How could our leaders promote a spirit of bipartisanship in government?

Tonight President Obama will address a Congress that seems more divided than ever. Yet he’ll need support from both sides of the aisle to accomplish his program. How could our leaders promote a spirit of bipartisanship in government?

  • DmOx

    The first step is to stop gerrymandering districts to favor extreme versions of either ideological slant. Then elected officials will have to listen to ALL of their constituency instead of only the fringe elite that get them elected. When our legislators are forced to govern for ALL, instead of only for those majority Republicans or Democrats that get them elected each & every term, they’ll be able to take part in true democracy, which by it’s very definition tends towards compromise, and towards finding a middle ground that is good for all.

    We are in the midst of another census this year, which will begin this process all over again.

    Next on the list: Destroy that horrible decision by the SCOTUS to allow corporations the same rights as citizens. It’s shameful & built on greed, not democratic beliefs.

  • toni csargo

    The last year the president has tried the bipartisan approach. It seems to me that it is the Republicans turn to try it out. Maybe if all politicians stopped thinking about their upcoming re-election and instead start thinking about the people who put them in office in the first place this wouldn’t be an issue. The bottom line is that they are all still civil servants. Supposedly serving,not dictating, the public good. Bipartisanship……I don’t think I’ll ever see it in my lifetime.

  • Dianne Star

    It seems like our elected representatives are behaving like children, so let’s treat them like children. First, give them new assigned seats by alternating party: Democrat, Republican, Democrat, Republican, etc. Second, make them lunch together in the same seating order. Third, let’s lock them in the chambers until they pass one significant bill, like health care. Lastly, when they return to their home states, they must perform at least 10 hours per week of community service and be available to speak with constituents at least another 10 hours per week.

    As for those of us who are represented by these people, let’s call/write/email them reminding them that there are our representatives and that they need to act on the items which will improve the lives of the most people, i.e. work for the common good.

  • phillip cryan

    An exchange of gifts, with a Wizard of Oz theme: Republicans could use a heart, and Democrats very sorely need to find their spine (“C-c-courage!”). Each can give a bit of what the other lacks. Not sure who has brains to spare, though.

  • Rip Stauffer

    I love the ideas proposed so far! The “Remember the Titans” approach (make them lunch together in seating order) would be great–add “room together” to the order! The gerrymandering advice is excellent, too; districts should be bounded by some neutral geographical/statistical criteria, and we should have a constitutional amendment to set those criteria.

    For my part, I think it would help if they fired every PR consultant in politics, and banned talking points. Politics has become a very refined game of playing the emotions of the voters. It seems that no one in politics cares about an “informed electorate” anymore; what’s much more valuable–both to the PR consultants and the 24-hour cable punditocracy–is a “fired-up” electorate.

    No elected official should be allowed to make a public statement about a position on any issue for which they cannot provide solid, verifiable evidence. Talking points are inherently partisan, inherently about wedge issues, and they are seemingly the only response to any question asked by any member of the media.

    One commentator on “All things considered” last night made a very interesting point about oratory v. pedagogy. He said that Obama has been using oratory to sell his programs, but that pedagogy would be a better approach. The distinction he made was that oratory reaches the emotions, the limbic system; pedagogy enables us to learn. You can see the results in what Americans “learned” over the last few months: an alarmingly-high percentage believe that Obama is a muslim, or is not an American citizen, or that Bush engineered the 9/11 attacks.

    Most talking points are engineered to appeal to emotion; what we need, to solve these complex problems, is not more emotion, but more cognition. Leaders on both sides of the aisle need to embrace this idea, to examine ideas from both sides in the cold light of evidence and reason.

  • Brian F

    Term limits. No elected official serves more than 1 term. They’d have to focus on issues rather than fundraising & schmoozing & being “special friends” with lobbyists.

    How about the old Athenian lottery system?

    “Selection by lottery was the standard means as it was regarded as the more democratic: elections would favour those who were rich, noble, eloquent and well-known, while allotment spread the work of administration throughout the whole citizen body, engaging them in the crucial democratic experience of, to use Aristotle’s words, “ruling and being ruled in turn” (Politics 1317b28–30).” (quotation taken from Wikipedia)

  • BJ

    Every poll will tell you congress is bad, but that their own congress person is GREAT.

    How to get them to work together? Get 100% of the ‘people’ to vote. And make them listen to their congress person talk about policy for 1 hour before the next election. And listen to all the other candidates for at least 1/2 hour. Our problem with congress is it is the one we, the people, voted for.

  • Carole Newkucmet

    I can’t argue with anything I’ve read here so far. I would only add the old adage: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Let’s stop the ridiculous politics & start governing for the United States!

  • GaryF

    Besides term limits?

    You mean like campaigning on “transparancy” and then making a mockery of it?

  • Al Heebsh

    1. Politicians need to approach elected office with an attitude of service for the common good without regard for whether their decisions will get them re-elected.

    2. Replace the current US House and Senate leadership of both parties. The current leadership is highly partisan.

    3. End the gerrymandering that creates safe districts and promotes partisanship. I would hope someone could develop a computer algorithm that could divide up areas using numbers of eligible voters with no political leaning inputs.

    4. Responsible media outlets need to do a better job challenging false and misleading statements by candidates, partisan media outlets, and non-elected political players. While this has always been an issue, the recent change in communication formats has allowed partisan commentators with false messages to capture larger stages, leading to the appearance of credibility.

  • Sam

    The GOP had absolute control for a very long time and then the economy collapsed. It’s very hard to keep a positive facade on the party with that big of a screw up. Not only that, but they’ve said some pretty harsh things about any ideas that don’t fit with the GOP’s methodology. If any ideas that don’t match their policies fix anything now, the entire party could collapse and I think they know that.

    Fixing this problem is the public’s responsibility. As long a trying to cooperating can end a career, nobody will be willing to cooperate. As long as publicly screaming about how anyone who isn’t a part of your party is evil and wrong is a media career (that goes for both parties), cooperation will be a sin. Stop listening to the pundits, accept that some of your ideas might not work and that someone else might have an idea that does. Get educated about your candidates and make it clear that you won’t vote for anyone who won’t support a good idea that they didn’t think of.

  • Diane Barnett

    Adopt a desire to solve our problems for the common good. This will mean sincerely negotiating with each other, compromising on some issues, working toward solutions and being honest about outcomes. The current system is sick; it is more important for politicians to remain “pure” in their ideology than to be effective problem solvers. The abortion issue and the pledge for no new taxes inhibit progress on many fronts. It is so easy to be critical of a measure without offering a workable solution.

  • phillip cryan

    A gift exchange, with a Wizard of Oz theme: the Republicans need a heart, and the Democrats sorely need some backbone (“C-c-courage!”). Each can give from their strength to help the other. Not sure, though, if either has brains to spare.

  • Jim H

    Elect an Independent as Governor. Preferably someone who acts as “The Great Moderator”. We need someone without the baggage of the two major parties to come in and listen to great ideas from all sides. You can find common ground and still lead. It just takes a person who can make decisions in the best interest of Minnesota.

  • Terence

    This country is in more household financial trouble now than any sort of bipartinship can possibly address.A new President always looks for bipartisanship of course but cannot change a gerrymandered House or suspend the fillibuster rule in the Senate. Congressional chairpersons have to do these reforms , esp. the fillibuster rule in the Senate which has turned into an impediment to allowing the majority to pass bills, or appoint highly principled mistakes to the Supreme Court…

    If we can’t get reforms passed now in the first year of the Obama sweep of ’08…God help us if mathematical gridlock returns to the House and Senate after this Nov. We already know that 90’s capitalism doesn’t deliver good results itself does it!

  • James

    Here’s a novel idea – Listen to the people that voted them in.

    Also, if they receive any corporate campaign money they wear company logos on their cloths (Like a race car driver) so we all know who they really represent.


  • Patrick

    Would you and I agree to work together if we were corporate puppets on a leash? Congress has no choice in the matter. They sell their souls and backbone and responsibility each election when accepting huge bribes from the power elite.

    And so far the public accepts this expedient self-serving relationship…..cuz the public is on the take also(investments in corporate america). Congress is a mere reflection of corrupt hypocritical modern american society.

  • Patrick

    P.S. He who is not on the take with corporate america throw the first stone.

  • Rolfe Leary

    Making sound public policy is akin to discovering the laws of nature — it is a contest of ideas. The ideas in science can come from anyone who follows the rules for submitting manuscripts to journals. In short, Congressional leadership should jointly order the “problems” that will be focused on in a legislative session/year, and spell out to ALL members of Congress how to submit their ideas for solving the problem. Proposed solutions should be collected and distributed to all members of House and Senate with author’s name removed. Members of House and Senate could collaborate on ideas for solutions as they see fit. Each House and Senate member should ‘review’ each proposal for solving problem X, and provide their review comments to the Leaders of each body. [Perhaps reviewers should also be anonymous.] Proposals should be ranked by review comments, and, say, the top few proposals should be opened and authors allowed to argue their cases before all members of each body. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have ALL the good ideas. For sure not all the old guard members of Congress have ALL the good ideas!!! The GOAL is sound public policy to solve problems, and the SOLUTION is good ideas on how to accomplish that. And, of course the courage to act on those ideas. The current way Congress operates is almost the opposite.

  • Tim O’Neill

    Stop the perpetual campaigning and have members of congress stay in Washington D.C. more often so they can more often meet informally and get to know one another as human beings – not just as the opposition.

  • Andrew Guthrie

    You’re asking the wrong question. The administration and the Congressional leadership have spent the last year bending over backwards to woo a few conservatives in the name of bipartisanship, all in spite of having an historic mandate for progressive change from the American people. Bipartisanship has failed. It’s time for the leaders the people voted for to start playing hardball and push through through the policies they ran and won on. The best thing President Obama could say tonight would be “Okay, no more mister nice guy.”

  • bsimon

    “How could our leaders promote a spirit of bipartisanship in government?”

    Any given leader can attempt to be bipartisan, but it takes more than one person to actually be bipartisan. Listening to Rep Boehner this morning (with Steve Inskeep), he says he’s interested in being bipartisan, but seems to think the word means that President Obama & the Dems just do everything the Republicans would like. Curiously, those things are what got us into this mess: endless tax cuts without spending cuts, which requires excessive borrowing. Perhaps most disappointing was Mr Inskeep’s failure to followup on some of Rep Boehner’s claims; at least according to a story yesterday AM, the Health Care Reform bill that was near passage until last week was closer in form to Republican efforts from 1994 than to the Clinton proposal that year. Yet Rep Boehner characterized the Obama administration as being profoundly liberal and not bipartisan at all. If we let our political leaders misrepresent the facts, why do we expect them to compromise or act in a bipartisan fashion? Until they think such behavior is in their own best interest, they won’t bother.

  • Mary Alice Harvey

    We won’t get rid of such bitter partianship until we get money out of the election proscess. With public funding and no other money used to elect officials, and lobbyists under strict control, our elected officials could listen to the electorate again.

  • Texts sent to MPR

    Comment texted to MPR:

    I think that all 535 members of Congress should be required to read “The Citizen Solution” by Harry Boyte of the U of M’s Humphrey Institute. I think this would definitely be a good first step to help them learn how to work together for the common good. -Tom Holker Jr., Anoka, MN

  • Bill Haverberg

    I don’t think its going to change for another 10 or 20 years. The partisonship we’re seeing is that massive food fight the baby-boom generation has been having with itself ever since the 60’s and it will not end until they have passed from the scene. It will be the generations which follow that will change the mood of congress.

  • Dennis Paulson

    The Democrats in the Senate need to stop deluding themselves that the Republicans have a 41-59 majority, and actually call their bluff on filibusters, instead of allowing the mere threat of a filibuster to block any meaningful legislation getting through the Senate. Let the Republicans actually filibuster legislation–say, on Health Care reform–with cots in the Capitol cloak rooms and Republican senators reading nursery rhymes on the Senate floor in the middle of the night, and all the rest. Let the American people see an actual filibuster and how ridiculous that is, and they will demand that Republicans stop being obstructionists and engage in meaningful bipartisanship. Let’s be clear: it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are refusing to be bipartisan. The Republican Party has become nothing more than “the party of NO!”

  • Lydia

    IMHO, Obama needs to get a spine and not allow the constant misrepresentations of his policies and proposals to go largely unanswered. Having been a member of public radio for 33 years, I have always counted on NPR/MPR to present fair and accurate information. I am becoming increasingly concerned about even public radio just giving both sides “equal time” without challenging obvious misrepresentations, lies and opinions thinly disguised as facts. The NPR report recently from a soft spoken leader of the TEA Party going on about how Obama “just doesn’t love his country the way other presidents did” was enough to make me reconsider my financial support. True journalism includes checking facts and challenging attacks instead of just allowing people like this free airtime to spread their hatred and bias.

  • Lora

    Make this as simple as possible, the Republican and Democratic parties need to have a mama. I am talking a large women with a wooden spoon to slap all these snot-nosed selfish individuals up side the head. Remind them WHO their boss is and what they are there to do and it not to grease palms so they can keep their jobs. And if they can not get along and make a decision, then they will stay in their room until they can settle issues! Period and if that means no dinner, then so be it!

  • Lora

    Make this as simple as possible, the Republican and Democratic parties need to have a mama. I am talking a large women with a wooden spoon to slap all these snot-nosed selfish individuals up side the head. Remind them WHO their boss is and what they are there to do and it not to grease palms so they can keep their jobs. And if they can not get along and make a decision, then they will stay in their room until they can settle issues! Period and if that means no dinner, then so be it!

  • Adam Faitek

    I think this is a tough if not impossible thing to do these days. Because of the partisan involvement with redistricting and the impact of money in elections, we are electing people who learn how to be good politicians first. That is they learn a) how to get elected, and b) how to score political points for their respective party caucus. Becoming an effective policy maker seems to be an afterthought. Look at Washington; everything has become a zero sum game. The minority party is constantly trying to stop the majority so as to become the winners. They then become the majority, and the process begins anew.

    Frankly, we need more moderates if we ever want to see bipartisan actions, and I think that starts with redistricting reform. We need to take the process out of partisan hands and create legislative and congressional districts that elect more candidates representing the average Minnesotan and average American.

  • BruceChris

    Somehow, listening to last night’s SOTN address, the response, and then the analysis gave me a new understanding of just how many politically unsophisticated Americans, and just how many many dishonest Republicans that there are in this country.

    I fully support president Obama, and I hope that a majority of Americans will come to realize that single payer will cut our health care costs almost in half.

  • Rebecca Koeppen

    There’s only 1 way: by becoming more conscious and spiritually mature individuals themselves.