“Washington comes to New Orleans.” –James Carville
Leading Democratic and Republican political consultants gathered in New Orleans earlier this week to battle not only partisan issues but also a potential hurricane threat. The group proved victorious in both situations, making the BPC’s Inaugural Political Summit an overall success. This two-day Summit featured political experts from both parties interacting in a series of constructive, thought provoking, panels, achieving bipartisan agreement on multiple levels. This year’s theme “Taking the Poison Out of Partisanship” was exemplified in all four of the Summit’s panels: What’s Fair in Politics?, Assessing the Obama Presidency, Looking Ahead to 2010 and 2012, and finally, The Role of Media in Elections. Each discussion brought about open, honest debate, where both sides met in the center on various issues, establishing compromises and finding more common ground than ever thought possible.
James Carville and Mary Matalin served as the Summit’s Honorary Co-Chairs, proudly welcoming the consultants to their hometown. This year’s participants included Democrats Tad Devine, Kiki McLean, Hilary Rosen, John Anzalone, Stanley Greenberg, Larry Grisolano, Steve McMahon, Joe Trippi, Mandy Grunwald, and Joe Lockhart, and Republicans Charlie Black, Jeff Larson, Steve Schmidt, Bill McInturff, Mark McKinnon, Tony Blankley, Alex Castellanos, and David Winston.
However, the BPC Summit required consultants to demonstrate a little more than just their ability to work together. Following Tuesday’s final discussion, the panelists, as well as Tulane staff and students, joined together for a barbeque and Wii charity tournament, donating all proceeds to the Devilin S-AFE Center for Leadership Development. Here panelists from opposing sides, still in business attire, were seen trying to outrun each other in Wii marathons. When not competing, consultants had the opportunity to mingle amongst each other and discuss topics other then politics—such as James Carville’s mention of approval for the event’s red beans and rice to Stanley Greenberg and Steve Schmidt. “It is fun to see colleagues from the other side and hear funny campaign stories, even though Republicans and Democrats still see the world differently,” said Schmidt.
Similarly, Charlie Black mentioned that, “The better you know individuals, the more likelihood of avoiding conflict.” To which Mandy Grunwald agreed, saying that it was not only “great to be in New Orleans” but also to have the opportunity to talk with other consultants in a “non-adversarial situation, rather than the greenroom or coming from opposing sides.”
This year’s panelists all agreed that bipartisan discussion is a much-needed aspect of the nation’s political landscape, and what better city to embark on this process than in one where, as Carville said, “social events are just as important as the work.”