Andrew Romano argues in this week’s Newsweek that while real bipartisanship used to exist, we won’t be seeing it in Washington anytime soon. He blames it on what he sees as a rightward shift in the Republican party.
Fact is, the sort of Republicans who voted for Medicare in 1965 no longer exist. Since the early 1970s, Democrats have drifted only slightly leftward. But thanks to realignment and redistricting – the practice of slicing the electoral map into ever more politically homogenous districts – a 2003 Republican House member with a voting record at the median of his party was about 73 percent more conservative than his Nixon-era counterpart. Which means he was about 73 percent less likely to reach across the aisle – no matter who was reaching out from the other side. And the odds are only getting longer. In 2006 the GOP lost most of its remaining moderates: Lincoln Chafee, Rob Simmons, Charlie Bass, Jim Leach. Three years later, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter defected to the Dems.
(Photo credit. And, hmmm, I wonder where he got 73%?)
Our friends over at Civil Politics .org have put together a smart pledge to help us move past the current partisan rancor. Got about 30 seconds? Jump on over and sign it! If you’ve got even more time (18 minutes) watch Professor Jonathan Haidt from University of Virginia in the above video on fascinating differences in moral reasoning between liberals and conservatives (watch the whole thing and be slow to take offense… he’s making a point).
Here’s their pledge:
I hereby pledge:
1) To take into account a candidate’s civility when voting. I understand that electoral politics requires offense, defense, and sharp elbows, but I will consider personal attacks made by candidates and their surrogates to be marks of dishonor and warning signs of a divisive leader to come.
2) To model civil politics in my own life. I will argue for what I believe in and against those with whom I disagree, but I will show respect for my opponents by assuming that they are as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine. Knowing how moralistic and self-righteous we all are, I will refrain from assuming the worst about the motives and character of those I disagree with. I will criticize their ideas instead.
Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. A lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where “differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love.”
Obama ended his speech recalling Father Hedsburgh and an inside story of the Civil Rights Commisison:
There were six members of this commission. It included five whites and one African American; Democrats and Republicans; two Southern governors, the dean of a Southern law school, a Midwestern university president, and your own Father Ted Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame. So they worked for two years, and at times, President Eisenhower had to intervene personally since no hotel or restaurant in the South would serve the black and white members of the commission together. And finally, when they reached an impasse in Louisiana, Father Ted flew them all to Notre Dame’s retreat in Land OLakes, Wisconsin — where they eventually overcame their differences and hammered out a final deal.
And years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin, they discovered they were all fishermen. And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history.
As we move forward with civility after Tuesday’s election, it’s worth it for critics on the left side of the aisle to note the grace demonstrated in the loss on the right side of the aisle. Do I hear the sound of bygones being bygones? Well, you just never know…
“I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited…” —John McCain
“No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday. Across the country citizens voted in large numbers. They showed the watching world the vitality of America’s democracy and the strides we have made towards a more perfect union. It shows a president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story. It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House.” –President George Bush
“One of the great things about representing this country is that it continues to surprise, it continues to renew itself, it continues to beat all odds and expectations. You just know that Americans are not going to be satisfied until we really do form that more perfect union and while the perfect union may never be in sight, we just keep working on it and trying…” –Condoleeza Rice
In discussing one deceptive ad from each of our presidential campaigns, Kathleen Hall Jamieson was asked by host Bill Moyers “how is the audience to catch up to the truth of this?” Jamieson:
“The audience has to break out of the partisan media context that reinforces the belief that these ads are accurate… you hope that that partisan audience has enough exposure to places that give you both sides so they’re able to hear the other side and is able to hear credible sources… to indicate when their side is wrong and when the other side is wrong. It’s easy to hear those times when the other side is wrong, it’s much harder to be in places to hear that your side is wrong. First, because increasingly we’re not going to those kinds of places, it’s also difficult – because of the way we hunker down in our own ideology – for us to hear when our own side is actually not telling us the truth.
Paraphrasing, Jameson said “buy Village Square tickets.”
Civility does not require citizens to give up cherished beliefs or dilute their convictions. Rather, it requires respect, listening, and trust when interacting with those who hold differing viewpoints. Indeed, civility and inclusive leadership have often been exercised in the American experience as a means of moving to higher, common ground and developing more creative approaches to realize shared aspirations.
We’ve been thinking for a while now about just how this civility thing might go, and all that thinking has produced some ideas. Just to confuse you, here’s our tickler:
Bring your human brain.
Hold opinion lightly at times.
Eat potato salad, make potato salad.
Recognize horse manure before tracking it.
Find the wedge. Lose the wedge.
Fight like Founding Fathers.
Lose the evil “they.”
Build your vocabulary.
Meet your batty brain.
Be a comparison shopper.
Elevate substance over symbolism.
Err on the side of laughter.
Next week we will jump right in to discussion about bringing your human brain and leaving your lizard brain at home (when you come to the Village Square AND – we might humbly suggest as long as we’re being bossy – when you drive and when you vote).