26 March 2015

Notes from Norm: Amen to Getting Things Done

Throughout my career in elective office I have had the opportunity to work tremendously talented men and women.  Some were Democrats, some Republicans, some conservative, some liberal but nearly all of them committed to the simple concept that their role in public service was to work together to get things done.

As Solicitor General in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office I worked with dedicated legislators to pass some of the toughest laws against violent child sex predators, expanded protections for Minnesota consumers and prosecuted some of the most violent criminals in the state.  

Whether it was a liberal Democrat from the Twin Cities or a conservative Republican from the Western Suburbs, there was a general belief that there had to be a way to get past partisan or ideological differences and find common ground.

The same was true during my tenure as Mayor of St. Paul – a city totally dominated by the state’s Democratic Party.  Despite strenuous opposition by public employee unions and liberal special interest groups, members of the City Council and I found many opportunities to work together to move the City forward.

In doing so, we held the line on taxes for 8 years in a row – expanded the city’s tax base by working with the private sector to create more jobs and build our economy – and, we restored confidence in the city’s future by making it safer, cleaner and more affordable.

When elected to the United States Senate in 2002 I joined several new GOP Senators – Saxby Chambliss, Lindsey Graham and Jim Talent – in securing a GOP Senate Majority.

Today, of the four of us elected in 2002, only one – Lindsey Graham – remains in the United States Senate.

In a profile story about Senator Graham in the 3/25/2015 edition of Politico, Senator Graham, a prospective GOP candidate for President in 2016, reminds us again of what makes him a uniquely important voice on the national political stage.

Republicans, those running for President as well as those considering running for President, would be well-served by paying attention to Senator Graham’s admonition about leadership.

“You can’t govern the country based on being angry,” Graham emphasizes in Politico.

While I have not yet made a decision on my choice for GOP candidate for President in 2016, I have long ago come to the conclusion that Lindsey Graham, besides being a friend, is also one of the smartest, most passionate public servants I have met in my life.

Graham may not win many points with political pundits and the cynics who believe his refreshing political candor is a detriment to his future political amibtions.
Perhaps it all the more reason he deserves to be heard.

During the nominating process for President Candidates for both parties will be appealing to what they consider their potential political bases.  Where they veer – right or left – is both a function of their personal political ideology, but also the nominating process of their respective political party.

Senator Graham, who has yet to publicly declare whether he will or will not be a candidate for President, promises to be honest and straight-forward with voters.

“This campaign will be focused on a heavy dose of realism — surrounded by optimism if we make the right policy choices,” Graham said. “It’s about what I think is possible in terms of the current political construct and how to grow conservatism. But at the end of the day, it will be focused on problem-solving, which will require a certain level of realism and bipartisanship.”

One of the most outspoken members of the Senate, Lindsey is known as a hawk on defense, but he is also known as someone who reaches across the aisle to get things done.

This willingness to go against the grain antagonizes voices on the right and the left, but represents a critical counterweight to the base partisanship we have seen virtually stop our federal government in its tracks.
I don’t always agree with him. Nor, do I need to.

This reality is central to his argument that finding a way to construct a governance model that respects the views of all, but requires give and take by all, is absolutely necessary to the future of our country.

Anger is a great motivating force to get people to respond and engage, but optimism in the future is the ingredient that gets things done.

Whether Senator Graham’s vision of how he believes the world should work, and how politics should be conducted and government should be led, catches on or not, he will provide us with a valuable reminder that elected officials, in the end, are elected to work together to get things done.

To that I say, Amen!