Can Republicans and Democrats get along?
If the bipartisan ceremony and discussion that took place recently at Claremont McKenna College is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.
At the event, former Congressman David Dreier ’75, a Republican, presented former Democratic governor Steve Bullock ’88 P’24 with the Dreier Roundtable’s inaugural Civility Award for exemplifying “the measured and thoughtful approach the country needs.” During his two terms as governor of Montana, Bullock worked together with a Republican-majority legislature to address the state’s most challenging issues.
Dreier—who while in Congress served as chairman of the House Rules Committee and pursued civility between the two parties—founded the Roundtable, a public policy program at CMC, “to attract, educate, and promote future leaders in public policy.”
Awardees are recognized for “engaging in spirited debate within the framework of civil and respectful dialogue.”
Even before the event began, it was clear that the prospect of a spirited and civil dialogue resonated with the CMC community, who packed the Ath to hear Jack Pitney, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Politics, moderate a lively conversation between Bullock and Dreier.
“This is very much an ultimate CMC moment,” Pitney said to begin the discussion, which ranged from the future of the two political parties to Dreier and Bullock’s shared CMC roots to how a CMC education instills a “spirit of civility”.
Pitney noted that it was “no surprise” to him that Claremont McKenna had recently ranked No. 1 for campus free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, highlighting the portion of the survey that found CMC had the top score for both “Tolerance for Liberal Speakers” and “Tolerance for Conservative Speakers.”
Dreier said he still aligns with traditionally Republican principles, which he defined as “a free economy, a humble government, personal freedom, and a strong, cost-effective national defense.”
Dreier was sworn into office as one of the youngest members of the House of Representatives in U.S. history, serving from 1981-2013. He recalled that while accompanying former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, on a diplomatic trip as the “token Republican,” Clinton tried to convert him to the Democratic party. Dreier recounted that he declined the offer, saying that for negotiating purposes, Clinton needed him more as a Republican than as a Democrat. “You’re absolutely right,” Dreier recalled Clinton telling him.
While the two hold starkly contrasting beliefs in the role of government, they do find common ground when it comes to their shared values. “Everybody wants a community, a decent job, clean air, clean water,” Bullock said.