Daily Resource Highlight - 2/14/2022

Posted by on February 14, 2022 at 1:42 PM

Below are the highlights and featured resources of this past week’s Daily* Resource.

February 8, 2022 - Maybe Let’s Pay the People Who Craft Our Laws?

You may have noticed that I’m feeling a bit feisty lately. I came out strongly in favor of free speech in the last two newsletters, and now I’m taking another stand – this time on Hill staffer pay. The men and women who write our laws should be paid well.

According to a new report by Issue One, 1 in 8 Congressional staffers in D.C. are being paid less than a living wage. In other words, working on the Hill is literally yeoman’s work. It’s no wonder, then, that (1) Congress is having trouble recruiting diverse Americans and (2) staffers see the Hill as a launchpad for lucrative lobbyist jobs rather than a long-term career path (a similar situation appears to be playing out at The Pentagon).

The situation has motivated anonymous BIPOC+ staffers to create an Instagram account where they complain about life in Congress. It has also created a groundswell of support for a Congressional staff union.

A counter-argument to raising staff pay is that Congress is dysfunctional, so why “reward” that dysfunction with higher pay? The response to that (strawman) argument is put forth in simple terms in the last paragraph of Issue One’s report, “You get what you pay for.” If we want well-written laws and staffers who can competently brief our Representatives on complex issues, we need to be willing to compensate talented Americans at somewhere near their value.

We know from the Millennial Action Project’s feel good blog post from January 6th that young Americans are willing and able to change our nation for the better – and they are willing to work across party lines to get things done. It’s our responsibility to lower the barriers so that they can serve their country to the best of their ability.

February 10, 2022 - What’s the Word I’m Looking For? (It’s Not Polarization)

I need your help. I’m trying to figure out how to describe the need to bridge divides within ideological camps. For instance, conservative Weston Wamp of Issue One writes that it’s in the GOP’s best interest to accept the 2020 Presidential Election as legitimate and reject Trump’s rhetoric. A (rough) progressive equivalent might be Antifa. While AllSides notes that there’s a stark contrast in Antifa coverage between right and left outlets, there’s also a difference among progressives about whether Antifa is a positive or negative political force.

But I don’t think these battles are examples of “polarization.” Polarization, in my eyes, is about different philosophies on governance and the role of government, and reducing polarization is about finding common ground among those differences. For instance, R Street favors giving people the ability to protect their own health, but is open to government interventions like needle exchange programs. The differences on the 2020 Election and Antifa feel like something else, but I’m not quite sure what.

The question is, does it matter? Or am I splitting hairs? It depends. Braver Angels is great at promoting understanding and empathy between political opposites. And they regularly train people on how to do more of this work (sign up to be one of their trainees!). Does the same approach work among people who are ideologically similar? Do we want to promote understanding with people who believe the election was fixed?

I think my perspective is that those intra-ideology conflicts are real, and are something different from polarization. I also think it’s important to promote understanding across both intra-ideological and inter-ideological differences, even when the person we’re trying to understand holds views that we consider to be “extreme.” 

Debilyn Molineaux (Bridge Alliance), Ciaran O’Connor (Braver Angels), and Jeff Clements (American Promise) were recently quoted in an article titled “How to Avoid Losing Friends Over Politics.” The article is about cross-partisan friendships, but it seems like many of the truths and tools discussed in that piece are applicable to intrapartisan friendships, too. That is, if we want them to.