OPINION: We Must Revive Productive Disagreements, the Genius of our Constitution and Democracy


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On Tuesday morning, September 13, 2022, Congressman Jake Auchincloss (D-MA-District 4), gave remarks to the New England Council in an event titled, "Capitol Hill Report with Jake Auchincloss," one of several such speaking engagements by politicians to the self-proclaimed nation's oldest regional business organization.

In his prepared remarks, Rep. Auchincloss opined that the art of having productive disagreements, although an unnatural act that requires effort, is "the genius of our Constitution and democracy."  However, he says such genius is being lost. Instead, the noise of "carnival barkers for socialism or strong-man rule" from the hard Left and extreme Right is getting louder. 

The Congressman calls for reform to business as usual in politics, pointing to California's top-two primary system, New Jersey's independent redistricting system, and Alaska's instant runoff voting as models to emulate. He adds that dark money in politics should also be banned. 

A full copy of Congressman Auchincloss's prepared remarks are below.

Thanks to the Office of Jake Auchincloss for sharing the following opinion and remarks with Westwood Minute. The views and opinions below represent those of the author alone, and not necessarily those of Westwood Minute.

Good morning

I am Jake Auchincloss, representing Massachusetts 4th Congressional District, which stretches from the inner suburbs of Boston, where I grew up, all the way south to the border of Rhode Island.

The Mass Fourth previously elected heavy-hitters Bob Drinan, Barney Frank, and Joe Kennedy.

All of us, I think, would say the same thing: it’s a complicated district.

I represent a half dozen of the wealthiest Boston suburbs and also three working-class cities.

I represent large Lusophone, Jewish, and Asian-American communities.

And I represent the reddest county in the state as well as some of the bluest zip codes in the entire country.

It brings to mind a scene from a movie I love, Charlie Wilson’s War, in which Tom Hanks declares his Texas congressional district to be the easiest in Congress – they want their guns, they want low taxes, and they want to be left alone.

The MA-4 is the exact opposite. My district has lots of opinions. And they share them.

My campaign for Congress in 2020 so stressed out my wife, Michelle, that she developed a kidney stone in the final week.

The very night we won, I drove her to Newton-Wellesley hospital.

While I was waiting with her in the hospital room, I got a phone call from Nancy Pelosi to congratulate me.

I have the Speaker, on speaker, and I have my wife, laying in a hospital bed.

Nancy Pelosi tells us that I now represent a district with a national profile, and the next campaign starts tonight.

The Speaker was right: the pace only picked up.

My first Wednesday in office was Jan 6,

my second Wednesday – the impeachment,

my third Wednesday the inauguration, thankfully, of Joe Biden.

From there, it was:

  • A once-in-a-century pandemic response, keystoned by the American Rescue Plan to help children shipwrecked by the storms of COVID,
  • A twin set of once-in-a-generation bills to invest in infrastructure, science, and domestic manufacturing,
  • and, the biggest, boldest climate action and clean energy commitment in history.

All this while defending women’s rights and our very democracy from GOP attacks.

The Marine Corps taught me that in conditions like this, of high stakes and fast decision-making, we don’t rise to the occasion, we fall to our level of training.

I have the training for the political environment we are in.

I grew up in a family of scientists, where my mom and dad taught me the value of hard data and an open mind as they worked to cure cancer and diabetes.

I’ve led fellow Americans, from all walks of life, in common purpose as a Marine platoon commander – for a failed mission in Afghanistan and for a successful one in Panama.

Locally, I’ve worked with neighbors on housing, transportation, and education as a city councilor for my hometown.

There’s no better training for rough & tumble politics, let me tell you, than chairing public hearings about building more housing in a quiet neighborhood or taking away parking spots on Main Street.

I’ve also worked in business, at a startup and a Fortune 100, building new products for tough markets.

Most importantly, though, I’m the father of two kids in diapers – the second youngest parent in Congress.

Teaching Teddy & Grace how to share and take turns is actually the best training for Congress I’ve had to date.

I’m now reading to Teddy, 2.5, the same books that sparked my love for American history, and inspired me to have the pictures of the Founding Fathers on my bedroom wall from elementary school through college.

The common thread across this experience, from

  • studying Hamilton & Madison to
  • commanding special operations in the jungles of Panama to
  • wrangling votes at City Hall

Is learning how to make disagreement productive.

It’s the genius of our Constitution and our democracy.

But it’s unnatural. It takes effort. And as a country, we are forgetting how to do it.

It starts with reaching out to work together where we do agree. In my first term, I have built relationships left, center, and right to deliver results.

After the Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I co-led legislation to authorize the EPA to mandate generation-shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy.

This nation must achieve clean energy independence by investing in an all-of-the-above clean energy strategy that frees us from Middle Eastern oil. And a compromise version of our initiative has now become law.

Independence, though, does not mean isolationism. With Americans struggling with high costs, I teamed up with Stephanie Murphy, the chair of the centrist Blue Dogs, to pressure the Biden administration to reduce tariffs to save working families hundreds of dollars a year.

Expanding trade, and embracing legal immigration, is essential to raising productivity and lowering costs at home and abroad.

On the right, Liz Cheney and I have championed bipartisan support for the strategic defeat of Russia in Ukraine. The United States must lead the world in upholding the postwar, rules-based order that has spread peace and prosperity to ever-more people.

And we must send a stark message to the authoritarian regime in Moscow – and Beijing – that might does not make right, and that the United States will always stand with democracy and freedom.

Left, center, right: working with three very impressive, but very different, women to deliver results.

Two of those women, though, aren’t coming back to Congress. That’s a reflection of a democracy under duress.

Individual politicians can’t keep on building bridges on top of institutional foundations that are crumbling.

We must heal our federal republic.

In the immediate term, that means ending Donald Trump’s political career. I’m sick of talking about Donald Trump and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about him, so I’m not going to belabor this point, but –

Donald Trump is the 5-alarm fire in the house, and it must be put out.

Yet the house will still be divided when the fire is out. To heal our Union we need reform from the roots.

We know what works:

  • California’s top-two primary system
  • New Jersey’s independent redistricting system
  • Alaska’s instant-runoff voting,
  • and the banning of dark money in politics.

The effects of these reforms are powerful and proven: they force politicians to compete for the hearts and minds of the average American voter, instead of the purity-test partisan.

The average American voter is not buying what the extreme right or the hard left is selling. They want to hear about opportunity, not about grievance.

The average American voter has common sense and decency. They don’t believe our differences as a people are too great to bridge.

And the average American voter doesn’t want Washington, DC to Make America Great Again.

They want us to make politics boring again:

to unleash entrepreneurs to build big things, because capitalism is how we compete;

to empower mayors to solve hard problems, because federalism is how we govern;

And to let people get on with their lives, because freedom is how we define ourselves.

I hope more states, including my own, adopt these reforms to empower the average voter.

But we can’t wait for ballot questions.

We must sharpen our arguments to cut through the noise that has exhausted the majority, because the carnival barkers for socialism or strong-man rule are getting louder.

We must be ready to make our case to voters, not by scolding them on their alleged shortcomings but by enlisting them in our cause.

I will go everywhere to talk to everyone.

I go on FOX News to defend Roe and to argue for an assault weapons ban, because the GOP has left the mainstream on these issues. Thirty years ago, Republican senators from Kansas and Indiana voted to ban assault weapons. Imagine that today.

I go on MSNBC to defend the president for not expanding the Supreme Court.

I go on Twitter to talk about stablecoins.

I will continue to go everywhere to talk to everyone because we cannot allow the flanks of each party to control the debate.

The hard Left must hear loud and clear that we are not going to open our jails or close our schools.

They must hear that patriotism is a Yes/And endeavor:

Yes we can celebrate our heroes, from Harriet Tubman to Teddy Roosevelt, and we can celebrate our progress as Americans. We are the greatest country in the world.

The extreme right must hear loud and clear that we will not stay the greatest country in the world without free and fair elections.

Their Big Lie is a betrayal of the United States.

The GOP has gotten lost in its thicket of lies. It has lost itself and it is losing the center.

The exhausted majority is there to be won, but that means Democrats must go win it.

I’m looking forward to a conversation, now, about how we do that.

Editor's note: Westwood Minute takes no position on the opinion articles that it publishes, but seeks accurate and thoughtful commentary on topics that matter to our community, from a variety of differing viewpoints. Feel free to reply with your reaction below, or submit another perspective to WestwoodInAMinute@gmail.com.

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