A Tale of Two Parties: Promoting Bipartisanship

Last week my friend at YGL Cara Ann Bumgardner wrote a blog about an awesome POLITICO event she attended that inspired her. She doesn’t have a GovLoop account, but wanted to share her experience:

“One of my favorite DC pastimes is going to events–especially of the political persuasion. Washington is teeming with opportunities to not only network with fellow young government leaders, but also observe political “celebrities” in intimate and personal settings. And sometimes what you get out of these experiences is not what you would have expected.

The POLITICO Playbook Breakfast series is a perfect example. Playbook Breakfasts are a monthly sit-down session where POLITICO Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen has a heart-to-heart with an important figure in the political, athletic, or social scene. During the conversation, guests are grilled not only on the issues of the day, but also on their personal preferences and even their fitness routines. (Because come on–who DOESN’T want to know how Paul Ryan maintains that six-pack?). Since POLITICO began hosting their Playbook Breakfasts in January of 2010, I have been to every single one except for Jack Lew, when I was out of town. It’s such a great experience to be able to see these figures up-close and personal, and to see how they behave when not surrounded by cameras and public scrutiny.

The Breakfasts that have become most memorable for me are the ones where my preconceived notions are shattered. For example, when I went to see Nancy Pelosi I expected her to be an aggressive, even combative, woman who was only interested in furthering her party’s message and making a name for herself. Turns out she’s the sweetest person and I walked out wondering how to make her my grandmother. I also relish the occasions where I observe a skill I’d like to espouse. Marco Rubio had the smoothest, butter-like speaking style and it made no difference that he was in a room full of 50 people rather than a national platform with millions of people watching. I walked away from that Breakfast wanting to brush up on my oratory skills and to adopt the undemanding rhetoric he seemed to naturally possess. Last year, Martin O’Malley and Bob McDonnell sat down for a joint Breakfast and revealed to Playbookers that while they root for different political teams, they are actually close friends who laugh together, confide in each other, and even play the occasional round of golf. That was a defining event for me, because it reminded me that even though we are bombarded with messages of partisanship and opposition, the people who represent us are, in fact, people. They can get along just like the rest of us, even if we don’t get to see it from where we sit.

On Wednesday, January 30th, I attended the most recent Playbook Breakfast. This time, Mike Allen was joined by Senators John McCain and Chuck Schumer. Admittedly, I had very low expectations for the pair, as they’re currently navigating the immigration debate and would undoubtedly use this event as a way to propel their case. I was stunned to find that not only did I thoroughly enjoy the playful banter of the two as they responded to questions about their immigration policies and their experiences in government, but I also enjoyed their rapport. Here was another surprising example of bipartisan cooperation from avid representatives of different parties. (One ran for President, for crying out loud). Schumer and McCain were both very open about how appreciative they were of the other, and at one point each commended the representatives of the opposing party for their willingness to collaborate and find solutions on immigration reform that would benefit the greater American good. It was incredible. There was no sense of scheming or manipulation in the praise; only a genuine sense of unanimity. These guys sincerely wanted to come to a consensus about immigration policy and both were willing to compromise to make it happen. After the event was over, my fellow young politicos and I discussed how refreshing it was to see agents of divergent parties come together and truly work on our behalf. This is something I think more young people need to witness—and then experience.

Being a GOLD fellow with Young Government Leaders has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in real discussions about the direction and mission of a government-centered organization. It has shown me that people can, and do, work together for the good of an entity regardless of political persuasion or opinion. The encounters I have already had as a GOLD fellow have confirmed that collaboration is not only possible in the government, but it is necessary for success.

In an era where hostility is trendy and conflict en vogue, young people are in an especially vulnerable position, and even more so if they are working in government. DC tends to foster feelings of rivalry—not just when it comes to our sports teams, but more so when it comes to politics—and our society amplifies and then glorifies that tension. For those of us who plan to pursue or continue a career with the government, it is important to be able to see these public figures in an authentic setting where media and advisors do not play a part in sculpting the message. We need to see our government leaders working together to achieve common goals—only then can we as young government leaders understand the true power of bipartisanship.

After all, two purple heads are better than one blue and one red.”

Have you attended a Playbook breakfast? Did you enjoy it?

Have you attended a different event recently that promoted bipartisanship?


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Joe Williams

It is my hope that more millennials can see our political leaders in action in similar settings, rather than the view typified by the media consisting of culled soundbite picked particularly to incite or further an agenda. During my year in DC I did not get the opportunity to attend a POLITICO Playbook Breakfast, but did get to visit the Hill and interact with political leaders and their staff. My experience, and that painted in the above article, are very refreshing compared with what we see regularly on TV, and I encourage all of you in DC to do like the author above and actually see the political leaders in action, out of the view of the cameras.