LETTER TO THE EDITOR: True bipartisanship needed in government today

History and literature are filled with stories of infamous feuds: the Hatfields and the McCoys; the Capulets and the Montagues; the House of York and the House of Lancaster. Each of these conflicts left an irrevocable change, and in many cases, catastrophic loss. And when we read about them or watch movies that dramatize their story, we think: Look at how foolish people could be — going to extremes to not talk to one another, be seen in public with one another, or plot revenge for a perceived slight, insult, or injury. “How silly,” we chuckle to ourselves, “to behave in such a way.” “We would never act like that,” we comment to ourselves, especially with people whom we see in our own backyards or workplaces.

But actually, we’re really quite delusional to think that that is exactly how we act towards one another when it comes to partisan politics. We do behave as if it is a feud and that the keys of the castle can only be in the hands of one party.

Bipartisanship does not begin and end with a handshake and a nod in Dover. True, bipartisanship means that neighbors and businessmen/women, farmers and professionals, should be able to sit on a beach in Bethany, coalesce around the circle in Georgetown or enjoy breakfast in Bridgeville at Jimmie’s Grill without the fear of a text message that threatens retaliation or social shunning. Since when did it become threatening to exchange ideas with someone in public socially who doesn’t have the same partisan initial after their name?

This is not true bipartisanship. True bipartisanship means that service for the people is above plotting of the parties. If Return Day is to take on true significance or if we are to gain a balanced voice in Dover, in Georgetown or in Washington, we need to leave our political differences at the door and actively listen to one another. We have to stop demonizing compromise as a sign of weakness or betrayal. We have to have the courage to say: “You are a Democrat/Republican, and I see your point,” or, “That makes sense, so, how can we make it happen so it is a win/win for all?”

The country was started because our founding fathers and mothers worried about a monarchy controlling our destiny. They had the wisdom to realize that only a unanimous vote for independence would prevent brother turning against brother. They compromised on their deeply held spiritual beliefs to craft the Constitution.

How far have we drifted from this model? And why? Why do we think that continuing on this path is beneficial for our county, state and country? And how do we expect our children to behave on the playground, unsupervised by adults, if the adults are choosing to act like children?

Bipartisanship is a choice and a practice. It is a deliberate, discrete, and definitive choice. It means that sometimes, you have to pause, digest, gulp and plunge forward into topics and belief systems that may not feel comfortable or stable. It is the only way to create a dialogue and solutions that shape the fabric of our county, state and country.

We elect and pay legislators to represent our needs and interests, not use their energy and creativity to get involved in “Peyton Place” drama. It is neither productive nor constructive, and the results are glaring — our families are still plagued with financial insecurity, addictions and mental illnesses are still splintering the bones of our communities, and educational opportunities still remain limited to [certain] ZIP codes.

History and literature have taught us that no feud ended with clean hands or open hearts. I, for one, want to break this toxic cycle of the partisan tango before it pollutes the political environment to the point of extinction. I want to be the adult in the room and not the teenager scowling in the corner. I strongly believe that legislating on behalf of the people begins with building relationships with the very people that don’t agree with you, and ends in respectful compromise.

Who remembers what happened in the end to the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets, the House of York and the House of Lancaster? Tears, despair, death and unrealized potential and dreams. I remember. I hope you do, too.

Paulette Rappa
Candidate for District 37 state representative

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