Strange bedfellows: The odd, yet heartening new age of American politics 11

The first time I read about environmentalists and hunters working together to preserve habitat in the Pacific Northwest, it was a head scratching moment.

On one side, the planet protectors believed in the purity of unspoiled nature. On the other, hunters appreciated having game to stalk and kill in season. To the untrained eye, these two groups appeared completely opposed.

Yet. Their collaboration was rooted in a shared value. Both groups value thriving ecosystems with abundant animals. And in that, their aims overlapped. Together, they accomplished more than if they stayed opposed to one another on principle. The land was saved.

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At the top of the news yesterday was retired General Flynn’s pleading the 5th Amendment to protect himself from incrimination in the investigation of Russia ties.

Today, in response, both the chair (Senator Burr, a Republican) and vice chair (Sen. Warner, a Democrat) issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to obtaining an interview with Flynn and the requested documents.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years, bipartisanship is a rare, rare achievement in the days of snark and soundbite.

Their joint statement is no small thing.

They could have refused to work together, but they didn’t. These two men, normally opposed on many issues, signed a document together. This is because they share a value: truth. They set aside political differences and personal squabbles for something greater.

Their action is a win for democracy. Even if some Democrats don’t think they’re going fast enough. Even if some Republicans think it’s a time-wasting witch hunt. This is what democracy looks like.

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Compromise. To co-promise.

Our country was not founded on extremism—left or right. The Constitution wasn’t written because one group ostracized another and refused to cooperate. We don’t “win” at another’s expense. No. Democracy works when people with disparate views seek common ground—and come to agreement on how to accommodate one another.

It may take years or even decades for our country to recover from this period of inflamed hatred and intolerance, of regressive, oppressive policies, and heal the abject fear stirred up in many groups.

But if the current president has accomplished anything so far, it might be that he’s motivated and inspired a few brave souls to reach across the aisle and work for the common good. For our citizens. For democracy.

That tiny glimmer of bipartisanship is worthy of celebration. The optimist in me thinks it might even be a growing trend.

And. While waiting for the snail-like pace of democratic investigations, keep working for justice and fairness and equality. Keep speaking up—even when your bedfellows are strange—and strive to find common ground. If hunters and environmentalists, conservative and liberal senators can do it, so can we.

America will be better for it.

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11 thoughts on “Strange bedfellows: The odd, yet heartening new age of American politics

  • Karen Thomas

    Hi Jen,

    I agree 100% that we need to find middle ground and rebirth the idea of compromise. I grew up in a liberal family and have always voted Democratic, but I can’t stand the current fighting inside the Democratic Party. We have such serious problems to address as a country we need to find middle ground as a party and middle ground as a country.

    Thanks for being a voice of sanity!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Agreed. Listening is a lost and much-needed art. If we can listen to each other, common ground isn’t far away. It takes skill and willingness on both a national level and an interpersonal level too. We have work to do.

  • Cathleen Bohnlein

    Thank you. Always good to hear about cooperation and mutual interests between disparate groups.

  • Rebecca Poos

    Hi, I’ve MUCH appreciated your Weekly Action Checklist and thank you for your diligent work that helps us all be activists. Excellent and hope-filled article! Thank you. So good to see “working across the aisles” in whatever form it takes.
    I do need to “speak up” on one line in your article. Your description of hunters as “appreciating having game to stalk and kill”
    got my attention. I am from a hunting family in a hunting community where healthy wildlife management and public use of lands
    is a value dear to our hearts. That description is jarring, and does not come across as “reaching across the aisle” but as promoting a stereotype of hunters that is not helpful. Our Director of Christian Ed in a very progressive church hunts with her family, as do our native folks and many others, with deepest respect for the animals and the land and the ecosystems. Signed–A Native of the Pacific NW now in Colorado.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Thanks! My spouse is from a hunting family too, and no disrespect was intended.

  • Susanna Natti

    Thank you, Jennifer. I am very much with you and your thinking. I have seen the possibilities of openings and reaching across the divides, and I do not believe we are alone – on both sides of the current political chasms there are people who are concerned about our divisions and are seeking ways to reach out. I love your post. Thanks.

  • Kit Plunkett

    Nicely said. And thanks for the reminder to find common ground whenever possible.

  • Janet Weissman-Voigt

    Amen. I totally agree about the good that has and will come out with the “election of Trump is bipartisan and motivating many people
    to become active again.
    Thanks for our weekly action email and now this extra!

  • Maryellen Schwartz

    Actually I think the initial conservationists were elites who wanted to preserve the wilderness for things like hunting and fishing, as well as hiking etc.
    Republican were Conservationist.
    In the 60’s when pollution and activism arose the more middle class and working people got involved. Somewhere after that the two split
    but certainly hunters and fisherman have always been interested in preserving outdoor spaces.

    It would be great if conservation would again be a shared value of both the left and right.

  • Katie Songer

    I’m so glad to hear your optimism. I have to admit, I have felt pessimistic since the election–and I am someone who used to devote a lot of time to fostering civil politics, as a founder of a political dialogue group in Wisconsin. The last several months is the first time I can remember when I have NOT wanted to listen–when I’ve dug in my heels and decided it’s time to take a stand, and even questioned whether all my listening in the past was productive. But the other night, I spoke with a college student who has been talking to Trump supporters at his school, with genuine interest in understanding the other side. I respect that so much, and am relieved to hear that others are striving to listen and work across the aisle, still. I will just stay in my retreat at the back of the listening flock for a while, letting others lead in this area…as you like to say in your geese analogy. 🙂

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