Jim Matheson and bipartisanship

Author: Crystal

In 2010 I was mad. Hopping mad, actually. The US Congress had just passed the landmark piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I was ecstatic. Sure, it's not a perfect bill (what bill is) but it made some vital changes to healthcare in this country. Young adults are covered until they're 26. Insurance companies can't deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies have to issue refunds if 80% of our premiums aren't used for what they're supposed to be used for, health care instead of profits. Our vice-president infamously called it a "Big F'in Deal", and he was right, it is.

But there was some rain on this parade for Utah's progressive voters. Our sole representative in Washington, Congressman Jim Matheson, voted against the BFD. We were livid. We screamed. We cried all over Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of democrats became delegates for the sole purpose of beating Jim at convention. We saw those "Matheson = Pelosi" signs and said, "we wish!"

I still disagree with Jim's vote, but I've sat with him on several occasions and I understand his reasons now. I respect the careful thought he put into it. I respect his considerations for his constituents, his frank look at the bill's imperfections, and what it might cost Utah to implement. It was a grudging respect, to be sure, but through that conversation I've learned that this is just one example of the millions of ways in which he puts Utah first. That may be his campaign slogan, but the truth is that that is his reality. When citizen groups meet with Utah's delegation, most of the time they're pushed to aids, yelled at, ignored, or the Congressperson falls asleep during the meeting. Not Jim Matheson. Even if he disagrees with you, he sits down with you for extended periods of time to have a conversation with you and to hear your side. He'll talk about all the boots he's worn out walking across Utah. I'm pretty sure he's got to hold some sort of record for visiting the most schools, the most community festivals, and talking to the most Utahns. I still didn't think I could support a moderate like Jim, but I respected where he comes from.

And then, with the Tea Party revolution of 2010, Congress shut down. Everything was blocked, bills went nowhere, and it's been endless gridlock and continuing resolutions in the two years since. It has changed my entire political viewpoint. When we are so caught up in our perfect partisan ideals, we lose our ability to converse and we become uncivil and immature. We don't go forward, we go back.

The last two years has shown me that America and Utah need civil servants who work across the aisle and who put bipartisanship, civility, and the needs of America before their own partisan visions of utopia. No two Democrats are the same, no two Republicans are the same. When a candidate doesn't line up perfectly with our world vision, let's look past our handful of personally pivotal issues and look to the big picture. Demand civil servants who put bipartisanship and solutions before party platform.

Now, I am the chair of the LDS Dems Caucus. When I say I like the ACA, I am speaking for myself and not my caucus. We aspire to be a big tent, and we are proud that we continue to be a home for LDS Democrats and independents who are conservative, moderate, liberal, and progressive. We even have Republican members. There are LDS Democrats who love the ACA and LDS Democrats who hate it. We certainly all agree that the healthcare system can improve and that America can do a better job giving hand ups to the people who have a hard time getting insurance to avoid hand outs in the emergency room. As a big tent, we are a living example of the power that is achieved when bipartisanship and tolerance of ideas are put before limited, specific visions.

America needs more kindness and civility. Voters need to choose candidates based on positions and records instead of internet rumors and insults. We need more civil servants with records of bipartisanship and civility. Their multi-party endorsements (or lack thereof) will show their character. We need more people like Jim Matheson, Ben McAdams, and Jon Huntsman. We need less talking head politicians who say extreme, shocking things just to be heard by the media or to please their base.

To my fellow progressive Democrats, I urge you to speak up for bipartisanship as a value worth fighting for, not calling it "caving to the electorate." To Republicans, especially my fellow Latter-Day Saints, I say: cast your vote for the presidential candidate of your choice, but don't just blindly push that straight party R button. Research the candidates, look for the people who will be advocates for bipartisanship and working together instead of apart. By their fruits you'll know them, by their records you'll know them, and by their bipartisan endorsements, you'll know them.

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