Senate needs to work together

by Dillon Thinner

The John C. Culver Public Policy Center is finishing up its second year at Simpson College and has been able to bring in some extraordinary speakers.

The most recent was Ira Shapiro, who came to discuss his recent book “The Last Great Senate,” which focuses on the Senate specifically in the late 1970s and its bipartisan work. Believe it or not, there was actually a time in the Senate when things got done and business items were accomplished without having to worry about “crossing the party lines.”

Major accomplishments were made in Civil Rights, National Security and the Panama Canal without major controversy. Today, almost anything accomplished in the Senate has strong opposition and extra measures are taken to stop productivity.

You may be asking why is there such a major difference between the Senate in the late 1970s compared to the current Senate. According to Shapiro, there may be a few reasons for this. 

The group of Senators during this time period came from a time of war. Many served in World War II, and thus had no problem making the difficult decisions (compared to Senators today, who may have the “push it down the road” outlook). 

Another possible reason there may be such a difference is related to reelection. The party lines both on the Republican and Democrat sides have shifted considerably as Republicans have become more conservative and Democrats have become more liberal. 

Many Senators today vote by party instead of voting by what is right and will benefit the people. Shapiro agrees some Senators may be afraid if they do not vote along the lines of their party they may not be reelected. 

Because of this, no one is willing to cut a deal or negotiate with the other party to come to an agreement. Thus, today when the Senate is spoken of, some people refer to it as worthless, a never- ending debate and a waste of time.

There is no point in voting and passing items on party lines, and it is a waste of time. One party passes one thing but then when it loses majority power the other party works to undermine the previous party’s work. 

Our founders constructed our system to last and benefit the people, but how can it do that when the very inner workings are separated? As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Congress in general needs to find a way to look past party lines and work together to get things accomplished like in “The Last Great Senate.” 

If this happens, hopefully we can transform the views from the current worthless stand-still Senate to the Great Senate. Optimism is dwindling in politics, but it isn’t totally gone.

Dillon is a sophomore political science major. He is a Culver Fellow and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.