by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on bipartisanship.
How do the actual players, the politicians, view the words bipartisan and bipartisanship? Last week, we read the comments of some Forest Lake Senior High School social studies students. They gave their honest definitions of the words.
This week, we look at the politicians, from President Obama to our local state legislators.
President Obama uses bipartisanship to describe the recent adoption of the Violence Against Women Act by the U.S. Senate: “Today the Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. This important step shows what we can do when we come together across party lines to take up a just cause. The bill passed by the Senate will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, improve the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault, address the high rates of dating violence experienced by young women, and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us.”
Let’s look at some other interpretations of bipartisanship as offered by state and national leaders:
Sen. Thomas Bakk, State Senate Majority Leader: “At our State Capitol in St. Paul, achieving bipartisanship means finding common ground between members of our two major political parties – the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Republican Party of Minnesota. But bipartisanship is really a process where the two opposing sides on an issue come together, listen to each other, and recognize the opportunity for a ‘win-win’ solution to a problem. Hard-earned, bipartisan compromise requires legislators to prioritize those things they must have and accept other things they may dislike, but can tolerate. Though it is a difficult process, disagreements that are resolved in a bipartisan way usually result in an improved final product. I would add that, although there are currently just two parties represented in the Minnesota Legislature, there are a total of 201 Senators and Representatives representing over 5 million Minnesotans. With so many different perspectives on every issue we debate, the only way we can find a productive path forward is by working together toward our shared goals.”
State Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-39A (includes Forest Lake area): Dettmer quotes President Reagan 1987: “It is time to put aside partisan rivalries and work together for our nation’s future.”
Dettmer continues, “Bipartisanship to me means Democrats and Republicans working together to do the people’s work. It is necessary to come together on certain issues, for example, veterans issues, in which I have a keen interest. We all have principles and values and if I go against my principles and values, it’s time for me to step away from this job.”
State Sen. Karin Housley, R-District 39 (includes Forest Lake area):
“Bipartisanship happens when we put aside politics to work with stakeholders, regardless of party affiliation, to do what is best for our community instead of for political gain.”
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “Bipartisanship means that the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us. It is standing next to someone you don’t always agree with and working with them for the betterment of this county.”
U.S. Sen. Al Franken: “Bipartisanship is more than just what you have when Republicans and Democrats happen to find themselves on the same side of a particular issue. Bipartisanship is what happens when we put aside our differences and do what’s in the best interests of the people we were elected to serve. There are certain issues – like farm policy and veterans issues – that enjoy a lot of bipartisan agreement in Congress. Minnesota’s representatives also come to frequent bipartisan agreement in support of industries that are vital to our state’s economy – fighting against burdensome taxes that would harm our medical device manufacturers, or protecting our fishing, boating, and tourism industries from invasive species, for example. But to me, the most gratifying examples of bipartisanship are ones that don’t involve state or regional interests, but where we transcend party differences to work in the best interest of the entire country. That happens more often than most people realize. For example, just last week, the Senate came together and, with a large, bipartisan majority, passed the Violence Against Women Act, which works to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking – an issue we can all agree is important to address.”
A bipartisan approach to life means that sharing our commonalities and our difference will often result in a strong agreement between two or more people.
Bipartisanship is not always easy to achieve. Gridlock sometimes appears in its place because partisanship is preferred.
It takes courage to step away from a party position in politics. When that happens, it results in a sharing of thoughts and values on a particular issue.
Sometime in the future, we may examine another often used political word and that’s compromise. Stay tuned.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected].