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November 3, 2023

These are anxious times for our nation and democracy. In the past few years, we've witnessed events most never thought could happen in America.

We've seen a significant portion of the population deny the clear, legitimate outcome of the last presidential election. We have a former president, Donald Trump, indicted on a charge of conspiring with lawyers and White House staff to overturn the results of that election by, among other things, cobbling together slates of false electors in key swing states Trump undeniably lost. We've even seen American citizens -- calling themselves "patriots" of all things -- engage in an open act of insurrection, by storming the nation's capital in a failed attempt to intimidate Congress into not certifying the results of the presidential election Trump lost.

What our nation needs now is leadership that can build trust across ideological lines and create a unifying path forward despite our differences. Folks who can rise above the partisan fray and work across party lines to move the nation forward. We need statesmen who, as former President John F. Kennedy once said, "seek not the Republican answer, nor the Democratic answer, but the right answer." After all the recent dysfunction we need elected officials who are willing to work on a bipartisan basis to solve problems and create a better future for everyone.

If that sounds somehow quaint or unrealistic, it shouldn't. A recent study by the Center for Effective Lawmaking found that historically, legislators have a much greater likelihood of getting bills passed when they build bipartisan support for their initiatives. Indeed, some of the nation's most transformational legislation was enacted on a bipartisan basis.

For starters, consider the Social Security Act of 1935. Although close to 90 years old, this bipartisan legislation has proven so effective that it lifts more Americans above the poverty line today than any other program. Then there's the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended racial discrimination and segregation in public education, public accommodations, and any state or local program receiving federal funding. It also wouldn't have passed without significant bipartisan compromise.

In fact, that act became bogged down in the longest continuous Senate debate on record -- lasting 60 consecutive days. The stalemate was only broken when conservative Republican Sen. Everett Dierksen of Illinois worked with liberal Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota to redraft some language in a manner that convinced 27 Republicans to join 44 Democrats in voting for the bill.

The list of transformational legislation passed on a bipartisan basis is long, and includes everything from the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made it illegal for states to deny Blacks the right to vote, and the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Act which invests $1 trillion in America's roads, railways and bridges, while bringing high speed internet to rural communities.

Bipartisanship has effectively moved our country forward for generations. Which is why the elevation of Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana to speaker of the House is so disheartening. Far from being someone who rises above partisan dysfunction, Johnson is emblematic of everything wrong in American politics today.

A staunch election denier, Johnson not only voted against certifying President Biden's election, he encouraged fellow Republicans to do the same. This September, he voted against the stopgap spending bill his predecessor as speaker, Kevin McCarthy, helped pass on a bipartisan basis to avert a government shutdown. And in his first major move as speaker, Johnson did his level best to crater bipartisanship when he carved U.S. support for Israel out of legislation that also included money for Ukraine, despite bipartisan support in the Senate to combine those efforts.

Johnson is so out of touch with America that he's supported criminalizing gay sex, a national ban on abortion, and severely reducing benefits under Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. America needs a true statesman in the speaker's office, not a staunch partisan ideologue like Johnson.

Source: Daily Herald