From brutal campaign ads to personal attacks to the not-so-friendly moniker Barrack Hussein, the battlefield of politics has been particularly nasty in recent years.
Such nastiness is rooted in rigid partisanship, which has contributed to an endemic inability of lawmakers of different parties to work with one another.
In the midst of this national fiasco, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy hosted its inaugural symposium on Monday. The symposium featured a panel discussion with politicians including Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, which stressed the importance of, as USC President C.L. Max Nikias put it, coming together “beyond the poisonous atmosphere of partisanship.”
This is a refreshing message to hear from political figures.
Starting in 2008, progress on essential health care reform was at a standstill for months because Republicans and Democrats refused to budge from their respective platforms’ positions on the issue. Mitt Romney has been called a “perfectly lubricated weathervane” for his flip-flops on issues such as abortion, gun control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—most likely so that he could adhere more closely to his party’s strict expectations.
Panelist and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist, noted how this divide extends even into the realm of basic human decency. Crist was once chewed out by fellow Republicans for hugging President Obama.
As long as political parties continue to vilify their members for attempts at cooperation, compromise and simple respect, Washington will only become more dishonest, more closed-minded and more feral. The Symposium must be the first of many high-profile assemblies to advocate against this phenomenon, or the situation will quickly worsen.
Whether the players present at the symposium will follow their own advice remains to be seen, but someone in power needs to take their words to heart—before the entire American democratic process is so divisive as to be entirely stagnant.