Open Letter to Senator Thom Tillis
Posted on January 18, 2017
Yesterday Senator Thom Tillis wrote an eloquent letter to the editor in the Charlotte Observer. Tillis is the junior senator from North Carolina, a job he won in a less than 2 percent victory over incumbent Kay Hagan. Tillis wrote:
Since the election, I’ve heard some of my fellow Republicans claim that the party received a decisive mandate from voters.
Let’s be clear: the American people didn’t give the GOP a stamp of approval or a mandate to ram through an ideologically-driven, far-right agenda. If the election was a mandate for anything, it was for elected officials in both parties to break through the gridlock to finally start producing results.
Americans from all walks of life have voiced their deep frustration with Washington’s seeming inability to get anything constructive done. For decades, they have watched politicians talk a good game while failing to deliver. They have watched as politicians intentionally create chaos and widen the partisan divide for their own personal gain.
During the election, Donald Trump seized on the nation’s discontent, convincing voters in swing states that he was the candidate who could drain the swamp while Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the status quo.
Republicans should remember that when Trump campaigned, he wasn’t holding up a conservative manifesto at every rally. Instead, his message was simple: cut deals and deliver results.
If Republicans now operate under the incorrect assumption that they have a broad mandate, they are doomed to repeat same mistakes made by Democrats over the last eight years. Democrats misinterpreted the mandate for change in 2008 as an ideological mandate to move the country sharply to the left. They rammed through policies like ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank with little, if any, bipartisan support. Democrats paid the price at the ballot box, and Republicans will meet that same fate if they misinterpret the results from November.
What the vast majority of Americans want now is for both parties to cast aside their petty partisan differences in order to deliver solutions that benefit the nation.
Unfortunately, the far-right and far-left are already mobilizing to prevent that from happening, ensuring that we keep the status quo: polarizing rhetoric, stalemate in Congress, and no meaningful results.
The far-left has vowed to stop Trump every step of the way, even though he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. These extreme voices already seem to be influencing the rhetoric of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recently made the proclamation that the only way he would work with Trump is if the President-elect “moves completely in our direction and abandons his Republican colleagues.” If Schumer is sincere about closing the door shut on bipartisanship, then Democratic leaders want to maintain gridlock.
Meanwhile, the far-right is already creating their own definition of what “draining the swamp” means. They’re demanding Republican members to go on record supporting their agenda, which is certainly not the same agenda the American people voted for. This is nothing new. For years, so-called “conservative” for-profit special interest groups have attempted to turn every provision in every bill into a litmus test of ideological purity. They promise to primary any Republican who dares to even think about working in a bipartisan manner.
Both the far-right and the far-left want to maintain the gridlock and dysfunction. Together, they represent the single greatest threat to producing progress for the American people.
I, for one, have no intention of sitting down and watching another re-run of the same divisive partisanship we see year after year. I resolve to work with my colleagues to succeed in producing the good rather than failing to produce the perfect.
I’ll be reaching across the aisle to find opportunities to work with Democrats on the issues that desperately need to be addressed: reforming the nation’s broken immigration system, providing regulatory relief, overhauling the VA, reforming our criminal justice system, and modernizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Republicans are in power and have the potential to deliver historic results – but only if we work together with the Democrats who also want to see progress. We owe it to the American people to set aside the areas where our ideology may prevent progress, and find common ground where there are plenty of opportunities to produce good results. It is time for Republicans to step up and lead.
I read and re-read the letter. At first I felt hopeful. This is real statesmanship–a Republican seemingly owning the fact that Trump was elected by a minority of American voters. But there was something else going on and it took me a while to put my finger on it. This morning, after a good night’s rest, it occurred to me that what I’m feeling is rhetoric fatigue. I don’t know if that’s a real “thing” but that is where I am. I need to see more steak and less sizzle.
A friend told me once that I am “the most conservative liberal he knows.” I take that as a compliment. Like most Americans, my views are not checklist of any party’s platform. I’m an adoptive mother. Not surprisingly, abortion is a tough issue for me, one that I continue to wrestle with. I believe in a social safety net, but I have also seen a cycle of dependency among some stuck in that system that hurts those it seeks to help. Compassion requires of us that we consider whether our helping is actually hurting.
All of this is to say that I am, like most Americans, bi-partisan by nature. Perhaps I am naive, but I believe government should be, at its core, an intense conversation about how to best promote the freedoms of its people, and that this conversation necessarily involves different ideologies. After sitting with this for a bit, I wrote Senator Tillis the following letter.
Dear Senator Tillis:
I read with great interest your January 17, 2017 letter to the editor in the Charlotte Observer. I agree with you that we voters are quite frustrated with our elected officials’ inability to move past partisan politics and toward governing for all of us. I also agree with you that your party does not have a mandate to “ram through” policies without bipartisan support (not on everything, I understand, but where it is possible).
Perhaps it is my lawyer training, but I only put so much weight in rhetoric. Like many North Carolina voters, I am a “show me don’t tell me” voter. I routinely vote for representatives in both parties based on one criterion: What has this candidate done to help our community live into the great promise of democracy?
PEOTUS lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes—despite his juvenile tweets to the contrary, he does not have the support of the majority of Americans. The challenge for all of our elected officials, including you, Senator Tillis, is to reject the “easy out” of the ad hominem attack. Meanness not only affects the victim, it affects the perpetrator and it harms our democracy by crowding out real policy debate. I welcome your letter, but would like to see you publically rejecting PEOTUS’s divisive language about women and minorities in the coming days.
I am interested to hear about your ideas concerning how to make sure Americans can afford and have access to healthcare? How are we going to continue to support our public schools? What is the appropriate response to Russia’s misdeeds? In what specific instances are you willing to break with party lines and vote with Democrats for the good of the people? I am interested to see exactly how you plan to be bipartisan, not just that you believe it is a good idea to do so. What are your ideas about reducing the number of incarcerated Americans (more than any other Western country per capita)?
I will watch with great interest and hopefulness to see how you live into your noble words.
A concerned North Carolinian,