You’re Not Imagining It
It’s true: America is going through a period of really intense political polarization. These days, it often seems like Democrats and Republicans disagree about almost everything. And it wasn’t always that way.
What to do? Think of this way: imagine some of your friends love Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, while others love Chocolate Fudge Brownie. They could spend all day arguing about which is better, OR they could dig into Half Baked and realize that sometimes compromise is a beautiful, and delicious, thing. We believe the best answers to the challenges our country faces will come from a culture of bipartisanship — finding the Half Baked equivalent of any political topic and digging in with spoons from both sides of the aisle.
But before you start thinking that bipartisanship is some kind of half-baked idea, take a look at these ten amazing bipartisan solutions that have inspired us.
1964: Guaranteeing Civil Rights
The whole country was roiled by protests and violence in the 1960s. The civil rights movement was underway and in retrospect it appears that the Civil Rights Act was all but inevitable. But it took acts of great political courage and patriotism from senators on both sides of the aisle to break a Democratic-led filibuster and pass this landmark law.
1973: Saving All the Animals
The Endangered Species Act was signed by a Republican president (Nixon!) with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. It is one of the most effective environmental laws ever passed in the United States and has saved hundreds of species from extinction, including our national symbol, the bald eagle.
1983: Grabbing the “Third Rail”
Social Security, born in the Great Depression and seen as one of the country’s most successful social programs, has nonetheless long been considered the “third rail” of politics—anyone who tried to reform it got scorched. Senator Bob Dole and Democratic Senator Daniel Moynihan grabbed the rail with both hands and forged a hard-won compromise that brought both sides together to keep the program afloat.
1990: Ensuring Equal Rights for the Disabled
It’s hard to believe now that the rights of Americans with disabilities weren’t protected under federal law until 1990. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a testament to the power of bipartisanship: Sponsored in the Senate by a Republican and in the House by a Democrat, it passed both (Democrat-controlled) houses of Congress and was signed by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush.
2002: Fighting Money in Politics
Campaign finance reform, worse in every way since the Supreme Court’s awful Citizens United ruling, is a giant issue in US politics. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and Republican Senator John McCain wanted to do something about it back in 2002 too. Their compromise, signed by President George W. Bush, banned soft money and set contribution limits, but its legacy remains controversial.
2006: Backing Voting Rights
It’s hard to get more bipartisan than a unanimous vote. When the Voting Rights Act was up for a 25-year extension in 2006, every single senator present that day voted for it. It passed 98-0! So, in the years since the Supreme Court gutted the landmark law, why has it been so difficult to drum up much bipartisan support for restoring the VRA?
2015: Improving Education
The No Child Left Behind Act passed with huge bipartisan support in 2001 and was signed by President Bush into law. But it always had a lot of critics. In 2015, both parties came together again, in what President Obama called a “Christmas miracle,” to reform it. The new law reduces Washington, DC’s role in education, returning a lot of power to states and local school boards.
2016: Feeding the Hungry
It’s hard to imagine a Congress more divided along party lines than the one we have right now, yet Republicans and Democrats put their differences aside to pass the Global Food Security Act. 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger—this act seeks to feed them and develop strategies to keep them fed.
Ongoing: Combating Climate Change
Research shows that there’s a (rapidly warming) ocean between the parties when it comes to how they view climate change. But that hasn’t stopped some intriguing bipartisan partnerships from forming. For example, the Climate Solutions Caucus was recently created by two congressman from Florida, a Republican and a Democratic. And a conservative Republican, former congressman Bob Inglis (South Carolina), founded an initiative at George Mason University to study free-market solutions to climate change. We hope that these efforts eventually lead to solutions that everyone can rally around.
Bipartisanship isn’t just something that happened in decades past. There are people today, right now, in Washington, DC, and all around the country working hard and working together to confront the greatest challenges of our time. Let’s hope that we can find more examples of this collaborative spirit to celebrate in the years to come.