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Bridging the Partisan Divide

by Michael Lee-Murphy | Apr 16, 2012 9:00am
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, Town News, Danbury

Michael Lee-Murphy photo

Tom Foley, David Walker, and Debra Hauser

DANBURY — Can we ever move beyond the partisan “bloodbath” of politics at the national level and begin to foster real cooperation to solve some of the country’s most vexing problems?

That’s the question for the No Labels movement, which seeks to change the tone of the American political conversation. One of its founders was on hand Saturday in Danbury to explain the effort.

David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was flanked by former (and possibly future) Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley at the Danbury public library to outline the movement’s goals.

The first step for making Congress work better in Walker’s mind?

If they don’t pass a budget on time, members don’t get paid.

“You cannot run any kind of enterprise successfully without a plan, a budget, and performance metrics. And the federal government has zero,” he said.

The “No Budget, No Pay” rule is the first of 12 steps outlined on the group’s website.

Most of the steps involve tweaking the way things are done in Congress, like making Republicans and Democrats sit together in chambers, ending negative campaigning against incumbents, and getting rid of pledges except for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Tom Foley, the former ambassador to Ireland who is planning on running for governor again in 2014, used the occasion to hype his Connecticut Policy Institute’s position paper on education reform, and also to decry the current state of politics in Hartford.

“We have one party government right now in Connecticut, so things are getting done. But many things that are getting done actually aren’t supported by the majority of voters,” he said.

Foley said he was a supporter of No Labels and commended Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on his education reform package.

“Talk about pissing off your own constituents and supporters. That’s a good way for a Dem to do it,” Foley said, referring to the back-and-forth between Malloy and the state’s two teacher unions regarding the education reforms.

The panel was supposed to feature U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who canceled because of a family scheduling conflict.

Murphy did send a letter though, saying that he leads the “Center Aisle Caucus, a small but growing bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats committed to finding common ground and making that place work a little better.”

The letter said he looks forward to attending another No Labels event.

Debra Hauser, a Yale psychologist who lost her 2010 bid for state representative, joined Walker and Foley on the panel Saturday.

Hauser said that she was “really taken aback by the process,” of seeking elected office. She described “being told what to say and how to say it. Not being able to really talk honestly about the things that I thought needed addressing.” Hauser said she felt she could not speak her mind about unions and unfunded pensions because of Democratic orthodoxy.

She now co-chairs the Connecticut chapter of No Labels, along with New Haven capital asset manager Brett Hellerman.

During a lengthy question and answer session, Leila Baroody of Lakeville said that while she was encouraged by the drive for bipartisan cooperation, she felt that the biggest issue was still the corrosive influence of money in politics, and asked Walker what he planned to do about it.

Walker suggested breaking up solidly Democratic or Republican districts to maximize competition, conduct runoff elections to minimize the power of primaries, and comprehensive campaign finance reform.

Walker had been recruited to run for U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s vacated seat, but declined to run in order to focus on his work with the No Labels movement.

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(6) Comments

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | April 16, 2012  10:55am

Almost all politicians are careerists, but for the Democrats this is a true profession.  Government is a full time passion.  Look at the histories of the key CT democrats.  Very very few of them have other lives (outside of being lawyers and those are often related to government).  For them to break ranks is like crossing a picket line.  It is perceived as threatening their very being.

Also most Republican voters (if not corporate rent seekers) want to be left alone and particularly want their income to be left to them.  So it’s difficult for them to cross the aisle to rob Peter to Pay paul.

posted by: Adamec | April 16, 2012  12:10pm

[url=“http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/kathryn-lehman-doma_n_1341775.html
“]Read more[/url].

WASHINGTON—It has been 16 years since Kathryn Lehman was a Republican Hill staffer working on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

“I remember Barney Frank saying at the time, ‘I don’t understand how me being married to my partner hurts your ability to be married,’” she recalls. “And I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, I don’t either.’”

Lehman, who was and still is staunchly conservative, decided after several months to start telling her peers about her relationship with Conway. Many worked for powerful Republican leaders in Congress. The first friend she told was in Hastert’s office; the next was in House Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s office. Both were supportive of her relationship. She went on to tell more friends, and none had a negative reaction. In fact, many were more concerned about something else besides her sexual orientation.

“They were like, ‘Well, tell us about Julie. Is she a Republican?’ I’m like, ‘Yes.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, okay,’” she says. “Honestly, that was it.”

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 16, 2012  12:22pm

GoatBoyPHD

One of the problems is the death of the party agenda Parties need to hold candidates to task for not voting in block to enact the agenda.

The other solution is simpler: more national referendums of party agenda items. Both in primaries and at election time. Binding referendums that craft the legislative agenda.

When renegades refuse to vote for the party agenda once in office they should be barred from the party and any campaign funding and impeached or recalled.

Education reform in CT would not be a problem if put up for vote to the population. The parental trigger would not be a problem. Vouchers and choice and enabling parents would be the law of the land.

Hazardous duty pensions at age 43?  Put that one to vote smile

Democracy is indeed part of the problem. The promise of democracy is compromised by timid solutions like No Labels. It’s one thing to hold back pay until the budget is passed; give the proposal some teeth and deduct and clawback pay for going over time. The budget sessions ran 20% OT? That’s a 20% payroll deduction.

CT is one of the states needing a refresher course in democracy. Bring referendums and democracy back to CT and many problems will be solved.

If anyone thinks the SEBAC mess and now with AFT and CEA is the way government should run are entirely out to lunch.

Taxpayers do not work for the unions. They really don’t. Not when democracy is practiced.

posted by: ... | April 16, 2012  12:34pm

...

We can move past partisanship to an extent. But there will always be core ideology. In a period of very dramatic social/economic change in our country, incivility is an unfortunate byproduct. It’s happened throughout our history, from the election of 1800 to the Civil war, from industrialization and mass immigration post-WWI to today’s globalized/interconnected economic shifts as a result of the internet.

Real social and economic change never comes without some controversy, especially in politics. But it should be the hope of our legislators to try and think above the politics that this evolution can bring about, and instead work to move policy and laws into the same stream of progress.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 16, 2012  12:55pm

GoatBoyPHD

Christine covered the Connecticut Citizens for Ballot Initiative in 2010

http://tinyurl.com/73ssyg7

and their web site has some good stuff.

http://site.letourvoicesbeheard.org/Home.html

It’s a shame we let the toadies rule the roost.

posted by: Reasonable | April 19, 2012  10:23am

Politics is held on the same plateau as religion—“so bridging the partisan divide is—almost futile.”