Relations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress are anything but warm right now. But due to the even chillier Winter Storm Stella, two opposing representatives found themselves on a 1,600 mile road trip from Texas to Washington.
The “bipartisan road trip” came about when the congressmen’s flights back to D.C. were grounded due to the storm. In order to make it back in time for the upcoming votes, Rep. Will Hurd of the GOP and Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, went in on a shared rental car and turned the trip into a “traveling tele-Town Hall.” They live-streamed much of the 36-ish-hour drive to Facebook and Periscope and took questions from their constituents, both through the sites and in person, on stops along the way.
O’Rourke told the Dallas News,
At a time where so many people wonder whether our institutions still work, whether members of Congress still listen to the people they represent, whether a Republican and a Democrat can get along and work together. I thought, let’s try to prove the concept.
The videos of the trip are pretty fantastic. (You can watch them on Hurd and O’Rourke’s Facebook pages.) The two share some great off-key sing-alongs to classic road trip songs like “Highway to Hell” (as requested by Paul Ryan, apparently) and “Ring of Fire.” According to O’Rourke, the playlist was “curated by Beto and America.”
But the fun of the road trip didn’t undercut the serious message. Bipartisan cooperation is essential to a functioning government, and these days, it seems all but dead. These two congressmen, though, not only got along, but they’re actually working together now on an immigration bill.
— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) March 17, 2017
— Alex Gangitano (@AlexGangitano) March 17, 2017
A friend of mine posted this excerpt from a 2013 Washington Post article to Facebook the other day, in which a senator muses on how travel and fundraising basically put an end to social bipartisanship.
During a recent interview, Sen. Tom Harkin reminisced about the glory days of the Senate dining room. “I can remember going down there to lunches with Biden and Fritz Hollings and Ted Stevens and all these people,” he told me. “We’d go down there and have lunch together and talk and joke. We had a camaraderie. We don’t even have the dining room anymore, they closed it up. Because no one would go there anymore.”
I asked Harkin why his colleagues stopped going. A big part of the reason, he said, was fundraising. “Starting sometime in the ’90s, certainly by the end of the 2000s, you’d go down there, and there’d be one or two people there. Then pretty soon nobody’d go, and they just shut it down. And why is that? Well, we’re not here on Mondays. Tuesday is the party caucuses. Thursday’s the policy lunch, and Friday you’re out of here. So that only leaves Wednesday. And what are people doing Wednesday? They’re out raising money. Everybody’s at a fundraiser. I mean, so there is no time any longer for these lunches that we used to have.”
Time, they say, is money, and it’s as true in politics as it is anywhere else. But if you spend all your time raising money, you don’t spend it learning policy or getting to know your colleagues or listening to your constituents.
The road trip Reps echoed this idea during their drive. One viewer asked O’Rourke how he could spend so much time with a Republican, and he replied, “If we both just go to our corners … and refuse to engage, and just repeat the political talking points from our two parties, then nothing is going to change.”
Hurd also described the benefits of this kind of trip:
We used the opportunity of the inclement weather on the East Coast to take the opportunity for a Republican and a Democrat to get in a car, spend a significant amount of time together, and talk about the issues. Not just the issues that divide us, but the issues that unite us too.
As O’Rourke stated on the live-stream, “Everyone is better served if we can find some common ground.”
Oh, and by the way, the two arrived with 30 minutes to spare before the Wednesday votes, and blasting “The Final Countdown,” of course.
— Van Applegate (@VBagate) March 15, 2017
(featured image via screenshot)
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