Now in its third week, the government shutdown has put thousands of people’s lives on hold, from shutting down museums to halting clinical trials to preventing mothers from receiving food assistance. As the Thursday deadline for debt limit negotiations looms large, Congress still can’t find common ground and reach a compromise.
As a president who dealt with his fair share of international crises, what would JFK do about the government shutdown?
According to Scott D. Reich, author of “The Power of Citizenship: Why John F. Kennedy Matters to a New Generation,” JFK in the face of a shutdown “would outline this issue as a moral crisis, in which the future of American democracy itself is on the line.” In the face of today’s bipartisan upheaval, Kennedy’s plea for morality rings just as true as it did 50 years ago. “Refusing to vote on a spending bill in this context may be constitutionally permissible,” Reich writes, “but it is not ‘right.'”
Reich draws parallels between Kennedy’s fight for civil rights and the shutdown, arguing that that Kennedy would sit down with the Republicans to facilitate compromise, open to bipartisan negotiations but staying firm in his beliefs. Perhaps JFK would present his case against the shutdown in a nationally televised address, as he did with his famous Civil Rights Address.