A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about polarization in this country and the role of the American people in the worsening of this divide. I explored the idea that while the public may blame Congress for partisanship and gridlock, it may actually be their own beliefs and actions that is the root of the problem. Last week’s midterm election results seem to point to a similar idea; an idea that even though we may say we want bipartisanship, our actions say otherwise.
Last Tuesday, Republicans took back the Senate in a landslide victory against the Democrats. As of right now, Republicans have a net gain of 7 seats, winning almost every competitive seat while two tight races are still considered too close to call.
One of races that has been particularly interesting is the Virginia Senate race between incumbent Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. After a three day battle, Gillespie conceded on Friday. Warner won the race by 0.08% or about 17,000 votes.1 However, what makes this race interesting is not just the closeness, but the political beliefs and campaigns run by the candidates. Warner, though a Democrat, is known for being a centrist and refused to campaign as anything else. Many campaign analysts and fellow elected officials believe this is the reason that Warner’s race was so close. As the Washington Post ventured, “By positioning himself as a moderate, he may have missed a chance to gin up more enthusiasm within the state’s expanding Democratic base.”2 Gillespie also ran as a centrist and was careful to distance himself from the Tea Party throughout his campaign.3
Despite pleas from the American public for bipartisanship in Congress, voting trends across the nation seem to indicate that this is less of a priority. As Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) said, “I think if you look at the returns around the country . . . it raises questions about just how successful the bipartisanship brand really is.”4 Connolly pointed to wins for Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, who he says are not known for strong bipartisan records, as evidence of this.
This raises the question: what is the state of bipartisanship in our country? Do we want it or not? While both President Obama and presumed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pledged to work together, only time will tell how effective they will be in doing so.
T4A.org hopes to tackle this question as well as many others related to bipartisanship in our TechTable on Tuesday with former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and Jason Grumet, Founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center and author of the book City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy. This TechTable is particularly timely as we look at the results of the midterm elections and what they mean for Washington going forward. Both Snowe and Grumet are known for innovation and progress in bipartisanship so it’s clear that we will have a thoughtful discussion around this topic.
1 2014 Senate Election Results. Politico. Retrieved on November 7, 2014 from http://www.politico.com/2014-election/results/map/senate/
2 Portnoy, J. and Weiner, R. (5 November, 2014). On his way to a slim victory in a changing Va., Warner may have wooed wrong voters. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/with-warner-ahead-vote-certification-begins-in-tight-virginia-senate-race/2014/11/05/4ffcff0c-6507-11e4-9fdc-d43b053ecb4d_story.html
3 Cirilli, Kevin. (7 November, 2014). A GOP star is born in Virginia. The Hill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/governor-races/223277-a-gop-star-is-born-in-virginia