By Kate Brightwell
Bipartisanship. Reaching across the aisle. Compromise.
These are words that we wish we heard more when talking about our government. We wish we heard about congressmen and congresswomen working together with members of opposing parties to get things done. We wish we heard that our elected officials could put aside the party prejudices and vote for the good of the people.
This, however, is not what we are hearing about. Instead, the narrative about our elected officials includes themes such as gridlock and unproductivity. These themes seem to stem from increasingly polarity on both ends of our political spectrum. Neither end seem entirely interested on the viewpoint of the other side and words such as bipartisanship and compromise end up being seen as foul language.
This past week, I have been attending a seminar called Exploring Bipartisan Solutions at the Washington Center. We have heard from politicians at both ends of the spectrum with a few in between. When they have been asked about the bipartisanship in government, several have laughed and said to let them know when we find some. Others seemed generally hopeful about the chance for bipartisanship as concerns about the effectiveness of government arise. However, when words such as hopeful and chance are used, is this optimism for bipartisanship simply wishful thinking?
Today, we visited with Iowan Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff about the current Senate and government in general. Grassley’s staff was generally very optimistic about bipartisan solutions. In fact, they listed several instances that they had seen bipartisanship in action. They did, however, say that bipartisanship has significant limits. With the two sides of our political system so ideologically polarized, there comes a point where compromise is unacceptable.
James Rice, one of Senator Grassley’s legislative assistants, said that there is a point where “cutting the baby in half” is no longer acceptable. By this, he meant that there are certain fundamental beliefs that are essential to the core of the different political parties. Rice furthered the statement by saying that these fundamental beliefs cannot be afforded compromise. Unfortunately, these issues are the big-ticket issues that cannot be ignored- they are the most relevant to current societal concerns.
Drake alum Evan Jurkovich, with the House Agriculture Committee shared these sentiments- even echoing Rice’s reference to “cutting the baby in half.” He stated that it is essential to understand when compromise is acceptable and when fundamental beliefs change party lines to concrete walls that cannot be crossed by bipartisanship.
This question of when to compromise and when to keep “the baby whole” is possibly the hardest decision lawmakers and governing officials have to face.