TALK TO A REPUBLICAN

RON WYDEN

The increasing conflation of governing and campaigning only feeds the view that Democrats and Republicans are on the opposite sides of everything. Each side starts thinking of the other like the enemy, and bipartisanship gets portrayed as capitulation. Reach out to someone in the other camp and you risk being branded a “traitor.” The problem with this is that governing isn’t like campaigning. Treating legislating like a zero-sum game in which both sides try to score points while preventing the other side from gaining anything tends to result in legislation that doesn’t do much for anyone, including the American people, who grow more frustrated with Congress’s inability to solve problems. Refusing to talk to the other side also neglects the fact that every issue doesn’t have a diametrically opposed Democratic and Republican point of view, nor does either party have a lock on all the good ideas. The Tax Reform Act of 1986, for example, infuriated some of the biggest special interest groups in Washington in an election year. Democrats and Republicans, however, both cheered the agreement — it passed the Senate Finance Committee by a vote of 20 to 0 — because both parties got what they wanted. You don’t have to compromise your principles or even like the other side. To get what you want, find a way for the other side to get what they want, too. This means talking “to” the other side vs. “at” them, listening to the other side’s concerns, and finding ways to address them and understanding what the other side really wants and looking for ways to achieve it. • Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) has co-sponsored more than 150 bipartisan bills.

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