Forget the Critics -- Bipartisanship Still Matters
Vice President Joe Biden’s recent announcement that he will not campaign for president became a heartfelt plea for an end to political bickering and a return to bipartisan decision-making in Washington: "I believe that we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart. And I think we can. It's mean-spirited, it's petty, and it's gone on for much too long.”
That’s exactly the message of No Labels, a national organization of Republicans, Democrats and Independents committed to restoring bipartisan problem solving to decision-making in Washington, D.C., which we co-chair.
Some political commentators quickly dismissed Biden’s idea of bipartisanship in politics as a relic of the “good ol’ boys’ club” of his early days in the Senate -- deeming it an irrelevant political tool in today's politics. But this view of the vice president's plea is misguided.
To dismiss Biden’s remarks is to ignore his 36 years in the Senate and his almost eight years in service to our country as vice president. As a senator, Joe Biden regularly worked across party lines to get big things done. He was there and supportive when House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Reagan overcame their political differences to extend the fiscal life of Social Security, and when Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Clinton turned budget deficits into surpluses. During the last seven years, presiding over the Senate, Biden watched Congress become more and more partisan but, nonetheless, he played a critical role in some of the bipartisan agreements that were achieved.
His experience with and participation in the bipartisan process makes his appeal worth a listen.
Biden repeated his prescriptive call for political collaboration Sunday during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes”: "How in God’s name can we govern this country if we feel the opposition is the enemy?”
Again, the message was buried in speculation -- speculation that Biden was chiding Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for a comment she made, jokingly, during the primary debate in Las Vegas earlier this month. The message of bipartisanship lost out to political commentary.
Our government was built on -- and by -- the ability to collaborate. In 1787, when delegates at the Constitutional Convention were so divided over the issue of representation that resolution seemed unattainable, an idea was born that would not only solve the problem by creating a House and a Senate -- allowing less-populated states equal representation in one house and proportional representation in the other -- but would serve as a sustainable model for centuries to follow.
Bipartisanship prevailed and, because of it, so did the greatness of our nation.
Politics are never without conflict, and shouldn't be. Some of our nation's greatest ideas have been born through conflict and necessity. Good governing means moving toward resolution together -- it's never been an all-or-nothing approach. And it is this misshapen version of politics that has led us to our current political state: gridlocked, steeped in partisanship, and drowning in problems that should've been anticipated -- solved even -- decades ago.
Our nation was not built on partisan ideologies. It was built on a notion that there existed a place where freedom reigned, where ideas could be conceived, shared, explored and implemented. To relegate our nation's politics as without remedy is to shrug our shoulders at the history of our nation and walk away from the possibility of changing the declining state of what our government has become.
We are convinced that bipartisanship is not a relic of the past. We are not of the belief that Congress and the next president are stuck on this very same path of partisan gridlock.
And we are not alone.
Earlier this month, nearly 2,000 independent-minded New Hampshire voters gathered around this belief that the art of bipartisanship must return to governing by attending the No Labels Problem Solver Convention in Manchester. Eight presidential candidates attended, and, in spite of differing politics, all agreed that Washington is broken and needs to be fixed.
When No Labels gathered this powerful group of voters around the need to bring a problem solver into the Oval Office, we proved that bipartisanship is not an idea past its prime. Let's not allow those whose careers depend on partisanship decide the fate of our nation. Let's decide it for ourselves. Let's elect a problem solver in 2016.
Though not running for president, Joe Biden has made it clear that he will not be silent. We hope that means he will continue to promote the much-needed change in politics that we work for here at No Labels: Our nation's most urgent problems will only be solved by working together. This is the ultimate challenge facing the next president and members elected to the next Congress. By harnessing Biden's advice, it can be done.