt with a needed national policy.
Second, many years later when he was out of office and a serving as a senior statesman, he spoke of these matters in a larger context. What he had to say in the early 1990’s holds true for those in congress today who are nervous over casting a vote for health care reform. He said, and I paraphrase only slightly, ‘I would rather lose an election over the big issues, than win an election that was run on the small ones.’
Democrats can laugh and snicker all they want over Richard Nixon, but many could search high and low and not find more needed truth about the role and responsibility of leadership in congress.
Now more than ever this congress would be wise to reflect on Richard Nixon.