After Arizona shooting, how can Congress heal the division? Break bread together.
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords (D) and bystanders in Arizona seems to be the worst symptom of the division and disdain that dominate politics. There was a time when members of Congress not only reached across the aisle, but shared meals together. They must commit to break bread together again – to heal the wounds in DC, and set an example for a grieving nation.
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Constant campaigning means social isolation
In today’s pernicious atmosphere, members of Congress are not encouraged (if anything, they are discouraged) to share a meal together. Even when they have the time, they are told that it is better spent raising money for their next campaign or raising money for a colleague’s campaign. Adding to this social isolation members have toward those who sit across the aisle is the fact that, in this age of jet travel, members of Congress spend most weekends back home meeting constituents. In addition, fewer members of Congress raise their families in the DC area. While greater access to our congressional representatives is a very important function of democracy, it’s also safe to say that with fewer congressional families living in the DC area, and with members home for long weekends, it means members have less time to spend with colleagues in more informal social settings.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Arizona shooting vigils
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On the blog section of the No Labels website, one writer and his wife (Bob and Elyse Kallen) posted a story about a political contribution he made to a candidate running for the Senate. The contribution came with a condition that the candidate, if elected, would agree to have lunch with a senator from across the aisle. After she was elected, Bob met her and asked her if she had had that lunch. She sheepishly admitted that she had not. She explained that the Congress she entered was such a polarized institution that she was afraid she would be rejected by her own party leaders if she became perceived as too friendly with members not from her own party.
Have lunch with someone on the other side
This hyper-partisanship does not sit well with all members of Congress. Near the end of the 111th Congress, a group of ten Republican and ten Democratic senators, including New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), came together under the partnership of Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virgina and Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia to create a more healthy way of doing business in Congress.
Now that Congress is back in session, let them set an example by scheduling lunch with a member from a different political party. Essayist and author Gene Santoro once wrote, “If politics is what we do to each other, culture is the way we talk to each other.” Congress could use some more culture, as could all of us.