The images have not been good lately for those of us who want our elected officials to take a common-sense, results-oriented approach to governing.
The bitter presidential impeachment battle ended with a career military officer being marched from his White House post by security guards. At the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump refused to shake House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand. She in turn ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech.
Is there any hope for the type of bipartisan cooperation that is absolutely essential for our government to function in this closely divided country?
Fortunately, yes. The encouraging signs exist, and a determined cadre of elected and unelected activists are working to expand them. In fact, two such events took place within hours of the president’s address.
At the address itself, members of the House bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus sat side-by-side wearing purple ties and scarves to symbolize their willingness to work with colleagues from blue and red districts to get things done.
The next morning the latest in a series of wide-ranging monthly gatherings between Republicans and Democrats took place in a nearby meeting room. The lawmakers advanced their plans to form small bipartisan working groups to craft practical legislation on issues such as paid family leave and immigration reform.
Both of these events are connected to No Labels, a bipartisan nonprofit group that I helped to launch nine years ago. We are driven by the knowledge that our checks-and-balances system of government enables no party to run roughshod over the other and enact an agenda on its own. It’s simple math: bipartisan cooperation is the only way to pass laws and make our government function.
No Labels’ research and activism helped create the Problem Solvers Caucus several years ago. The caucus has 24 House Republicans and 24 Democrats who endure condemnation from their party leaders and partisan purists back home because they are daring to work with “the enemy” to resolve problems facing our country.
It takes courage, but these lawmakers have gotten results.
They banded together to change the House rules to make it harder for party leaders to squelch legislation that has broad rank-and-file support in both parties.
And last summer they resolved a partisan impasse that was preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the southern border during an immigration crisis.
If we can’t support and re-elect brave lawmakers who are open to bipartisanship, then Congress’ dysfunction and America’s decline will only get worse. But polls consistently show that most Americans want their elected officials to work together to address national problems. That’s the vision of No Labels and our allies, and we’ll keep working until we get there.
A resident of Columbia, Margaret White is a senior adviser at No Labels