On Thursday, former U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott held a lecture on bi-partisanship at the University of South Alabama.
The talk was a part of the university’s 60th celebration and their Presidential Lecture Series. Daschle, former minority leader, and Lott, former majority leader, spoke for over an hour about issues facing the country, polarization, how they believe bipartisanship can offer solutions and leadership.
The discussion was also tailored around Daschle and Lott’s experience working in the Senate together and their book, Crisis Point: Why We Must – and How We Can – Overcome Our Broken Politics in Washington and Across America.
Daschle, 75, is a Democrat from South Dakota and served as a U.S. senator from 1987-2005. Lott, 82, is a Republican from Mississippi who served in the House from 1973-1989 and Senate from 1989-2005. The two worked closely during their tenure as party leaders.
The moderator, Dr. Joel Billingsley, promptly began the conversation by asking the two men about the removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, as the Speaker of the House and subsequent multiple failures to elect a new speaker until Mike Johnson, R-LA. Both Lott and Daschle voiced frustration about the situation with Lott stating that he “never dreamed whether I was in the House or the Senate that we would experience what we’ve just observed.”
For Daschle he said the ordeal was embarrassing and was worried about how it made America look in the eyes of the world specifically other powerful states like China and Russia.
“I’m embarrassed,” Daschle said. “I’m troubled. And I’m deeply concerned about its ramifications… But you know what concerns me the most is that those autocrats Putin and Xi are watching and they’re, just deliriously happy the more dysfunctional we look.”
Lott added that he was going to talk to Johnson next week and give the new Speaker suggestions on what worked for Lott and Daschle.
Other topics that Daschle and Lott covered included education, debt, cyber-security, compromise, threats to democracy, leaders, spending, media and more.
Nearly every question got back to how bipartisanship can be implemented to help create solutions. Both Daschle and Lott continuously advocated for people, specifically young people, to remain steadfast and pursue being leaders that try to work together despite differences.
The two former senators referenced polarization and breakdown of communication as being an impediment to the political landscape. Lott said that nowadays many politicians “talk at each other and not to each other.”
“I think the lack of the lack of civility and polarization is the greatest threat to democracy,” Daschle said.
Despite their worries Daschle and Lott added that institutions like the University of South Alabama with the leadership of President Jo Bonner were critical to producing leaders that will help pave the future.
“We are facing a lot of challenges,” Lott said. “But if we look to the future, I think one place we need to look is our education institutions.”
Lott and Daschle also spoke earlier in the day to a group of South Alabama students in a luncheon where they discussed similar topics.