As I enter my third month with T4A.org, I’ve started thinking back on all of the TechTables I’ve attended and what common threads I’ve seen. One that sticks out in my mind as the most ripe for action is the real possibility of bipartisanship. Most leaders we have sat down with, from both parties, express a willingness to work with the other side and admit that there are topics on which the two parties can agree. To this end, I am hopeful that the tide will start to change in Washington and we can get back to work on solving the laundry list of problems we are facing as a nation. If so many people are willing to work together, though, why aren’t we moving forward?
First, there seems to be a discrepancy not only in the information that’s out there about bipartisanship but also between what the parties as a whole want and what the members of Congress want. Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post recently wrote an article entitled “The ideological middle in Congress is dead. So, who killed it?” With the aid of colorful charts, Cilliza shows that there are currently only 4 members of the House of Representatives and 0 Senators that have any ideological overlap.¹
According to Cilliza, these charts were compiled by lobbying firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti using annual voting records published in the National Journal. While this data may be accurate from a voting record perspective, is it truly indicative of actual belief and ideology? Call me optimistic, but I’m not 100% sold that there is no overlap. Here at T4A, we have had multiple bipartisan TechTables and in each of these there was at least one issue on which the representatives from both parties agreed. We also have evidence of at least some willingness to work together based on the fact that there are bills co-written by members of opposing parties. In addition to this, in a recent speech attended by T4A.org at Citizen’s University, popular conservative leader Grover Norquist listed a variety of areas on which he believes Republicans and Democrats can work together including criminal justice reform, defense spending review, corporate welfare, and immigration reform.
Nate Silver and his team at FiveThirtyEight have also found that there is overlap in stances on immigration reform: 72% of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship with requirements compared to 83% of Democrats.² To be fair, the FiveThirtyEight team did find that there are definitely still large splits on many issues, but it’s inspiring, and surprising, that the gap on many important topics is relatively small. It’s also necessary to keep in mind that this poll is descriptive of Republicans in the public and doesn’t reflect the beliefs of party leaders.
All of this makes me hopeful that there can be change. I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Though I can’t see how close we are to it, I take comfort in the fact that it’s there. Yes, we do need to fix the bigger issues that we don’t agree on at some point, but let’s use these other issues as a stepping stone to get on some common ground. Is this a naive perspective? Maybe. But without this hope, we are just accepting that we are destined for infinite legislative gridlock. Who knows? Maybe these baby steps will lead to more respectful, honest conversations on how we can tackle all of the issues?
¹Cilliza, C. (2014). The ideological middle in Congress is dead. So who killed it? The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/15/the-ideological-middle-in-congress-is-dead-so-who-killed-it/
²Silver, Nate. (2014). Like Bush, Many Republicans are Moderate on Immigration. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved from http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/like-bush-many-republicans-are-moderate-on-immigration/
Feature image via http://readpure.com/democrat-vs-republican-the-main-difference/