Looking at the middle
These days, quite a few politicians seem to believe the key to success is pandering to one’s so-called “core constituency.” It appears most Democrats consider that to be the 20-30 percent of the people with very liberal views, while most Republicans appeal to the 20-30 percent with very conservative outlooks.
What about the 40-60 percent of us stuck in the middle? Anyone remember old-fashioned values such as constituent service and politics being the art of compromise?
Last week, the Lugar Center think tank released its rankings of members of Congress. They are based on how well lawmakers do in working in a bipartisan manner. The list was prepared by the center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. It is based on members of Congress last year, some of whom aren’t there anymore.
Guess who was ranked the 11th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives? U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-West Virginia.
And guess who were the second and third most bipartisan members, respectively of the U.S. Senate? Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
No one in their right mind ever accused McKinley, Portman and Capito of being closet liberals. They are staunch Republicans.
But, as McKinley put it this week, “The people of the First District elected me to represent them, not a party.”
Precisely. Often, working with members of the other party — really getting to know them, educate them about issues on which you’re interested, and finding ways to compromise rather than confront — gets things done.
McKinley has an excellent record on that. Need I remind West Virginians that virtually the only big victory scored on behalf of the coal industry during former President Barack Obama’s tenure was a McKinley production? In case you’ve forgotten, it was when he forced the Environmental Protection Agency to back away from new rule on coal ash.
But McKinley has produced many pieces of legislation on a variety of issues. A quick look at the last 50 bills and resolutions he introduced reveals something interesting: Just four of those measures had only fellow Republicans as co-sponsors. A whopping 46 had at least some Democrats on the co-sponsor lists.
I’ve talked about bipartisanship with McKinley, and he’s passionate about it. Like many of his constituents, he’s tired of a political/social climate in which those who disagree with us, whether we’re Republicans, Democrats or Independents, aren’t content to conclude we’re wrong. No, we must be evil.
That’s simply not true.
Part of McKinley’s success seems to be that he goes out of his way to make friends with fellow lawmakers — despite what sometimes seems to be an institutional system of keeping Republicans and Democrats separated.
Clearly, Capito and Portman share the same philosophy. Bills they’ve introduced have a similar pattern of many Democrat co-sponsors.
Now, if you follow politics, you may well have decided I’ve been presenting fake news. Where, after all, is Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.?
He’s No. 25 on the Lugar Center’s list. Still, not bad in a field of 100 senators.
Manchin indeed has earned himself something of a reputation as a maverick within the Democratic Party (he did vote for Brett Kavanaugh, after all). He was one of the leaders of “Third Way” moderate Democrats.
So Manchin is no slouch when it comes to bipartisanship.
McKinley, Capito, Portman and Manchin have learned bipartisanship can serve their constituents well.
By the way, the most and least bipartisan lawmakers, according to the Lugar report, were:
Best in the Senate was Susan Collins, R-Maine. Worst was Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. Best in the House was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida. Worst was Luis Gutierez, D-Illinois. Both retired from Congress.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.