Just talking to each other – and listening – can help.
Former U.S. Sens. Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, and Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, told about 350 community leaders in New Mexico on Wednesday that good communication is a key to overcoming the bitter partisanship that divides the country.
Lott said too many senators and representatives fly in and out of Washington, D.C., without taking the time to build real relationships with their colleagues from other parts of the country.
“Talk to each other,” he said. “You’d be amazed how little that goes on now.”
Daschle put it this way: “The most important way to persuade is with your ears.”
The two former senators delivered their presentation in a relaxed question-and-answer session sponsored by New Mexico First, a group that promotes collaborative policymaking. The organization was founded in 1986 by two U.S. senators from New Mexico: Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman.
Lott and Daschle said the intense partisanship in Washington is driven, in part, by the pressure both Democrats and Republicans alike face to appeal to their base and refuse to compromise with the other side.
“Leaders have to show a little courage,” Lott said.
They also lamented the easy spread of misinformation or lies in the modern news environment, sometimes driven by social media, talk radio and politicians themselves.
“I think we owe people the truth,” Daschle said.
Sam Donaldson, a retired ABC newsman and former White House correspondent, served as moderator of the event, which was held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Also on Wednesday, New Mexico First honored five community leaders for bipartisan work, including Sherman McCorkle, a business leader and retired executive.
Four state lawmakers won recognition for a commitment to collaborative policymaking: state Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park; Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque; and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos.
Lott served in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2007, and Daschle from 1987 to 2004. Each was majority and minority leader at different points in their tenures.