Let’s Take Up Important Opportunities for Bipartisanship and Civility

In these highly polarized times Washington partisans are acting as if all politics operates on the principle that “the winner takes all.” In reality Democrats couldn’t operate like that under President Obama and Republicans in Congress are finding that they can’t do it under President Trump. The same hyper-partisanship is being played out in foreign policy where the President of the United States seeks a decisive victory in relations with North Korea, Iran and China and they seek the same for their side. In both domestic and international politics, the possibility of compromise is undermined by vituperative name calling and goading that turns disagreement into hatred. Today, we urge you to support two important opportunities for bipartisanship, compromise and civility in politics and to reflect on our own habits of demonizing those we disagree with.

As we write this, it looks like the latest attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act won’t succeed. The repeal effort has failed. Congress should meet the challenges of making our current system fully functional.  We urge you to contact your Senators to ask that they revive the efforts of Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Patti Murray (D) to craft a bipartisan series of “fixes” to stabilize the health insurance markets and retain coverage for those now insured under the ACA. Instead of “repeal and replace,” advocate for “fix and stabilize!”

Similarly, it’s crucial for Congress to put forward legislation to protect the Dreamers enrolled in and eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Nearly 800,000 individuals, brought to the US as children and with little or no connection to any country other than the United States, are now in legal and psychological limbo, facing potential deportation. There is widespread public support for creating a permanent resolution of their status. President Trump and the Democratic leadership seem to have agreed that this issue needs and deserves bipartisan attention. Many Republicans are also sensitive to the needs of the Dreamers. It’s time to fully honor our commitment to these young people who teach, work, serve in the military and have a solid loyalty to this nation.  It is essential that legislative action happen NOW, or we risk a solution being lost in the legislative weeds.

Finally, a word about name calling. It’s mean in grade school, it’s threatening in the upper grades and it’s downright dangerous on the streets and in world politics.  We are appalled at the President when he demonizes and mocks leaders of other nations. We are amazed when nuclear antagonists speak in the heated language of schoolyard bullies – as if the threat to annihilate millions is ever appropriate.

Democracy and diplomacy require the careful exchange of meaningful language. Civility is a shared, self-reinforcing behavior. It is worth asking ourselves if our language reflects the calm and open qualities that we demand of our leaders. Take a moment to check in: What names are we calling the President and others we disagree with? Is the violence in our language making it easier for us to tolerate actual violence in the world?  And does it make it harder to find solutions to our most basic problems?

With each insult and personal attack we undermine our commitment to live peacefully in a democracy governed by laws and legitimate elections.  Each time we demonize our opponents we make it easier to deprive them of their rights. If we are going to work our way out of our current impasses, it is our obligation to resist the policies we abhor in ways that embody the ideas of justice, compassion, and fairness that we ask from others. Take a moment this week to review your contributions to the political discourse.

Call To Action

  1. Call your elected representatives.
    • Ask your Senators to support the bipartisan effort by Senators Alexander and Murray to FIX the ACA and bring a measure of stability to the health insurance markets.  
    • Urge them, as well, to make DACA a high legislative priority. This needs to be addressed NOW in a bipartisan and humane manner.
  2. Pay careful attention to the language that you use when talking politics. As a first step let’s make a personal commitment to put an end to name calling and extravagant provocations in our political discourse. Democracy demands civility. It starts with us!