Bipartisanship is not a bad word

The job of a lawmaker is to take good ideas, make them better if possible, and enact them into law

Anyone who has been passingly aware of public events in America over the last several years knows that partisanship in politics, especially in the nation’s capital, seems to be at an all-time high. A recent headline in Time even flatly declared bipartisanship is dead. As state representatives who work together, even though we are from two different parties, we think it important to say this is not quite accurate. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of bipartisanship’s death are greatly exaggerated.”

We do admit bipartisanship is not in the best of health, and that is a sad situation. But like so many other problems, it doesn’t have to be this way. We are living proof, and we’re not unique in the Washington Legislature. One is a Republican, the other a Democrat. We represent neighboring districts in Kitsap County, and we often see things differently. We can be firm, and if need be fierce, in advocating for our respective positions on the floor of the House.

But we work for all the constituents in our districts, not just the ones who voted for us. And we realize the best solutions in a diverse society are most often achieved through listening to differing opinions, bridging the distance between those opinions, and coming together in cooperation and compromise.

The founders of our country envisioned a party-free political system. They hoped that an absolutely free press and an unfettered marketplace of ideas would create an atmosphere where an informed electorate would make the best choices for a young nation. That was the vision; the reality was, before George Washington had wrapped up his eight years as president, party lines had been drawn. And the fiery election of 1800 that pitted Thomas Jefferson against incumbent John Adams showed that political parties were firmly established as part of our political DNA.

And that’s fine. Americans differ, and it’s natural to band together with like-minded people to make our feelings known and work toward our common goals. There is strength in numbers. But for lawmakers at every level of government, it’s important to remember something that most parents try to teach their children almost as soon as they are old enough to interact with others: You don’t always get your way. We’ll take that one step further and add, no one in a position of power should always get her or his way.

As we head into this new legislative session, we hope you’ll keep your eye on Olympia. You’ll see some party-line votes on legislation, no doubt. But more often, you’ll notice bills passing with large bipartisan majorities, and, more often than you might imagine, unanimous approval from both sides of the aisle.

You’ll hear partisan rhetoric at times, but you’ll also hear elected officials praising their opposite numbers, congratulating them on their wisdom, and thanking them for their cooperation on issues and bills that affect everyone in our diverse state.

Make no mistake, we each think that our respective parties should be in the majority. But no party or person has the monopoly on good ideas, and the job of a lawmaker is to take good ideas, make them better if possible, and enact them into law.

Our system works best when we’re all working together for this one Washington in which we live, work, and raise our families. We hope when the 2018 Legislature adjourns for the year on March 8, the people we serve will give us a final grade of B … for bipartisanship.

— Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, represent the 23rd and 26th districts, respectively, in the state House of Representatives.