Tropical Storm Ida was no match for the BPC Inaugural Political Summit, which gathered its own speed this afternoon as some of the nation’s leading Democratic and Republican political consultants gathered to discuss and provide their input on taking the poison out of bipartisanship. The Summit opened with Honorary Co-Chairs and New Orleans residents James Carville and Mary Matalin, or as Matalin said today, “the Jon and Kate of bipartisanship.”
Following their remarks, another New Orleans resident, Walter Isaacson, took stage as the moderator for the Summit’s first panel “What’s Fair in Politics,” featuring Democrats Tad Devine, Kiki McLean, and Hilary Rosen and Republicans Charlie Black, Jeff Larson, and Steve Schmidt. During this hour-long discussion, Isaacson led panelists in topics about an array of partisan “poisons,” and the effect they have on politics today. Such topics ranged from negative campaigning to the augment of digital communication and cable news networks to congressional gerrymandering, and panelists demonstrated some type of bipartisanship in all of these issues.
Republicans and Democrats saw eye-to-eye on the belief that attacking others and negative campaigning was not an efficient or just way to be elected. Larson emphasized this by saying “those running negative campaigns are not winning elections,” noting last week’s Virginia gubernatorial elections, and Rosen agreed pointing out that voters punish unauthentic politicians, using Jon Corzine’s fat ads about Chris Christie in during the New Jersey gubernatorial campaign as an example. Both Devine and Schmidt highlighted the media’s significant role in cultivating this type of negative campaigning, noting their tendency to seek controversial stories over positive ones. Each stressed that this must stop if the partisan poison is to be completely obliterated.
However, Black offered another viewpoint, choosing not to reproach the media, instead saying that they play an important role in showing differences of candidates, which is central to the political campaign process, but he also mentioned that the media cannot make anonymous items newsworthy. This transitioned the discussion into the use of digital communication and its implications on credible information and increased party polarization. McLean expressed her belief that it jeopardized the level of reliability in news by making it harder to distinguish between fact and fiction. Similarly, Schmidt highlighted that it caused citizens to search for niches that appeal specifically to their own, specific interests. As the panel came to an end, Isaacson chose to close the discussion by offering his insight on bipartisanship, highlighting that although compromises might not create heroes, they create democracy, which was one of the principals that this nation was founded on just a few centuries ago.
The second panel, moderated by journalist Ronald Brownstein, who received a lauded introduction from Carville, featured a more heated debate as panelists assessed the still nascent Obama Presidency. Democrats John Anzalone, Stanley Greenberg, and Larry Grisolano took stage with Republicans Alex Castellano, Bill McInturff, and Mark McKinnon who all shared their views on where Obama administration stood at its current point. Health care and the outcomes of the 2010 and 2012 elections were central discussion topics. Panelists from both sides criticized the other for playing to their base, which ultimately makes passing policies difficult. All three Democratic panelists condemned the Republicans for their unwillingness to negotiate with the Obama administration, with Grisolano highlighting that without the ability to compromise there is no capacity for successful bipartisanship. Castellanos counters this saying that Obama is playing to his party in order to maintain unity amongst them and warns that if he cannot move towards the center then he will face even more trouble later on in his term.
Also, all three Republicans foreshadowed a Democratic defeat in the 2010 midterm election, but Greenberg argued against this, saying that it is too far in advance to make these predictions. The discussion continued with the health care debate, with the Republicans showing their doubts on its ability to pass, saying that if it should that it would most likely be a central issue in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Despite the increased conflict of interests in this debate between Democrats and Republicans, panelists from both sides of the aisle believed that in order to have future success that there needs to be a move towards the center, showing the importance and value that both Democrats and Republicans hold for a more bipartisan government.