When former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and I discussed “Bipartisanship in the Age of Toxic Politics” at the 2019 San Antonio CityFest, we were emerging from a very tough session in the Texas Legislature and entering what has proven to be one of the most toxic presidential elections in U.S. history.
At CityFest, Straus shared that from a manager’s perspective, a close margin between parties in an elected body can provide better governance. That theory will surely be tested in the coming months.
Although a few critical races won’t be resolved until January, the 2020 election put fresh data behind what some suspected and some still find hard to believe: America is a country divided, riding razor-thin margins between parties, priorities, and personalities.
No one said this would be easy. It shouldn’t be.
In American politics, opinions are expressed, arguments had, and votes made. We (and almost 160 million other Americans) each worked, rooted, invested, and voted to elect the representation we believe best reflects our individual priorities.
Now those representatives must get to work – together, across the aisle, at every level of government, and listening to all their constituents – to reconcile our differences and fix the problems that remain in front of us. That’s the job.
For the past two decades, and particularly over the last two years, political gamesmanship has hamstrung the power of our government and the American will, impeding progress and a responsible approach to real problems.
It’s up to us to take off the blue or red jersey and demand that policymakers put country before party, and to work together on the problems that have been used as dividing lines against our nation’s interest: COVID-19 response, the economy, workforce, health care, institutional equity, climate change.
We need to leave behind politics-as-a-sport and return to data-informed problem-solving. We need a new playbook to get us out of the partisan weeds, providing policymakers vital insight on and connection to community-specific challenges while raising expectations of public service and performance.
First and foremost, we must navigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19: protecting our citizens, reopening our businesses, and getting our workforce safely back to work.
Critical research on the initial, ongoing, and future economic impact of the pandemic, obscured for far too long by election-year politics, is underway in San Antonio and around the state. Working alongside our partners the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Economic Development Council, and the National Research Center, USTomorrow is surveying the Texas business community to inform new guidelines for policymakers and their constituents to consider as they work to mitigate the damage COVID-19 has delivered.
This analysis will be the first step in providing a new baseline view and a shared vocabulary to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the country, ensuring all stakeholders are positioned for the support and guidance required to rebuild our economy and get back to the business of building a better future for our kids and our country.
Many have said it and it has never been more true: The best is yet to come. But we have to put the politics aside and do the real work.