Bob Dole’s Summons

Bob Dole’s posthumous op-ed in The Washington Post is a compelling call to restore shared values. From the essay:

There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country. We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.

America has never achieved greatness when Republicans and Democrats simply manage to work together or tolerate each other. We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than political parties.

I worked as an aide to a handful of Democratic Senators during the 1990s. Dole commanded immense respect that was at odds with his public image as the chamber’s villain. (Once, his staff suggested he make light of the reputation by appearing on a late-night show in a Darth Vader costume. His reported response: “Who’s Darth Vader?”)

I recall a newspaper column after Dole lost his presidential campaign in 1996. I can’t remember the author, but she or he guessed that at least 90 senators voted for Dole in the privacy of the polling booth.

I was disappointed when Dole supported Donald Trump. But the whole of his career is a testament to legislative politics and American constitutionalism at its finest. And his valedictory summons to shared values and, crucially, shared experiences may be a key to restoring Congress’ proper place as the linchpin of the Constitutional system.

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