Even as the partisan rhetoric intensifies in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is expanding on its commitments to bring new perspectives to the national debate and to encourage consensus on politically viable solutions to the key challenges confronting America. Like the candidates, BPC debates the significant issues facing our country, such as health care, the economy, housing, energy, the nation’s infrastructure, and national security. These issues are our primary focus, because we know that no matter who wins the White House in November, cooperation between the political parties will be essential to solving these problems.
The recent debt ceiling fight, the federal budget gridlock, and even the Occupy Wall Street movement only served to underscore the expanse of our nation’s vast political divide and the immense need for individuals of divergent ideologies to end their entrenchment for the greater interest of our nation. We recognize that those elected to office often have conflicting and deep convictions over how best to solve our country’s most pressing problems. It always has been this way, and history shows that healthy, civil debate among those with differing viewpoints is an essential component to our democracy. But history also shows that when both political parties cooperate to reach principled compromises, it leads to major and enduring reforms.
These are the precepts on which we founded BPC. We believe rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue are the means for producing pragmatic solutions that both Democrats and Republicans can support.
Once again in 2011, BPC succeeded in assembling an extraordinary array of former lawmakers, stakeholders, and policy experts to put aside their partisan differences and cultivate common ground on legislative proposals. BPC has become such a valuable resource for both political parties that we decided to continue to broaden our mandate in challenging new areas. For example, in 2011 we formed a Housing Commission. This panel is examining what the appropriate role of government should be in helping to shape the future housing landscape in an increasingly diverse society with increasingly diverse housing needs. The commission will also look at the complexities of the housing industry and its significant link to the U.S. financial recovery. BPC also started a yearlong Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative to address the impact of obesity and poor health on the economy. The initiative will identify novel, collaborative, and bipartisan approaches to food and fitness issues in order to improve the wellness and performance of all Americans. And at a time when some fear our political system is fractured beyond repair, our Democracy Project has been analyzing and advocating for improvements in our democratic institutions and for a stronger commitment to civil discourse in government.
BPC’s influence on the national dialogue was dramatic in 2011. As the debt ceiling deadline approached, members of Congress and the media continually turned to the work done by BPC’s Debt Reduction Task Force to further illuminate the discussion. In fact, all of BPC’s programs are considered reliable, knowledgeable sources of information for elected leaders, advocacy organizations, and the press outlets who want facts, not spin.
BPC also launched a major effort to bring state and local perspectives into the national conversation. We established a Governors’ Council, comprising six immediate former state chief executives who offer unique viewpoints on key policy issues considered at the federal level. We are determined to reflect the full scope of the nation’s opinions, and not just the conventional wisdom in Washington. This regional input was vital to the work of a number of BPC projects that traveled outside the Beltway in pursuit of fresh approaches. One was our new Health Project, which hosted events in Chicago, Illinois, and Austin, Texas, in addition to Washington, in order to gather information from state, federal, business, and workforce leaders to develop creative answers to the major challenges facing states under health care reform.
While presidential election partisanship may be dominating the political landscape right now, we remain extremely proud that BPC enters its fifth year as a steadfast proponent of balanced and respectful debate and advocacy. We also remain dedicated to seeking workable, bipartisan solutions for the benefit of our great country today and far into the future.
Howard Baker l Tom Daschle l Bob Dole l George Mitchell