Jackie Gingrich Cushman knows a thing or two about bipartisanship. It was her dad, after all, who coauthored one of the most sweeping bipartisan welfare reform measures in U.S. political history. In 1997, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich teamed up with President Bill Clinton to pass the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which enacted new limits and work requirements for welfare recipients.
In her new book, "Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening," Cushman, who is also a Townhall columnist, explains how to put her title into action, using her father as an example.
Speaker Gingrich, ever the outspoken conservative, had a lot of political enemies on Capitol Hill in the 1990s. Still, you could often catch him out on the town with them after work and find something else they agreed on, Cushman recalls.
That is almost unheard of today. Can you imagine Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes cheerfully chatting over a cup of joe?
Cushman points to the 2000 election as a starting point for what she terms the "sportification of politics." Those red and blue maps you see all the time weren’t consistent on every channel until the divisive Clinton-Bush recount.
"It’s become more like a sport," Cushman explained. "The party has become more of a team. It's hard to get into intellectual policy discussions … 'oh my gosh, you’re talking bad about my team. My team good, your team bad.' It happens on both sides, unfortunately."
With politics now part of our identity, the fear of a second Civil War is "real," she said. Just consider how protesters have been chasing Trump administration officials out of restaurants and bullying them outside their homes in the past few years.
"It would be a different type of civil war," she muses. "What it could look like is a series of scrimmages that would be more distributed within the country set to disturb and disrupt."
Still, the author argues that it's worth trying to find common ground with one another. In one chapter of her book, she encourages her Republican readers to "Take a Democrat Out to Lunch."
"If we don’t have shared experiences that are successful, it’s really hard to gap," she explained. "Go out and play tennis. The act of doing something that’s positive, not just sitting around and talking incessantly."
So, who would be her ideologically opposed lunch date?
"As much as she is vilified by the Republicans - Nancy Pelosi," Cushman said, without much hesitation. "She is obviously one very smart woman who has been around a very long time. I think she would be just fascinating to talk to. Anyone who has been that resilient. She lost the speakership, weathered that, and came back. You’ve got to admire her fortitude and her staying power."
She takes her own advice she's penned. In her office, she's befriended several liberal colleagues, pledging never to ask someone what party they belong to. What does it matter when they're both fighting for their community?
"First, look for interests and challenges and then someone who wants to work with you on it," she said. "I never ask anyone what their party is. Along the way, I can figure that out. But that’s not the point of what we’re doing."
"Instead of berating ourselves, we need to focus on the positive," she urged. "We’re in a very negative cycle from a national narrative. If we say we’re terrible, we will eventually become that way."