Show-Me the meaning of bipartisanship

By Kati Seeman

As someone who admittedly still holds a grudge with Missouri due to the Honey War with Iowa over borders, I wasn’t thrilled to be assigned a representative from Missouri as part of TWC’s “Inside Washington.” Pretending to be Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri’s Fifth District wasn’t as enticing as my own representatives or a different big name. (Not to mention the fact I wasn’t assigned a senator was slightly insulting.) However, Missouri isn’t nicknamed the Show-Me state for no reason.

During the early afternoon, the happy, cohesive Drake group split up and headed for the Hill. There was a general assumption that a large majority of the members would be back in town, gearing up for the first day back. As it turns out, they weren’t. Many of my peers had fruitless and awkward encounters at the offices of their assigned members of Congress; I wasn’t expecting any different.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II

We wandered around Rayburn House Office Building and it was my turn. I took a picture by Rep. Cleaver’s door and thought that would be the extent of my visit. After all, I’m not a constituent, and I had a fairly accurate read of Cleaver from Google to guide me through the week’s activities. But I walked on in.

I don’t know the name or the title of the man who originally assisted us, but after he disappeared into the backroom to find someone who could help us, he went back to his own office. After a few minutes, Taylor Share walked into the front office ready and more than willing to talk to me and my two travel companions.

Taylor Share, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri's Fifth District Photo by Kevin Maisto

Taylor Share (right), Legislative Assistant to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri’s Fifth District
Photo by Kevin Maisto

After a quick jaw-drop that we were welcome to have a seat in Cleaver’s actual office, we got down to business, talking bipartisanship and particularly the issues of the budget, health care, and immigration.

During this conversation, Mr. Share told us about Cleaver’s passion for bipartisanship and how Cleaver originally wanted to leave DC not long after arriving because of the toxic partisan environment. Then Mr. Share said something that resonated: If everyone who was disgusted left, the situation would only get worse. 

Working in American politics during this day and age is, without a doubt, frustrating. Even heading to the polls can be frustrating. But if no one participates, isn’t that even worse? In a new age, Gandhi sort of way, aren’t we supposed to be/vote for the change we wish to see in the world?

Instead of packing up his suitcases and heading back to Missouri, Cleaver decided to work to foster a civil, bipartisan community among his peers. Yes, he is still a proud, vocal Democrat. (Exhibit A: His fiery DNC 2012 Speech that gives me chills.) But bipartisanship for Cleaver revolves around respect and a desire to want to be better, to make the changes and compromises needed to invest in a better future. This kind of goal doesn’t have a party affiliation.

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