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Dan Glickman: Make BiPartisanship Not War of Rancor
Written by  // Tuesday, 01 November 2011 13:02 //

Dan GlickmanWe're been educated by Fox News, Rush and MSNBC;  We are now debating Tea Party versus Occupy Wall Street?  The extremes appear to be wagging the middle, not the other way around.  We're facing a tenacious debate over national debt, unable to help the fate of the unemployed millions coping with a miserable economy getting even worse.  Our politicians in an election season offer bromides which many claim are the problems, not the solutions.  Amid the backdrop, a few a voice of moderation seeks to forge solutions within a political atmosphere crying for heads to fall.  

 One of those voices is Dan Glickman, the former Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton. Glickman and other members of the the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) who are trying to find common solutions to problems before the government and society is tor at its seams.  

BPC was formed in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell to develop and promote bipartisan solutions to the country’s problems and to promote civility in government.

 Glickman and other members of the Bipartisan Policy Center will be in New Orleans for its Third Annual Political conference entitled BPC's Third Annual Political Summit: Taking the Poison Out of Partisanship is scheduled for November 15-16 at Tulane University Tulane University (Freeman Auditorium & the Kendall Cram Room, Lavin-Bernick Center).

In advance of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) annual summit, Bayoubuzz interviewed Glickman about the hostile US political environment.

Here is a summary of the interview by Bayoubuzz's publisher, Stephen Sabludowsky.  To hear the entire interview, click here.

So I understand you’re coming down to New Orleans again for the annual political summit.

I am yes.

So it’s called taking the poison out of partisanship.

That’s what we’re trying to do. I don’t know how successful will be but I call it the Lord’s work.

Why are things so poisonous right now? I think everyone can agree to that.

American politics has always been bitter and somewhat partisan and somewhat personal. I think the difference now is that we’re having great difficulty to come together across party lines to solve problems. Whether it’s amount of money in politics, whether it’s the nature of the 24/7 news cycle and a lot more advocacy news that’s on there, whether it is the failure of leadership at all levels, it’s difficult to know why but things are much more bitter than they were a long time ago and yet the problems are more serious. Certainly most members of congress wants the system to work well, it’s not a partisan thing at all. So this New Orleans event is a chance to get political folks, media folks and others interested to sit and talk about ways to make out American political system work better.

Some people feel the American dream is gone, is dead? Do you share that feeling?

No, absolutely not. I think it’s more complicated because we have a lot more competition in the world than we used to have. Fifty years ago, America was the center of almost all economic development in the world. Today, we have China, India, the emerging economies but we still have very, very significant strengths and competitive advantages including a terrific system of higher education, an innovative entrepreneurial spirit which affects the country very strongly and we have natural resources that a lot of others don’t have. Culturally we’re a can do country. I would say we’re facing more competition than ever before but American dream is still alive. Our political system has to be resilient enough to address some of the problems that we have today. That’s one of things that we’re going to look at, at this conference.

Any thoughts on how the political system can we address those issues that we just talked about?

Well, from a perhaps a more philosophical level trying to find ways to restore civility and thoughtfulness into our political system. We don’t have a system that’s always focused on conflict and destruction. There a lots of ways, historically a lot of social interaction between politicians particularly members of congress from both parties. That is no longer as intense as it once was. We have to find a way to come together in a less bitter environment. When I was in Congress, we went to work five days a week in Washington and most of our families lived in Washington so we socialized with the other side. Today, most members of Congress’ families live at home. Their kids live in their districts. They travel up and may spend two and half days a week up in Washington and then they travel home. That doesn’t foster the type of relationship building they we need to do. There are some rules in the House and the Senate that make it a lot more difficult to reach across party lines to reach common ground. There are a lot of things I think we can do. I also think the frenetic search for campaign funds is different than when I was Congress 30-35 years. Yes, we had to raise money, but it wasn’t the essence of lives. Today, a lot folks both Republicans and Democrats spend almost nothing else in time but raising money to stay where they are. The Supreme Court has ruled that you can almost have unlimited money in politics today. That just complicates the lives of the people who are want to come up and do the public’s work, the public’s business. I’m not giving you all the answers but I’m giving you a few that I think are important.

If you had a MAGIC WAND to be able to make a change prior to this upcoming election, or let’s  say for the next four years, what would it be to reduce the rancor and improve bipartisanship?

I think it’s more than one thing. We have to find a way for president and congress react more positively towards each other so it’s not a game. People who are elected are trustees of the public they’re like fiduciaries and we got to find ways for them to act more like fiduciaries. So it may be trying to get the executive branch and members of Congress together more on a less confrontational basis. Certainly in the next 12-14 months we’re probably not going to see anything radical happen on our political process. Ultimately the public is going have to demand this and the public is going to have say to they’re politicians “we’re tired of the bickering, and the fighting and the screaming. We want you folks to work together to solve our country’s problems. Granted the problems are difficult and granted there are great ideological differences between parties on some of these issues, but we want you to reach a consensus.” One thing I’m beginning to feel a little more is the public is rising up and saying they don’t like where things are going. Ultimately that will be the best arbiter of all this. If the public does that, then the media will follow and the political professionals will follow.

We have that going on. We have the Tea party/ Occupy Wall Street crowd that are standing up.  Some think it’s the extreme standing up and not the middle class? Do you agree with that? Do you think this is good or bad?

I think the tea party and the movement on the left reflect anxieties and frustration that our political systems are not working as well as it should. Most people in this country do not belong to either side. Most people in this country don’t protest publicly. I think the vast middle of America does need to exert their influence more than they have in the past. We may be entering a period of more activism on the part of what I call the “Great Middle America.” We want to see debt reduced we want to see education improved.  We want to see level of job anxiety dropped back. Our political system, this is just a thought I had. We have what we call separation of power in America. We meant that we divide power in this country. We divide it between the house and the senate, we divide it between the president and congress. The reason why they did that 200 years ago is because they did not want a strong central government. They wanted to make it tough to solve problems in the country not too easy. So it makes it tough to reach consensus. The danger is if we don’t work together to solve problems America will become a much weaker nation. They are countries are soon like us that will fall and then to rise. That’s the danger if we don’t work on this seriously. So a conference like what we’re doing in New Orleans allows us an opportunity because there will be Republicans and Democrats there and even some independent types there that will say what are the kind of things we can do to make this system work better.  

Stephen Sabludowskyby Stephen Sabludowsky

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