“Working together is our generation’s moonshot.”
As a former congressional staffer, I understand what it means to vote yes or no on specific legislation. My job included writing weekly vote recs for the Member, and when legislation I worked to advance with my colleagues on the Natural Resources Committee was brought up for a vote, I was there on the House Floor as Members of Congress slipped their voting cards into the boxes scattered around the room, pressed the button for their desired vote, and saw the “Y” or “N” light up next to their names on the panels above the Speaker’s chair.
But the truth is, legislation moving through Congress receives very little discussion, and committee hearings are planned in advance to control a narrative for or against any given idea. While the bills that I referenced here passed the House with bipartisan support, thanks in part to Texas Democrats, too often both parties advance legislation only when they know they have the votes within their own party.
I’ve seen dysfunctional politics first-hand: it often looks like taking a position on an issue before we’ve brought stakeholders together or discussed it.
And so when Mark talks about self-emptying, about listening and asking questions before staking out answers, about how a policy position is only the start of the conversation, it resonates. It’s the definition of the kind of leadership our generation is looking for. I know it’s the solution we need from Members of Congress, because I’ve seen the alternative despite the good intentions my colleagues and I had.
While it’s okay to articulate an approach and even some policy ideals to aspire to (see some of Mark’s below), listening to each other and working together out of a set of deeply held values is the only viable path forward for our country. We can’t know someone else’s truth until we listen to their story. Listening means we can compromise–which to me doesn’t mean both sides giving up something, but rather a lengthy discussion that results in a new solution that we didn’t at first realize was possible.
In Congress, we have the tool we need to make self-governance work. But we’ve never used it as well as we can. From the standpoint of seeking wisdom, we need to stop expecting Members of Congress to have quick answers for every issue. We should be selecting leaders based on who’s willing to bring people together, based on their willingness to listen and ask thoughtful questions.
When we work together in good faith to find new solutions, we can overcome our fear of outcomes we won’t like, our fear that drives us to take quick positions and hold our ground in the first place. We are all so entrenched in the current political culture it can be hard to imagine something different. But that’s why, as Mark says, working together is our generation’s moonshot.
PS: Mark’s Advisory Board reflects some of the voices our campaign listens to as we approach leadership and policy issues. This week we welcomed Jeff McGuire to the Bauer for Congress Advisory Board! He joins Mel Miles, Joey Rachid, Yonathan Moya, and our policy research intern, Aida Farah.
Mark recently submitted answers to the League of Women Voters for their voter guide. Those responses are listed below.
IMMIGRATION: Do you support legislation to maintain the DACA program?
When the Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it protected from deportation young people who were brought to the US by their families and who only knew America as home. It made them eligible for work permits, creating economic benefits for all Americans. DACA’s status is threatened by a Republican administration that is oppositional to those goals. The program is used as a wedge issue, with major changes depending on who occupies the Oval Office. Congress should draft DACA-like legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
HEALTHCARE: What legislation would you support, if any, to ensure comprehensive, affordable healthcare for all?
Nobody should be economically ruined in pursuit of medical treatment to stay alive. A lot of complex factors and variables play a role in sky high healthcare costs. To stop the hemorrhaging, I would support a universal catastrophic coverage plan so that Americans wouldn’t be afraid to seek medical care if they need it. From there, I would support legislation to make healthcare costs more transparent to patients. Other contributing factors include needing to pass tort reform to prevent exuberant damages awarded against medical and insurance providers that are passed on to patients.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Do you believe Congress should adopt policies to combat climate change? If so, what would you propose?
We all have an obligation to steward our planet well. Our current political environment makes consensus on this issue difficult. Start where both sides can agree: America needs to lead the way in energy development regardless of source, finding new technologies to lessen the impact all of them have on the environment. From there, remove barriers to a competitive energy market by leveling the playing field to the extent possible in the tax and regulatory code.
ECONOMY: How would you propose to restore the country’s economic health when the COVID-19 pandemic is finally under control? Be specific regarding plans for addressing infrastructure needs. Include your plan for dealing with the national debt and income taxes.
Most every major issue covered in this voting guide is an economic issue. Making major changes in healthcare, education and environmental policy will improve the outlook for our economic health in 10-15 years, especially as it pertains to national debt. For immediate economic restoration, help match Americans with skills to job vacancies in other cities and states, and offer relocation pay to offset the risk associated with moving. Congress should extend student loan forbearance an additional six months, and it should pass legislation that increases the taxable earned income threshold to $20,000.
OTHER ISSUES: What other issues do you believe will be most pressing in the next session of Congress, and what is your position on these issues?
We are a nation that is deeply divided. Most good ideas offered by Republicans and Democrats don’t have a chance to get off the ground because party leaders seek political wins over legislative progress. What good are the best ideas if they never get taken off the shelf? We need to take a good hard look at our misunderstandings so that we can begin to see one another as neighbors again rather than political opponents. Working together is our generation’s moonshot.