Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) President Jason Grumet opened yesterday’s conference, “Breaking the Stalemate: Renewing a Bipartisan Dialogue,” lamenting the ease with which one can become despondent over the nation’s current state. In light of the ongoing hemorrhage of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and the inability of Washington to tackle major issues from energy policy to debt reduction, the national mood is increasingly fraught with anger and frustration. Aware of the realities of politics, Grumet noted that the BPC was not founded as either a non- or post-partisan organization. He believes that Democrats and Republicans can stay true to their principles while working toward collaborative solutions. In that vein, he cast the Center as a meeting place to bring opposing viewpoints together for the good of public policy.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), providing keynote remarks, recalled valuable lessons he has learned from political battles in his own state—lessons he hopes take root in a gridlocked capital. There will always be conflict when various interests convene to consider important issues, especially if a toxic environment is already customary. Echoing Grumet’s comments, Wyden highlighted “principled bipartisanship,” a hybrid that blends partisan convictions with constructive compromise across the aisle. He reminded the audience that one of history’s most revered Democratic senators, the late Edward “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts, was well-known for his work with Republicans.
Wyden did warn that the window for bipartisanship is not open long. He worries that, while personal friendships live on between members of opposing parties, it is more difficult today to carry those bonds over to policymaking. Combined with an ideological news media and the unprecedented amount of money spent on politics, it is no surprise that figurative scoreboards hang from both chambers of Congress. One party is simply out to “mop the floor with the other side.” In the end, Wyden urged the public to look for the positive work being done by Congress; it just may appear on the back page, not up front with the more negative coverage. For lawmakers, the essential question, he insisted, should not be about ideology. Succeeding in Washington should come down to how you go about getting business done.