On Friday, April 20th, I attended a panel held at Hofstra in the Cultural Center Theater called “How Washington Works.” This panel featured members of Congress, as well as a faculty representative from Hofstra’s Public Policy and Global Studies Department, Meena Bose. The members of Congress included Congressman Tom MacArthur, a Republican who represents New Jersey’s 3rd district, Howard B. Dean III, a physician, author and retired politician who was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, and Ed Rollins, a campaign consultant and advisor who was the National Campaign Director for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign.
I’m not typically the kind of person who enjoys heavy political discussion. I tend to keep quiet about politics most of the time because I avoid confrontation like the PLAGUE, but this panel was a great experience for me to go out of my comfort zone and attend an event that was strictly political. Granted, I did have to attend this event for a class, but I enjoyed it, and I thought the topic of conversation was important.
Photo courtesy of Madeline Merinuk
The panel was titled “How Washington Works”, and a big portion of the discussion centered around the importance of bipartisanship in government, which is a very prominent issue in our government today. One reason why there isn’t much progress being made in Washington is because of the divisiveness that has been created between political parties over the past few years. The panelists shared their opinions on this issue.
Tom MacArthur, a Republican, said that “we live in the most connected and disconnected era perhaps ever.” He stressed his concerns about the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, but he still fears that as we approach the midterm elections, it will only get worse. “Our issues are very complicated and people are trying to figure out whether you’re reasonable or not… and people determine that based on your view of social issues,” MacArthur stated.
Ed Rollins, a Democrat, was next to speak on this issue. He began by explaining that he has heard discussion of how people think that the current state of our country is worse than when the Watergate scandal occurred back in 1972. His response: “Let me remind you of Watergate.” Although the current state of our nation is incomparable to Watergate, Rollins comments on the inhospitable nature that is obvious in Washington today. “Staffers don’t talk to each other, members don’t talk to each other… there’s this negativism that’s all come about in the past 4 years,” he said. He clearly expressed his disapproval of the divisive nature of Washington, explaining that elections are always a key factor in the further division of political parties. “The party that loses the White House… is very intense,” said Rollins.
Howard Dean, the next panelist who is also a Democrat, began by stating, “This is the most gerrymandered Congress we’ve ever had.” His statements were similar to Rollins’, repeating the notion that our Congress, as it stands, is unproductive due to the political impasse we’ve reached.
I listened to this panel of political figures, thinking to myself, “How can we move past this political standstill?” One solution that MacArthur discussed was improving our social media personas. “There is ugliness in these Twitter and Facebook posts… it is very easy as a public figure to respond unkindly, but we have to lead by example… We have a responsibility to use these tools constructively,” MacArthur explained. This point really resonated with me. There needs to be more face-to-face discussion, and less arguments over social media. Rollins addressed this issue by saying, “There has to be a mind change… obviously our President is not going to change his style. For two years, Trump has dominated every form of media coverage.”
The “How Washington Works” panel opened my eyes to the severity of this issue. I already knew it existed, but it was interesting to hear political officials that represented different parties speak on it. There is not enough face-to-face communication, and there needs to be a certain level of acceptance among parties. Hopefully one day, we will reach a point as a nation where we will be united, not divided.