I am happy—-even moved—-when people reach across the aisle. You don’t see it often in these days of political polarization. Today, on a couple of Sunday news shows, I got to see examples of people reaching across the aisle: praising acts done by the “other side.”
First, there was ABC This Week. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had this to say about Republican Senator Rand Paul:
“Senator Paul is making a serious effort at trying to have a different conversation with African-American voters — not on traditional issues. He wants to talk about, you know, economic development in poor inner city areas. He wanted to talk about schools. And clearly he wants to talk about this mandatory sentencing. He wants to talk about restoring the right to vote for ex-felons convicted of non-violent crime…. I’ve had a lot to time to talk to Rand Paul. I see him on CNN just about every other day. And I think these conversations should be had. And I’m glad there’s a Republican willing to sit down with Senator Cory Booker, sit down with Senator Tim Scott, who happens to be a Republican, sit down with the attorney general of the United States, because these are serious issues that need to be resolved and we don’t need a partisan solution.”
Donna Brazile said the following about Republican Representative Paul Ryan’s recent plan on poverty:
“Now, on Paul Ryan, I think it’s interesting that he’s trying to come up with a big plan to reduce poverty in America. Part of it is expanding the earned income tax credit, which is a good thing. There’s parts of it in terms of consolidating programs into a block grant, I don’t know if that’s so good….What was missing in the plan, if we want the talk about the real stew there, was the fact that he didn’t talk about raising the minimum wage, that will also help a generation of Americans come out of poverty as well if we can finally tackle that issue itself.”
President Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary, progressive Robert Reich, had the following to say about Ryan’s plan:
“…I was frankly very impressed. Paul Ryan, who has been cutting programs for the poor left and right, or at least trying to do that for several years now, awarding tax breaks to the rich. Suddenly, he’s had a conversion of some sort. And he is now coming out with a plan that is actually a very interesting plan. Not only does it expand the earned income tax credit, which is the most important anti-poverty policy we have now in the federal government, he extends it, he expands it. He provides some guidance to the states in terms of actually helping people go forward. It is not exactly a block grant. There are no cuts to poverty programs. This is something that is very new and different from the Republican Party. And I think it deserves a careful look by Democrats.”
I found watching this to be moving. I then searched online for Bill Moyers’ program, which I also watch every Sunday, and guess what I found: Bill Moyers is interviewing Arthur C. Brooks, President of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Bill Moyers usually interviews progressives on his show, and, while those are indeed excellent episodes that open my eyes to problems in the world, they tend to be preaching to the choir. I doubt that too many right-wingers will watch Bill Moyers because they know he’s a progressive, or they deem him to be an irrelevant has-been. For a high-profile conservative to go on his show is remarkable, in my opinion. And, while Brooks was stating a lot of right-wing claptrap, it was amazing what he was actually acknowledging: that the economy primarily benefiting the upper economic classes is a serious problem, as is knee-jerk opposition to government.
These things don’t make me want to become a Republican soon. With Republican proposals, the question that is usually in my mind is “What’s the catch?” Moreover, there’s the question of whether I can really trust Paul Ryan, in light of positions he has taken in the past. Will Ryan change his mind again? In the case of Rand Paul, I think he’s the real deal—-he’s like his dad, unafraid to go outside of the mainstream and to say what he believes—-but my apprehension about him is that he has bad ideas that would not be good for the poor of for society, even though he also has a lot of good ideas.
I am still happy, though, that Republicans are talking about these issues. I really wish that this reaching across the aisle would happen more often in Washington, D.C.