Tom Foley’s passing recalls the bipartisan spirit of a bygone era

By Robert H. Michel, Washington Post, October 20, 2013

(Robert H. Michel, a Republican, represented Illinois in the U.S. House from 1957 to 1995. He was Republican leader from 1981 to 1995. Thomas Foley represented Washington in the U. S. House as a Democrats from 1965 to 1995 and was Speaker of the House from 1989 to 1995 when he was defeated for reelection during the Gingrich Revolution. Newt Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, succeeded him as Speaker.)

Excerpt  

Speaker Tom Foleysaid it was a tragedy that our fellow citizens don’t see the full dimensions of the House, because “of all the institutions of public life it is in the Congress, and particularly in the House, where the judgment, the hopes, the concerns and the ambitions of the people are made for the future.” He said that members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure that the public sees what the institution means to our democracy.

It is a sad footnote to Tom’s death last week [October 18, 2013) that the Senate and the House of Representatives, the crown jewel of our democratic republic, are held in lower esteem by the public than at practically any time since those records have been kept.

Tom Foley’s stewardship of the House was a reaffirmation of what the Founding Fathers intended. He was a partisan, but he was fair, intellectually honest and decent. He was a master of legislative procedure and an excellent political strategist. His most important virtue, however, was his trustworthiness. His word was his bond. And in relationships between leaders, nothing is more important than trust…The House was truly a deliberative democratic body that day.

Tom had a natural affinity for the legislative process. He understood its politics, personality and distinctive culture. He was dedicated to preserving the institution, which he knew was being challenged by turbulent political winds and growing partisan stridency…This was during the ascendency of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a stout legion of new members loyal to him. Tom knew that change required a delicate balance of resistance and accommodation, sound judgment, good temperament and, most of all, a healthy appreciation for history’s lessons about transitions in power…

Full text

Try as he might, Speaker Tom Foley could not gavel the House to order. It was Nov. 29, 1994, the last day of the 103rd Congress. I had just offered a resolution honoring him, and the speaker was being given a standing ovation for his 30 years of service. Our fellow members would not sit or quiet down.

It was a fitting tribute to a great public servant who assumed the mantle of leadership in the House at a difficult time.

Tom had just been defeated for reelection, and I was retiring. In an unprecedented gesture of goodwill and comity, Tom invited me to assume the chair on the speaker’s podium while he gave his farewell address. For the first time in 40 years, a Republican presided over the House, if only for a few minutes.

Tom’s remarks were eloquent. But one comment struck me then and came to mind again recently amid all the rancor and partisan brinkmanship our country can ill afford.

Tom said it was a tragedy that our fellow citizens don’t see the full dimensions of the House, because “of all the institutions of public life it is in the Congress, and particularly in the House, where the judgment, the hopes, the concerns and the ambitions of the people are made for the future.” He said that members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure that the public sees what the institution means to our democracy.

It is a sad footnote to Tom’s death last week that the Senate and the House of Representatives, the crown jewel of our democratic republic, are held in lower esteem by the public than at practically any time since those records have been kept.

Tom Foley’s stewardship of the House was a reaffirmation of what the Founding Fathers intended. He was a partisan, but he was fair, intellectually honest and decent. He was a master of legislative procedure and an excellent political strategist. His most important virtue, however, was his trustworthiness. His word was his bond. And in relationships between leaders, nothing is more important than trust.

When Tom became speaker, he suggested that we get together once a week to discuss matters before the House. One week, he said, I will come to your office, and the next you can come to mine. We did that regularly. We had disagreements over policy and we pushed and pulled politically, but the hallmark of our conversations was the trust underlying them. We could talk about anything, knowing that our discussions would remain private unless we decided otherwise. We had some very personal and delicate exchanges and never compromised their confidentiality.

The meetings themselves were a rarity in Washington. House Speaker Carl Albert and Minority Leader Gerry Ford used to park themselves on a bench just off the House floor and talk, but so far as I know the regular meetings Tom and I had in our offices have not been repeated since.

Tom and I last spoke four days before he died. We recalled one of the toughest tests of our relationship. It occurred in 1991 over Operation Desert Storm. It was important to President George H.W. Bush that Congress authorize military action over Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait. Rep. Steve Solarz (D-N.Y.) and I introduced a resolution authorizing military action. This was an agonizing decision for me, having served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II. Sending Americans into combat is always tough. Tom harbored personal reservations about military intervention, and a substantial number in his caucus strongly opposed an invasion. Allowing the resolution to go to the floor for open debate and a recorded vote took political courage and personal decency. The debate that ensued did the country proud. The House was truly a deliberative democratic body that day.

Tom had a natural affinity for the legislative process. He understood its politics, personality and distinctive culture. He was dedicated to preserving the institution, which he knew was being challenged by turbulent political winds and growing partisan stridency. As speaker, he had replaced Jim Wright (D-Tex.), himself a tough partisan who had been forced from office. This was during the ascendency of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a stout legion of new members loyal to him. Tom knew that change required a delicate balance of resistance and accommodation, sound judgment, good temperament and, most of all, a healthy appreciation for history’s lessons about transitions in power.

Tom and I conversed many times publicly and privately after leaving Congress. In all of those exchanges, we agreed on how to govern, how to get decisions made and how to find reasonable solutions to difficult problems.

We were too conditioned by our personal and political upbringing to assume that we had the market cornered on political principle or partisan superiority. We knew, too, that there should always be a distinction, and separation, between campaigning for office and serving in office. We were pupils of the old school.

When we stood side by side at the speaker’s podium on the last day of the 103rd Congress, political adversaries but personal friends, we knew that we were icons of a bygone era. As we visited last week, almost 20 years later, I think we both felt good about that. We both took great pride in knowing we had made things happen. I hope the past turns out to be prologue, and I think Tom would have agreed.

Read more on this topic: Chris Matthews: Breaking the deadlock on Pennsylvania Avenue Eric Cantor: Divided government requires bipartisan negotiation Joseph A. Morris: Shutdowns have been frequent tools of policy. Just ask Reagan. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein: Our fantasy is a Congress that gets stuff done

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tom-foleys-passing-recalls-the-bipartisan-spirit-of-a-bygone-era/2013/10/20/897201ca-39ab-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

How do you vote for compromise?

by E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, October 31, 2012

Excerpt

How do you vote for compromise? by E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post, October 31, 2012

Here’s where we have arrived as a country: We are so polarized that even compromise has become a partisan issue.

As the 2012 campaign closes, bipartisanship and “working together” are more in vogue than ever because the few voters still up for grabs tend to be more moderate, less partisan and less ideological.

But beneath the last-minute embrace of comity lurks a central fact about American politics now: Democrats, a more moderate and diverse party, believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.

While polls find that six in 10 Democrats regard themselves as moderate or conservative, nearly three-quarters of Republicans say they are conservative. And tea-party Republicans, who loom so large in primaries, are especially averse to giving any ground.

Moreover, Democrats still have a positive view of government and regard trade-offs between taxes and spending as a normal part of governing. Republicans care most about reducing government’s size and in cutting taxes. They’re prepared to accept standoffs and crises to reach those goals…

Full text

Here’s where we have arrived as a country: We are so polarized that even compromise has become a partisan issue.

As the 2012 campaign closes, bipartisanship and “working together” are more in vogue than ever because the few voters still up for grabs tend to be more moderate, less partisan and less ideological.

But beneath the last-minute embrace of comity lurks a central fact about American politics now: Democrats, a more moderate and diverse party, believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.

While polls find that six in 10 Democrats regard themselves as moderate or conservative, nearly three-quarters of Republicans say they are conservative. And tea-party Republicans, who loom so large in primaries, are especially averse to giving any ground.

Moreover, Democrats still have a positive view of government and regard trade-offs between taxes and spending as a normal part of governing. Republicans care most about reducing government’s size and in cutting taxes. They’re prepared to accept standoffs and crises to reach those goals.

No Republican better summarized this sentiment than Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who defeated moderately conservative Sen. Richard Lugar in a Republican primary and is now best known for his comments on God’s will and rape.

“What I’ve said about compromise and bipartisanship” Mourdock said on CNN last May, is that “I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes and get America moving again.” When it was noted that this didn’t sound like compromise, Mourdock replied: “Well, it is the definition of political effectiveness.”

The split on compromise itself is visible in many other contests this fall, and none more than in the Virginia Senate battle between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen.

Kaine has made working across party lines a central theme of his campaign. Allen has put a lot of energy into linking Kaine to President Obama. He has also criticized Kaine for endorsing the compromise that helped avoid a crisis during last year’s debt-ceiling battle because of the defense cuts it contained. These would take effect only if Congress fails to reach — well, a compromise after the election.

Kaine argues that avoiding default was essential and that voters seem to agree with him. The latest Post poll found Kaine leading Allen by seven points while Obama leads inVirginia by four.

In his discussions with voters, Kaine said in an interview, “the three questions I get most are: How do we accelerate the economy? How do we fix the budget? And how do we find common ground? Of the three, the one that comes up the most is the third one.”

Even in audiences that are “100 percent Democrats,” Kaine added, “they respond viscerally and warmly to the idea of ‘Let’s find an MO to work together.’ ”

No surprise here, because polls show Democrats are consistently more pro-compromise. This partisan difference was especially visible — and consequential — during last year’s debt-ceiling fight. In April 2011, as the battle was taking shape, a Pew survey found that 69 percent of Democrats supported the idea of their own side making compromises. Among Republicans, by contrast, 50 percent preferred their side to “stand by their principles.” The anti-compromise number rose to 56 percent among conservative Republicans and to 68 percent among Republican or Republican-leaning independents who supported the tea party. Sympathy for compromise has risen since then, but the gap between the parties endures.

It’s true that politicians running in states dominated by the opposing party are, by necessity, less partisan. InMassachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who is running behind Democrat and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, brags about votes he has cast with Democrats.

Two Democrats running strong races in Republican territory, Heidi Heitkamp inNorth Dakotaand Bob Kerrey inNebraska, play down party all they can. In one ad, Heitkamp pledges to “put partisanship aside and do what’s right for our country.” Kerrey closes his latest spot declaring that “we need to put country ahead of party.”

But their cases underscore why Democrats will remain the more pro-compromise party for some time: To hold their Senate majority, Democrats need to keep winning in smaller and rural states that lean Republican. Republicans almost everywhere — Brown is the exception — now live in fear of losing primaries to tea-party candidates such as Mourdock.

Thus is compromise on the ballot next week. But only one side seems genuinely interested in reaching it.

ejdionne@washpost.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-jr-how-do-you-vote-for-compromise/2012/10/31/4e9c6ef6-238f-11e2-8448-81b1ce7d6978_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

Promoting Progressive Values

From Commonweal Institute

Why Values Matter

We all have values, but we don’t all talk about them. Progressives, in particular, are often more inclined to talk about policy and programs than their personal stories and the values that motivate them. We’re missing opportunities to connect with others if we do not express our values.

To a great degree, people decide whom to trust, whom to believe, based on feelings of similarity or kinship – and also on values. Superficial similarities, such as age, sex, clothing, language, are often taken to imply a greater likelihood of similar world view and values.

Polls show that a great many Americans are tired of cultural division and animosity. They seek to move back toward more tolerance and mutual understanding—a greater sense of our common values as Americans–as our country seeks to deal with its present challenges and those of the future.

Values matter to us as individuals as we seek to restore a sense of shared interests, values, and commitment in our society. Each of us can be a part of that healing process. To do that, it is not enough to talk about programs or policies – we need to talk about how we see ourselves as Americans, what are hopes are for the future, and what we have in common with those we’re speaking with.

Progressive Values

Defining the values that underlie and unite the Left has become an urgent question in the past few years. We have come to recognize that, to a great degree, our political choices emerge from our sense of cultural identity and our emotional responses to stories and images, not from ‘rational’ cost-benefit analyses.

Modern Progressive Values: Realizing America’s Potential [1], an analysis of contemporary progressive thought by Institute Fellow Kyle Gillette, was written with the intention of enabling progressives to come together around a common values platform. Dr. Gillette’s report consolidates the work of many other groups and individuals, who have used a variety of methodologies during the past decade to create lists of values. These lists had many similarities, but differences, too. Gillette analyzed their work to identify a set of six core value clusters (three pairs) that define modern progressive thought. 

While each of these six terms might also be used by conservatives, progressives define them differently. Several tendencies, or ‘moral intuitions’, mark these values as different for progressives than for conservatives. These include empathy and responsibility, a proclivity for non-hierarchical patterns, pragmatic attention to real-world problems, acceptance of diversity, and recognition of interdependence.   

These attitudes distinguish the six core values in ways that are uniquely progressive and ground them in human emotion and behavior. Like all values, they are experienced and expressed through emotions, images, narratives, and action.

Freedom / Security

These two core values describe what progressives value for individuals, including what the state allows its citizens to do (speak, marry, travel, etc) and what it protects its citizens from (violence, exploitation, illness, and so on).

Freedom. When progressives say they value Freedom, they mean that they value the Freedom for individuals to do what they wish and to pursue desirable opportunities. Because they respect individual autonomy in matters of political views, religion, and sexuality, progressives believe that the government should give individuals Freedom of choice and speech and allow people to determine the course of their own lives. Freedom extends also to the collective self-determination upon which representative democracy is founded. The differences between what progressives and conservatives mean by “Freedom” have to do with the role of empathy and responsibility, and the definition of who counts as an individual. Progressives value the Freedom to succeed and determine one’s own life, but also Freedom from systems that, left unchecked, create unjust imbalances in economic status.

Security. When progressives say they value Security, they mean that they value Freedom from illness, hunger, violence, war, chance disasters, poverty, exploitation and ignorance. While progressives respect the power of the “free market”, they consider protection from capitalism’s excesses and exploitations crucial to being “free”, since progressives believe that one of the essential roles of government is to provide security against the harm and the vicissitudes of fate. Since such protection is not free, they support taxation for the purpose of providing Security against fate, even if taxation lessens individuals’ right to do what they choose with their money. Security also extends to threats from non-human actors such as natural disasters, illness, and the like. This is why the left regularly promotes policies that benefit emergency response infrastructure, public health, universal healthcare, and social security.

Community / The Commons

This pair of values refers to how citizens relate to one another as groups, and how those groups relate to the resources we all share.

Community. For progressives, to value Community means to value people, human bons, social structures, and healthy families. Progressives particularly value communities characterized by creativity, equality, diversity, and a strong sense of mutual interdependence. It is this “mutuality” more than any other concept that differentiates progressive Community from conservative Community.

Progressives believe that individuals must be responsible, but not only for themselves. Society is responsible for every individual and every individual is responsible for society. Moreover, every individual is responsible for every other individual – it is not merely a bureaucratic or autocratic but more basically a human principle. While conservatives often depict this strong progressive notion of interdependence as a form of socialism, the key human feature derives from empathy and responsibility. Progressives, in contrast to conservatives, value communities in which rules are questioned — where the material demands of the present trump following traditional rules for the mere sake of tradition. The progressive worldview is distinct from both liberalism and conservatism in the sense that it attends more directly to concrete needs than to abstract concepts.

The Commons. The Commons are what we share, what no one can claim as private property and what all of us need to live healthy, happy lives. We need The Commons as individuals and our communities need to use The Commons effectively in order to function and thrive. The Commons include the environment, transportation and power infrastructure, healthcare system, electronic commons, education, language, and cultural heritage. Our government, created by and responsible to the citizenry, is also part of The Commons. What differentiates the progressive value of The Commons is our proclivity to share – to recognize, for example, that not only our families, cities, or countries need access, but that all people do. Progressives recognize that all humans have The Commons in common. To the degree that some individuals exploit the environment more than others, or devote less labor to its preservation, they violate the moral imperative that results from the progressive value of The Commons. Another difference from the conservative view regarding The Commons lies in the size of the Community and the longevity of its benefits. Progressive policies place a much greater emphasis on providing a livable world for future generations.

Truth / Justice

This pair of values pertains to the formal structures of language and law, and is rooted in progressives’ commitment to reason, transparency, and fairness.

Truth. Truth includes not only facts but also more generally a stance of honesty and integrity, transparency in government, and a strong commitment to reason. The progressive version of Truth places a distinct emphasis on telling citizens what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

The progressive value of Freedom, though genuine and complete unto itself, both depends upon and supports the value of Truth. Freedoms of speech and the press are only free when what is said or written is true; lies fall under libel and slander laws. Rather than interpreting data according to preconceived ideological positions, even if said positions might support other progressive values, this value of Truth dictates a strong progressive desire for objective and rational analysis. Reason and accuracy, far from being only ideological concepts, are vital to progressivism’s pragmatic character.

Justice. Progressives believe that everyone should play fair, and that the terms of fairness derive neither from birthright nor from mere convention or tradition. The terms of fairness derive rather from a rational sense of Justice that lies beyond power, beyond privilege, and even beyond the traditions established by legal precedent. Progressives gauge the Justice of a law based not merely on its effectiveness at advancing progressive causes or its acceptability within existing legal frameworks, but also and more importantly on the degree to which it makes rational sense, to which it is fair. Justice is akin to Truth’s formal consistency but operates in the realm of the world as it is legislated and lived.

Progressive Values Are American Values

Progressive values are fundamental American values. As the Center for American Progress says [2], “[M]any Americans are positively predisposed toward progressivism as an ideology but… many people remain unaware of its proud past and vision for the future. Progressive reformers at the turn of the 20th century led the charge to create decent working conditions; challenge corporate abuse and special privileges for the wealthy; ensure full equality under law; pass social benefits for the poor, elderly, and unemployed; promote humanitarianism and cooperative security; and implement public interest regulations to protect our natural resources, ensure safe food and medicines, and pave the way for a more humane and efficient economy. These reforms set the stage for broad-based economic growth and increased political equality throughout the 20th century.”

Act on Your Values

Figure out what your values are. If you start with what you care about, ask yourself WHY you care about that. What do you want to have happen in our society? What are you afraid will happen if your values are not acted upon?

Tell stories about how you got your values. Example: “My mom taught me the Golden Rule. That gave me the idea that everyone in our society is basically the same underneath – we all deserve fairness and respect.” When you’re aware of your personal stories, you can bring them into conversations with others. This may lead those people, in turn, to think about their own values and where they got them from.

Be influential [3]. Find ways to join public conversations through which you can spread your progressive values.

Read the full report Modern Progressive Values: Realizing America’s Potential