“I need you to disappear.”
I heard this request as a young Capitol Hill staffer when a Republican congressman asked a Democratic colleague to help him out on a procedural motion in a committee vote. The two congressmen were friends, in an era where there was more socializing between the two political parties. Even still, the Republican knew the Democrat could not cross over and vote with him. Being scarce when the vote took place, however, was the next best thing.
“You can count on me,” the Democrat said, before vanishing into the hallway.
The Democrat held true to his word and stayed away. It was a small gesture on a long-forgotten procedural motion some 30 years ago, but the moment has stayed with me.
Don’t get me wrong: Politics back then were tough, partisan, and often bitter. But it is undeniable we have reached some new level of acrimony and division. Every new state legislature or Congress, there are calls for reaching a hand across the aisle.
This year, there are real opportunities. The issue for which Oregon electric co-ops will focus a lot of attention this session— broadband access—is tailor-made to bridge not only the digital divide but the partisan divide.
We remain hopeful, and perhaps this session will give me a new story of political courage. If not, I fear bipartisanship will go the way of that Democratic congressman 30 years ago when asked for a favor by a Republican friend.
Gone, without a trace.