To the Editor,
“Can we choose to be born? Are we fitted to the times we’re born into?” So wonders our 16th president portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln.”
Every president could probably relate to Lincoln’s existential examination. It’s often said that great presidents are made by circumstances of their presidency, not necessarily their God-given talent. Having recently had a chance to take in “Lincoln,” I was struck by the significant parallels between his times and ours, separated as they are by roughly 150 years.
No spoiler alert here — it is a great movie worth taking in for all its gritty detail and nuance of 19th century politics.
The essential takeaway, however, is that in order to achieve passage of one of the most important pieces of legislation in our history — the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that put an end to slavery — Lincoln had to work across party lines and through ideological differences. He did it during the most divisive time in our history by using our greatest crisis ever, the Civil War, to forge a great compromise.
Today, we have another young president from Illinois and another crisis of our own making in the form of the “fiscal cliff.” President Obama has proposed a balanced approach that combines meaningful spending cuts and modest revenue increases by increasing the marginal tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. While this might have some nominal impact on a select few, it carries great benefit for most of us.
Many wealthy Americans have come out strongly in favor of this approach, and they have been joined by a growing number of right-minded Republican House members who now have agreed that there is a greater good within our grasp.
Lincoln’s contemporaries found a way to see past their immediate needs and ideological differences to produce a landmark result in 1865. Our 16th president said that if no one was happy, we’d probably gotten to about the right place.
Join me in asking your congressional representatives in Washington to take a couple hours and watch the movie “Lincoln.” Hopefully they can be inspired to find the courage to compromise before the cliff arrives.