Bipartisanship is perhaps the original American tradition. Such a statement may seem incredible, considering what we’re often told of today’s political climate. But the truth is that this country’s legislative system might never have been established were it not for cooperation between opposing political perspectives. If politicians were never willing to set aside their disagreements in service of the people they represent, many of our government’s landmark policies may have never seen the light of day.
Today’s bipartisan efforts may not always be exciting enough to make headlines, however collaboration still creates policies that improve lives. It may seem obscured at times, but the legacy of American bipartisanship is woven into our country’s political fabric. To truly gain perspective on this nation’s greatest inter-party achievements, we must revisit our founding days.
In the aftermath of winning independence, America was catching its breath. It was decided that, to unite the states, a central government would be required. What was fiercely debated was the ratio at which certain states would be represented in Congress. Under the old Articles of Confederation, all states enjoyed equal representation, regardless of size. But delegates from larger states felt such a system was unfair; they thought representation should be proportional to a state’s population. It wasn’t until Connecticut’s Roger Sherman proposed the Great Compromise—an equally representative Senate, and a state population-based House of Representatives—that the bickering sides came together to set in place the legislative backbone of our nation.
As the centuries progressed, bipartisan initiatives continued to mold our defining moments. In wake of World War II, Republican Senator Vandenberg—once an isolationist leader—came to realize that America could no longer “immunize itself” from the world, and offered to work alongside President Roosevelt on foreign policy. Their efforts fueled the formation of the United Nations and NATO.
Congress today may be polarized on some issues, but inter-party cooperation can still affect positive change, as demonstrated by the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016. By incorporating all sides’ perspectives, the bill—designed to boost funding for medical research—moved smoothly through Congress. Its result was a substantial increase in resources for the National Institutes of Health, and the streamlining of research collaboration between the government and private sector organizations, allowing for faster approval of new treatments.
While bipartisanship may seem unlikely at times, it’s important to acknowledge the role cooperation has played in shaping Americans’ lives, and it’s essential to remember that when opposing sides unite, great feats can be achieved.