As many Wisconsin political veterans have told me, things are more partisan today than they used to be. Alan Lasee (R-De Pere) has not kept quiet about his distaste for the toxic hatred that dominates the current political climate. I got a glimpse of the good ol' days when I ran into him at the Tea Party several months ago, and saw him backslapping with another old timer from the other party, former Senator and former Dem Party Chair Joe Wineke.
Both Sen. Spencer Coggs and Rep. Mark Pocan have told me about the days in which Republicans and Democrats used to lunch together.
The same was true in Washington. Rather than give you a diatribe of clichés, however, I'll just point out that when I found out that five unnamed Republicans had voted for Elena Kagan's confirmation to the Supreme Court, I spent a few minutes trying to guess who they were before looking up the vote tally.
My first assumption was the two most moderate Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine. Both are centrists with liberal constituencies who rarely engage in partisan bomb-throwing. My next assumption was Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. Graham is a conservative who enjoys being seen as a bridge-builder, but also has certain principles about respecting the prerogative of the president on nominations. I was right on these three guesses.
My next guess was Scott Brown, simply because he comes from the most liberal state in the country. Wrong. The young patawan has been sufficiently counseled on party unity by the higher-ups, would be my guess.
I would have guessed John McCain a few years ago, but he is in a nasty primary now and he has been bitter since the 2008 election. Fuck You, Barack Obama.
When I finally looked up the vote, I found the other two votes were from Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Dick Lugar (R-IN), an old-time heartland conservative. Gregg has always been somewhat of a moderate, due perhaps to representing one of the least religious states in the country. But Lugar simply comes from another era of politics entirely. When in the majority, he runs his committee cordially with the opposition, generally declines from making partisan attacks, and most significantly, respects the leadership of the opposition when it is in power.
As I sit in this coffeeshop, a former professor of mine has come in and talked to me about his time working for a Republican member of Congress in the early 1990's. He worked for Rep. Ed Madigan, who he described as an "old school midwestern Republican," who wrote almost every bill in the Energy Committee with his co-chair, Henry Waxman, a California liberal.
Madigan lost the election to be GOP leader to Newt Gingrich. Apparently that's when all the cordiality went out the window.
As he put it, "I went to Washington to work for a Republican and I became a Democrat in the process.
Are the Dems guilty too? Sure, but hey, one side of the story is worth something isn't it?