D.C. Partisanship or How I Learned to Stop Being Naïve and Embrace Party Politics
As I started to think about something to post I reflected on the many lessons I have learned as an intern in the past 6 weeks. I’ve learned the intricacies of the Metro, where and when to find the best food trucks, and that THOMAS, the Library of Congress’ bill search, is wonderful. However, if I were to boil down my most important lessons it is these: first, I should be much more partisan, second, I really appreciate bipartisanship. Allow me to explain.
Before actually seeing the “sausage” made I used to operate under the theory that I should vote for the “best” candidate. I’d find the one that was closest to me on the issues, but also important were factors like experience, judgment, trustworthiness, personality, and other intangible qualities. Party preference came after all of these factors. This was naïve and mistaken. I’ve learned that, while that sounds nice and maybe one day we’ll live in a happy utopia without partisanship, at the moment all I care about is getting a Democrat in office who will vote the way I want most of the time regardless of if they are the “best” in they way I thought about it previously. This may sound jaded, but what can I say, Washington has taught me to think this way. From the moment I started working here all I’ve heard on any issue that matters to me is, “if the congress were different” or “if the chairman would only call a bring it up for a vote.” The issues I’ve wanted to focus on such as anti-bullying legislation are brought to a standstill by the Republican Controlled House of Representatives. Even if, in theory, some of the Republicans are the kinds of leaders I would have considered voting for in my old way of thinking, now I know better. For example, I’ve now seen first hand how the committee structure is incredibly skewed towards party politics. The chairs of the committees wield immense power and they are hand picked by the party leadership. Unless there is some sort of major change in the way Washington works, it is hard for me to imagine not putting party first in a national election ever again.
I can hear your reaction now, “Wow, that’s incredibly cynical. Surely partisanship hasn’t consumed you entirely?” which brings me to my second and even more surprising lesson, I’m really grateful my efforts with the College Democrats failed. On Election Day 2010 you could find me with the rest of my college dems knocking on doors to reelect a blue-dog Democrat over a Republican challenger. Today, that Republican is one of the more moderate republicans on the hill and is cosponsoring the piece of legislation on which I have been lobbying, the Safe Schools Improvement Act. It is so much more valuable to have his and a few other moderate Republicans on the bill than if he had lost had just another Democrat had signed on. Going to my larger point, it would have been better if democrats had the House, but so long as they don’t I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have Republicans like this one every time I see a staffer’s eyes light up at the mention of “bipartisan support.” I also acknowledge that standing up to party norms is a tough thing to do, and I respect this. I honestly do respect bipartisanship.
I’m so glad I came to Washington. I have learned that this is where I want to work in my future. I’ve learned how much good a single organization and a coalition of partner organizations can do. But most of all, I’ve learned the importance of partisanship. Maybe I can translate this realization into an effort to change the system, make it so those things I used to value, good judgment, leadership, experience, are really what counts; for now, my D.C. lesson is: get everyone I can to vote for Democrats.