By Gavin Nordberg
This morning, Hannah and I had met our home-state Senator, Amy Klobuchar. I must say that it was a dream come true for me. I am a huge admirer of hers, just ask anyone on this trip, I never shut up about her. Now I can tone it back a bit because I have met her. Early in the day, when we made our way to her office on Capitol Hill, I didn’t know what to expect. I, of course, know her and know how she represents Minnesota, but it’s always different and frankly a little overwhelming meeting someone of her stature in person. When she walked in the room, however, I could tell that she has the respect of everyone who surrounds her at a given time. At the same time, she has a way about her that is relaxed and open to the people and constituents that she cares so much about. This might be because Senator Klobuchar knows how to accomplish things in Washington, and it has to do with a big theme we have been talking about throughout this seminar.
During our time in DC, we have been talking a lot about partisanship and the role it plays in our politics to be. However, Klobuchar focuses going “not only to where it’s comfortable, but to where it is uncomfortable.” That is in her own words, and I have seen videos of her saying this on many occasions. She has been so successful at avoiding the partisan streets of Washington and attempting and often succeeding at being bipartisan in her legislative endeavors. Just recently, she and many other senators, both Democrats and Republicans, worked hard to come to an agreement on the farm bill. I know she worked hard on this because when I’ve seen her talk about this and when she did, her passion has shown through.
That’s not all. Recently, Senator Klobuchar, along with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, introduced a bill that would help crack down on pharmaceutical pay-for-delay deals. These deals stall the introduction of cheaper substitutes and often make other drugs unaffordable for customers. This isn’t the only bill or project the two senators have worked on together. The class found out, after visiting with a legislative director in Grassley’s office, that the two have worked side by side on many issues, mainly in the range of health care and agriculture. James Rice, a Drake alumnus we met in Grassley’s office, said that the two senators have a great working relationship in the Senate. (For more info on what Senator Klobuchar is doing, check out her website, it is worth your time to know who she is, I promise.) So where am I going with all of this?
Partisanship is something that is all too common in Washington. We have been talking about it all week and I know that next week it will continue to be a topic of discussion. But staying on the topic of Klobuchar, it’s pretty obvious after hearing about what she’s working on and with who she is working with, not all legislators are working on a partisan basis. This is a refreshing fact to know, especially right now in these times.
A few speakers have covered partisanship and bipartisanship in noteworthy ways. First off, let’s start with today. Dr. Julia Azari is a professor of political science at Marquette University, and she spoke to us about the issue of strong partisanship and weak parties. This is a growing issue today because more people are playing party politics and they increasingly identify themselves with a certain party, so much so that their identification is what matters most to them when voting, both members of Congress and constituents. So just right there, we see people basing their thoughts and their beliefs on one party. But Amy Klobuchar breaks this norm, especially when it comes to constituents. In November of 2018 she was elected to her third term with an overwhelming majority, she won with 60 percent of the vote while her challenger obtained just 36 percent. A large number of the votes cast for Klobuchar came from counties that are typically strong Republican counties. Klobuchar breaks through this identity politics and defies partisan politics because she has been honest with our state and truthfully tried to encompass everyone when it comes to her policies, while still staying truthful to her values. Another big part of her brand of politics is listening.
The act of listening was a huge component of our discussion with Mo Elleithee of Georgetown University. He said that it’s impossible to be respectful to one another in this day and age because so many people refuse to listen and discuss policy, legislation, or simply politics at the most basic level. Elleithee repeated that people can’t continue to force themselves into an echo chamber of their own creation and refuse to listen to people who are outside this echo chamber. Klobuchar listens to those on both sides and has discussions that other people don’t want to have. This is one of the reasons that she is as successful as she is when it comes to working on a bipartisan level.
In the future I have hope that other senators and House members will realize how awful the partisan politics of our day are. If this were to happen, the public would see a bipartisan Congress that respectfully disagrees on very little.