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Stacey Neve

The Bipartisan Policy Center held its third annual politicalsummit, “Taking the Poison out of Partisanship,” Tuesday andWednesday in the Lavin-Bernick Center. Mary Matalin and JamesCarville co-hosted the summit.

After a screening of “The War Room” Tuesday night, the events onWednesday began with opening remarks by Carville, Matalin, TulanePresident Scott Cowen and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Thesummit consisted of panel discussions that covered topics includingthe current political climate, changing demographics in the UnitedStates, and the interaction of politics with art and socialmedia.

In one panel, former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott disputed thenotion that in the past, bipartisan agreements were common and easyto achieve.

“There’s a little bit of revisionist history going on,” Lottsaid. “It was never easy to find common ground. I must say, it’s asbad now as I’ve ever seen it.”

During the event, participants addressed the causes of thepartisan rift in government. Lott said that a major problem withthe current situation is all the time politicians spend away fromWashington, D.C. When politicians spent a majority of the year inWashington instead of residing in their home states, congressmengot to know one another as friends.

Participants in several panels partially blamed the 24-hour newscycle.

“I’m going to accept the blame on behalf of the entire newsmedia, because we’re partly responsible too,” said CNBC ChiefWashington Correspondent John Harwood, who moderated one of thediscussions.

Panelists also said that gerrymandered districts, designed togive one party an edge in congressional elections, further theproblem. Democratic Strategic Adviser Steve McMahon said that inmost districts, a House member’s only threat will come from the farwing of his or her own party, so Democrats adopt more liberal viewsand Republicans more conservative to appeal to their constituents.This reality interferes how they vote in Congress.

Summit participants also discussed strategies for bridging thepartisan divide. Panelists widely agreed that America needs morecompetitive districts to encourage moderate voters and that votersneed to choose politicians who are willing to collaborate with theother party.

Junior Adam Ratzlaff said he agreed with the ideas the panelistsoffered for improving the current political climate.

“We need to start looking for a group of people who is willingto look across the aisle and talk about issues rather than worryingabout re-election and sound bites,” Ratzlaff said.

Many panelists agreed that bridging the gap will requirepoliticians to make difficult choices.

“The solution to inaction is leadership and courage,” Lottsaid.


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