How Can We Renew Bipartisanship?

December 1, 2021

GSPM Fahrenkopf Manatt panel discussion with 6 people

From left, moderator Casey Burgat and panelists Anne Rancourt, M.P.S. '10; Julius Hobson Jr., M.A. '80; Jordan Bernstein, M.A. '98; Debbie Mucarsel-Powell; Mike Bishop. (William Atkins/GW Today)

What can be done to counter the increasingly polarized political climate in the United States? A GW panel of experts discussed the urgent political need to embrace bipartisanship at the annual Frank J. Fahrenkopf and Charles T. Manatt Endowed Lecture at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) last month.

The talk, “Renewing Bipartisanship: Making Washington Work Again,” was combined with the GSPM’s alumni achievement awards ceremony. The lecture is named in honor of donors Charles Manatt, J.D. ’62, Hon. ’08, and Frank Fahrenkopf, who were longtime friends across the political aisle before Mr. Manatt’s death in 2011. 

Recipients of the alumni award this year were Jordan Bernstein, M.A. ’98, now CEO of Cassidy & Associates, a government-relations firm in the District of Columbia; Julius Hobson Jr., M.A. ’80, a senior policy advisor at Polsinelli, one of the nation’s largest law firms; and Anne Rancourt, M.P.S. ’10, communications director for the National Institutes of Health.

The alumni awardees were joined on the panel by two former U.S. representatives, Republican Mike Bishop and Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, both serving as GSPM fellows for the 2021-22 academic year. The conversation was moderated by Casey Burgat, director of the GSPM Legislative Affairs Program.

“GSPM looks to train its students that bipartisanship makes democracy work,” GSPM Director Lara Brown said, citing “principles we usually ascribe to sportsmanship: forbearance, restraint and a mutual tolerance and respect for the opposition as well as adherence to the rules.” She then read commendations recognizing this year’s award recipients for their achievements in the spirit of bipartisanship.

Dr. Burgat began by emphasizing the importance of conversation across the aisle and stressing the urgent need for bipartisanship, pointing to the Jan. 6 insurrection as evidence of this need.

“We are incredibly polarized. Republicans and Democrats do not agree with each other no matter what the issue is,” Dr. Burgat said.  “Even historically nonpartisan institutions are now getting undermined on purpose for political gain.”

Read GW Today’s event coverage