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Congress needs to adopt a bipartisan buddy system

October 15, 2017

“Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.”

The first known use of this phrase was when millions of Americans watched the screenplay “Godfather, Part II” in 1974. This statement — along with another famous one of, “Can we all get along?” uttered by Rodney King during the 1992 riots sparked after the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers who beat him during a traffic incident — surrounds the notion that if more members of Congress actually got to know each other better, not only would the negative tone surrounding lawmakers be simmered, but the actual productive work could be turned up.

Isn’t hard to disagree with someone who you actually know?

In other words, isn’t easy to understand another person’s point of view, of which you may disagree with when you actually have a relationship with that person?

Many of the cynics think not, but I disagree. Strongly. I believe personal relationships, especially those that transcend party politics are good for the Congress as an institution specifically, but for the country as a whole, and we need to do a better job of encouraging these types of relationship.

What can we do you might ask? There’s plenty.

First, we actually show up to town hall meetings that members of Congress hold during the annual recess and ask them the last time they actually forged a relationship with one of their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and if the answer is no, we can encourage them to do so.

We can also build them up on social media and actually applaud members when they do a bipartisan act such as cosponsor a bill, compliment their colleagues work or achievement on a particular piece of legislation and we can also tone down the rhetoric on the cable news channels and social media when we automatically put people into a “red” or “blue” box and not give them the space to be nuanced and flexible when working with the other side on a particular issue. Translation: bipartisanship is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing and it’s the cornerstone of our democracy.

Consider the rules: in order to stop debate in the U.S. Senate, you need 60 votes. In most cases, that means you need a significant number of senators from the other party to come to your side to end debate. This is important because this little known rule is the only way that any piece of legislation and or nomination can actually move forward for a final vote in the Senate.

Another rule is the “Codel”; which stands for Congressional Delegation — a trip that usually means overseas for fact finding on a particular national security or foreign policy issue. Codels force lawmakers to get to know each other on long flights to and from foreign countries. They see firsthand another cultures and truly get to reflect on the great and good of our democracy that they represent.

In sum, members of Congress should be friends — they should get to know each other and actually understand each other’s wants, needs and personalities and it’s not just to be nice — although that’s important — it’s for the sake of our country.