Bipartisanship: What it means, why it’s important, and what is the reality of it?

By Levi Larson

Any politician you talk to will be quick to inform you of all the ways in which he works to cross the party aisle. The idea of cohesion between the two political powerhouses is also known as bipartisanship. Talking with Washington’s leaders gives the impression of efforts to bring harmony to American politics, but how much truth is there to this picture they paint?

The Washington Center provided us with former Senator Robert Bennett and former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to speak on what bipartisanship means, why it’s necessary, and the idea in practice. The two men offered great insight on the matter with many personal experiences to add merit to our discussion. Glickman and Bennett are both Bipartisanship Policy Center members, a non-profit organization dedicated to obtaining bipartisan solutions. Reaching across party lines to attain agreements is an idealistic principle resulting in an active and successful government. Idealistic is the key word here. Our government is set up with a separation of powers. This separate but equal quality leaves room for political gridlock. The American political system in some cycles finds itself with split representation complicating government efficiency.

Such is the case with our current government. With Congress held by the Republican Party, and the presidency belonging to the Democrats, there is conflict. To keep party support, politicians are somewhat required to vote on party lines. Without the support of the party it is extremely difficult for an individual to remain in power come the next election. With the existence of hard party lines the idea of cohesion becomes next to impossible. This limbo of sorts raises awareness to the necessity of bipartisanship. Without compromises in these scenarios, nothing is accomplished, but this compromise is much easier said than done.

Waiting to speak with Representative Scalise.

Outside of Representative Scalise’s office on Capitol Hill.

As mentioned earlier politicians enjoy informing you on their efforts of stepping past party divides, but just how accurate are these accounts? Both Bennett and Glickman spoke of their bipartisan works. The interns of U.S. Rrepresentatives we spoke to on Capitol Hill paid much praise to their bosses’ efforts at compromise in office, and even President Barack Obama expressed his hopes to share Kentucky bourbon with new Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The point is, political figures claim to be making the necessary efforts to establish bipartisanship, but how exaggerated are these proclamations?

If both parties are eager to compromise, why has our government recently faced shutdown? Why is it that important issues such as immigration are taken care of via executive order and threatened by the challenge of repeal? Why do many talks of crossing party lines simply refer to persuading the opposing side to change its stance, not a genuine hope to reach middle ground? The reluctance to be flexible comes from both sides of the aisle, and can only be resolved by efforts of cohesion from all.

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