Getting our government working again is a laudable goal shared by many. Bipartisan efforts are the key to moving America forward and ending inaction in Congress. There is reason for optimism, but it requires greater focus on initiatives which exist to move us in this direction.
The bipartisan budget agreement, put forward by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, is an example of two individuals hammering out a deal which puts aside, at least temporarily, threats of shutdown and fiscal default. They are to be commended for their determination to find common ground where, seemingly, none existed.
It is of monumental importance that this agreement was front and center in the news in the past week. The fact that it was not an ideal or permanent solution to the budget crisis is secondary.
Broader efforts toward bipartisanship exist, but unfortunately remain far from mainstream. The general public may not even be aware of the groups working tirelessly to make the partisan divide a thing of the past.
One such initiative is No Labels, a bipartisan movement dedicated to building trust and negotiating for real change in national politics. Currently led by former Governor Jon Huntsman, former Senator Evan Bayh, and Senator Joe Manchin, it has assembled a “Problem Solvers” coalition of 87 members of Congress committed to reach across the aisle and work together for progress.
No Labels was founded in 2010 after partisanship in Congress reached a toxic level.
“[T]here was poison in the air,” claims the No Labels website. “And it was clear it would take time and incredible effort to restore the trust that had been lost.”
Today, No Labels is building the “infrastructure for cooperation” to achieve national unity. Their Problem Solvers group meets on a monthly basis; membership requires a commitment to work together and lead in a way which puts the American people above politics.
The Bipartisan Policy Center is another organization committed to finding common ground in politics. Founded in 2007 by former Senators Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell, the BPC promotes bipartisanship through “reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue.” The group supports efforts to bring opposing sides together to solve the wide range of problems facing the country.
Center Forward, founded by former members of Congress and their staff, was created out of the Blue Dog Research Forum in an effort to attract Republicans and Democrats to its ranks. In 2012, Center Forward spent over one million dollars in advertising supporting Democratic and Republican congressional candidates committed to working across party lines. The group exists “to put aside the partisan bickering that has gridlocked Washington and come together to find common sense solutions.”
Other organizations also have sprouted up in support of political bipartisanship. The Bipartisan Bridge puts forth specific policies, initiatives and solutions for “an effective, responsible, fiscally-sound, fully-functional government.” Common Cause, Political Parity, USAction and other organizations all provide a voice for bipartisan and nonpartisan efforts.
The C-Party Solution was founded for a similar purpose. “C” for Compromise, Cooperation, Consensus, Courage, and Compassion: a movement to encourage our elected representatives to cross party lines and get past the partisan politics which has paralyzed the government.
These efforts are all aimed to end the infighting, the name-calling, and the utter disrespect for and by the very people we call our leaders. These groups are rooted in frustration, a frustration shared by many Americans, a frustration which has resulted in an unprecedented lack of confidence in our federal government.
All of these initiatives recognize that the sharing of contrasting ideas is an integral part of democracy. However, they also recognize and promote the premise that positive change and real progress happen only when debate encompasses civility and respect for opposing viewpoints.
These organizations, while not at the forefront of the national media, seem to represent the thinking of most Americans and may be our only hope for a permanent end to stalemate.
The American people should know that these efforts are underway, and that there is cause for hope and optimism. Perhaps it is simple awareness and attention to these initiatives which will bring America back to once again be a beacon of democracy for the world. There is a better path towards a brighter future; let’s follow it.