SMLS: Tom Daschle and Trent Lott Pave the Way for Bipartisanship

SMLS: Tom Daschle and Trent Lott Pave the Way for Bipartisanship

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Christian Holm
April 19, 2016

The last conversation of the spring 2016 Simpson-Mineta Leaders at The Washington Center left students with a call to action as they near the end of their Washington. D.C. experience.


Former U.S Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-MS) gave students their roadmap for bipartisan compromise at the SMLS - stressing the importance of changing D.C.’s political culture and creating an environment that values action rather than activity. Daschle and Lott coauthored “Crisis Point,” giving readers a look at their time as senate leaders when the institution was deadlocked at 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans following the 2000 election for the first time in history.


Lott compared their approach to a deadlocked senate to the approach of today’s senate, highlighting the marked differences between the desired outcomes of the two political parties.


“Getting positive results from the legislative process is too complicated today and it shouldn't be that way. Tom and I made the effort to establish a relationship and communicate with one another and it helped us break the gridlock. Today you don’t have that because no one is here, they’re off fundraising somewhere.”


Here are some of the highlights from the student Q & A:


Christopher Dark (Institution: University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth; Internship: U.S Marshals Service) How do we contain the influence of super PAC’s and make campaigns more responsive to people rather than the campaign complex?


Daschle: Personally I believe that it will take a constitutional amendment to reform the system. If donors can give to political campaigns, just think about how far that money could go to affect other areas of government. What would stop someone from donating to a judge or sitting president?


Lott: I don’t think we need to amend the first amendment, I think speech should be protected in all of it’s forms. But I do believe that we should have more transparency and force donors to disclose who they are so we don’t have dark money paying for our elections. I also think the main problem is that our campaigns got way too long - that’s pushing the cost of these campaigns to be so high.


Angela Grate (Institution: Capital University, OH; Internship: Ayuda) With all this gridlock, would we get more done if the political parties split up, or if we have a third party emerge?


Lott: Elected government is never supposed to be easy - the founders designed it that way. I think the two parties can get things done if they would just allow a diversity of opinion from within their own party. We used to have moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, but that’s gone away because neither party has been tolerant of moderates.


Daschle: It’s also important to realize that we have a presidential democracy, not a parliamentary style democracy, which makes it difficult to accommodate multiple factions within government. That’s something the founders wanted to avoid - George Washington himself even hoped that we would have no political parties, let alone multiple.


Spencer Wagner (Institution: Elon University; Internship: Grant Thornton LLP) At this point, can reform only happen with a unified government where one party has control over congress and the presidency?


Daschle: I really think we can get things done with a divided government. Look at the 80’s and the 90’s when we passed tax reform, welfare reform and presided over robust peacetime economic growth. Today we don’t have a choice, we have challenges that can no longer be put off and we have to make divided government work.


To view photos from SMLS, click here

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