History Provides a Path Forward on Healthcare Reform
By Nancy G. Brinker
May 16, 2017
President Reagan was a visionary. Few of his contemporaries gave him credit, but history has judged our 40th President as such. On his desk in the Oval Office sat a plaque that read: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” President Reagan lived by these words. He used them to fortify cross-party coalitions and Congress would be wise to keep this lesson in mind as we chart a course forward, as one nation, on replacing Obamacare.
Undoubtedly, the political mandate is there for Republicans. Over the past eight years, Democrats oversaw the loss of thousands of elected positions occupied by their party in Washington and in state houses across America. No small part of these defeats stemmed from their solely partisan attempt to launch an ill-fated $1 trillion overhaul of our healthcare system.
Now more than ever, America is in need of leaders who respect that their own lawmaking powers, bestowed onto them by the Constitution, derive from the will of the American people, not from political pundits and front-page news coverage. President Trump successfully tapped into this energy with his campaign. We require statesmen (and women!) on Capitol Hill who follow his lead and understand that their success is the success of the entire nation.
The Party of Lincoln must be mindful, however, that our nation’s strongest leaders have accomplished great feats and enacted sweeping legislation by caring less about credit and more about progress.
President George Washington strived only to create a sustaining democracy and truly did not concern himself with who would receive the credit. In fact, he did not even desire to be the first president, but he accepted the challenge when he was unanimously selected. Additionally, when Washington completed two terms, he decided not to seek a third, guiding the country through its first peaceful transfer of power.
President Abraham Lincoln also demonstrated this type of leadership during the Civil War by prioritizing the preservation of the Union above all else. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln stated, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln never made the Civil War about himself or the office he held, but rather, about the American people and the endangerment of democracy and freedom.
A recent example of this type of leadership is President George W. Bush’s work with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Although foreign aid was not popular among Republicans, President Bush launched PEPFAR in 2003 to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent of Africa. President Bush’s work saved 12 million lives and protected 2 million babies, born to HIV infected mothers, from contracting HIV. President Bush continued his work with PEPFAR after his presidency and advocated for its funding in a recent op-ed published in The Washington Post, where he credited the program’s success to the American people, writing, “The American people deserve credit for this tremendous success and should keep going until the job is done.”