See The Other Side - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1801044

See The Other Side

Newspapers and other media are reporting on the hopeless tangle that Congress finds itself in trying to create a bipartisan committee on the insurrection on January 6. It is a truism to say that our country is in its most severe bipartisan divide in at least the 53 years I’ve been on this continent. Whether it is about how to stay healthy and safe during COVID-19 or about “January 6,” Republicans and Democrats invariably found themselves bitterly on the opposite side.

Such divide will block most important congressional bills from being enacted, from voting rights to infrastructure. There seems to be no way out.

But perhaps there is. I have a suggestion.

A commission should be formed on one of these hot topics, such as January 6 or voting rights, with three Republicans and three Democrats, whose task will be to argue on behalf of the other side — that is, a Republican will present a typical Democrat’s values, logic and reasonings, while a Democrat will do the same, presenting the Republican side.

No, I am not being funny. If pursued seriously, this exercise in becoming aware of what the other side might be feeling may lead to genuine empathy for each other.

Those in charge will have to select serious candidates who have some feeling for, and an understanding of, the other side’s values and reasonings. Like Liz Cheney, for example, or Mitt Romney, or Senator Joe Manchin. Yes, it would be all right to go bicameral for the purpose of this commission.

The purpose is to increase empathy in the Democrats for Republicans, and in Republicans for Democrats. The members must privilege the country over political partisanship, or even their own political future.

And that’s precisely why it won’t happen.

Shivaji Sengupta