The Fall Senate Presidents’ Forum considered the impact of partisan politics on the mid-term elections and heard expert recommendations on strategies for collaborating across the political divide. Noted political analyst Charlie Cook, who is Editor and Publisher of The Cook Political Report, emphasized that both Republicans and Democrats face challenges in the elections later this year. The Republicans face hurdles related to demographics because they have not won over increasingly significant segments of the electorate, including minority voters, young voters, and women who do not have children, all of whom tend to favor Democrats. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are burdened with the challenges of incumbency, such as President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the perception that he has not been able to build a unified government in the face of economic and security threats. Mr. Cook assessed the potential changes in composition of the US House and Senate after the mid-term elections and commented on potential candidates for the 2016 Presidential race.
Continuing the assessment of polarizing forces, Michael Dimock, Vice President for Research at the Pew Research Center, reported that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades. Republican and Democratic voters are split not only over their candidate preferences, but also about the importance of key issues, with Republicans focused on foreign policy, the budget deficit and immigration, while only about half of Democrats feel these issues are quite important while the remainder are more worried about the environment and economic inequality. Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican. Meanwhile those in the center are not ideologues for one party or another, and they may express conservative or liberal views depending on the issue. They are engaged in life, not politics. Centrists, therefore, remain on the edges of the political playing field, while the most ideologically oriented and politically rancorous Americans make their voices heard, Mr. Dimock reported.
Dr. Jared Harris, a Professor in the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, presented the Forum with an exercise designed to model best practices for collaborating in the age of polarization. Groups made up of participants with diverse views were challenged to cooperate in a group activity. Successful groups worked in total collaboration, all hands working together cooperatively based on the different skill set of each participant. “Successful groups are iterative,” Dr. Harris said. “They try prototyping, they make mistakes, and they learn from them. Diversity of experience and ideas improves the collaboration.” Participants explored the applications of these strategies to their Senate processes and discussed the impediments to collaboration, noting that different goals, lack of trust, and positioning for external political advantage can derail collaborative efforts and distract from problem-solving. Dr. Harris reported that people across all cultures consistently identify as their top values honesty, integrity, family, and loyalty. Senators agreed that these shared values suggest a path forward to more collaborative interactions. They commented on the value of their building bridges to get to know one another through social activities such as dinners and events.
The Fall Forum also explored issues related to Immigration Policy. The discussions focused on “Looking South” to examine border security issues in a session led by Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at Washington, DC’s Council on Foreign Relations. The view “Looking North,” was described by Theresa Cardinal Brown, Director of Immigration Policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center, who presented a case study of Federal/Provincial Partnership in Canada and its lessons for US Federal/State cooperation. The session on “Looking Inward” brought insights from Jeremy Robbins, Executive Director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, who assessed the economic benefits of immigrants in the US workforce. For the full report on the immigration discussion, go to Issues & Insights: Immigration.
Edward Alden is the Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC, and the author of The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11 (Harper Collins, 2008). Mr. Alden was the project director for the Council’s Independent Task Force on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy (2011), which was co-chaired by former White House chief of staff Andrew Card and former Senate majority leader Thomas Daschle. He also directed the Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy (2009), which was co-chaired by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former White House chief of staff Thomas F. (Mack) McLarty. He is the director of CFR’s Renewing America Publication Series. Most recently, Mr. Alden was co-author of the CFR Working Paper Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States: How Effective Is Enforcement?.
Theresa Cardinal Brown joined the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in January 2014 as Director of Immigration Policy, where she coordinates and supports the work of BPC’s Immigration Task Force, co-chaired by former governors Haley Barbour (Mississippi) and Ed Rendell (Pennsylvania) and former Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Condoleezza Rice. The BPC is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, Howard Baker, and George Mitchell that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue. The Immigration Task Force issued a set of recommendations for immigration reform in August 2013 and continues to work to present bipartisan, rational immigration-policy options for leaders.
As the editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and a political analyst for the National Journal Group, Charlie Cook’s prodigious writing is a direct line to the heart of politics. He writes weekly for National Journal magazine and National Journal Daily, and he also pens a regular column for The Washington Quarterly. According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cook “produces the sharpest political handicapping in the business, serving as the one-man, go-to source for Americans who want to be truly informed.” For the spring semester of 2013, Mr. Cook served as a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Michael Dimock is the Vice President for Research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC. He is responsible for guiding and coordinating all of the research projects the center undertakes, overseeing research standards and practices, and seeking out new research opportunities. Dr. Dimock is particularly involved in the Center’s public-opinion-survey research, having served for over a decade as the head of research, and ultimately the director, of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the unit that focuses on American politics and public opinion.
Jared D. Harris is a faculty member at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where he teaches courses and workshops on strategic thinking and ethical decision making to military officers, leaders in education, legislative leaders, students, and business executives. A Fellow with the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics and a Senior Fellow with Darden’s Olsson Center for Applied Ethics, Mr. Harris is also a research partner at the Open Ethics and Compliance Group and the Institute of Management Accountants. Mr. Harris’s research highlights the interplay between ethics and strategy, with a particular focus on the topics of corporate governance, business ethics, and inter-organizational trust. His recent books include Public Trust in Business (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and The Strategist’s Toolkit (Darden Business Publishing, 2013).
Jeremy Robbins is the Executive Director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition of more than 500 CEOs and mayors making the economic case for immigration reform. Mr. Robbins previously worked as a Policy Advisor & Special Counsel in the Office of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Robert Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Additionally, he served as a Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellow working on prisoners’ rights issues in Argentina along with being a litigation associate at WilmerHale in Boston, where, along with working on general corporate litigation matters, Mr. Robbins was part of the firm’s team representing six Bosnian men detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and federal courts in Washington, DC, and Massachusetts. He received a J.D. degree from Yale Law School and a B.A. degree in Political Science from Brown University.
At the Forum, Senators from different regions and different parties engage in activities
that model bipartisan cooperation. Here,
Sen. Ginny Burdick (OR) and Sen. Mark Norris (TN) work together to solve a problem.
Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.
“Successful groups are iterative,” Dr. Harris said. “They try prototyping, they make mistakes, and they learn from them. Diversity of experience and ideas improves the collaboration.”
The Fall Forum also explored issues related to Immigration Policy and assessed the economic benefits of immigrants in the US workforce. For the full report on the immigration discussion, go to Issues & Insights: Immigration.
Theresa Cardinal Brown
Jared D. Harris
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