US politics: Amidst the mud-slinging, a ray of hope

In the aftermath of the November 2000 US presidential election, I was off-work with a stress-related mental illness. In a good way, this meant I had plenty of time to read about the Bush/Gore hanging chads dispute. As a result, I discovered Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire. In the twenty years since then, hardly a day has gone by that I have not logged on to Political Wire – often several times a day.

It is a news aggregation website which is “light touch” – providing a miscellany of key political news and articles each day.

In the last few years, I have enrolled as a Political Wire member. The other day I saw a post advertising a webinar for members. I thought it would be fun to join it. This meant staying up until 1am last night! But it was a real treat. Amongst an audience of 900, there were such eminences as legendary pollster Charlie Cook and Obama adviser David Axelrod!

Cornell University’s “Campaign for future democracy” hosted the session which was entitled: “Bipartisanship in a Time of Crisis? How Members of Congress Can Heal The Wounds & Find Common Ground in a Biden Presidency“. It featured Representatives Tom Reed (Republican) and Josh Gottheimer (Democrat).

They have founded, and lead, the “Problem Solvers Caucus”. This is a 50 member bipartisan group which seeks to foster bipartisanship in the US Congress. Recently, they worked together to push through the $900 billion Covid relief bill. They and their colleagues were often spending three hours a day talking through the bill.

To give you an idea of the close relationship between these two politicians, when the US Capitol was attacked on 6th January, after they had phoned their families, they phoned each other to check that they were OK. That indicates an exceptional relationship in the harsh partisan world of US politics. They said that they regard themselves as “brothers” and “like family”.

Both Reps spoke emotionally about 6th January. They described it as a “trauma” that was “still settling in”.

Rep Tom Reed spoke interestingly about the importance of listening to the other side. Of staying in the room. He said that the two sides can be saying the same thing but seem divided because the words they are using are open to misinterpretation. So that, moving forward can often boil down to unpacking what each side actually mean behind the words they are using. That was a fascinating insight.

They spoke about the next challenges:

1. More Covid relief
2. Infrastructure – where a bill is possible given preparatory talks over the last months and years.

Followed by:

3. Immigration
4. Health
5. Climate

Overall, despite the fact that it was the day President Trump was impeached for the second time, I came away with some hope that the model of bipartisanship presented by Reps Tom Reed and Josh Gottheimer presents a way forward for American democracy.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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One Comment

  • YouGov poll one week on from the carnage shows strong anti feeling towards the demonstrators and the demonstration, even with Republicans who responded heavily with views such as disappointed, angry, ashamed, surprised, afraid, confused, depressed.
    Single figure numbers only saying they were excited, proud, happy, liberated. Not clear how this translates into feelings re Trump himself.
    Naturally Democrat and Independant voters very heavy in their negative response to the rioters.
    Overall feel these figure offer hope.

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