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Former Senator Preaches Cooperation

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Written by David Hall

Kelly Ayotte, former senator from New Hampshire and noted bipartisan, spoke to a plurality of students, faculty and members of the community in a speech entitled “The Next America: The View from Congress” that emphasized pragmatic workmanship on Capitol Hill. 

Sponsored by the Henry H. Fowler Program, Ayotte outlined what she called “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” in which she scolded the Republican Congress and President Trump for their failure to pass major legislation, citing partisanship in Congress as a major reason. Despite those criticisms, Ayotte said she largely views the 2016 election as a rejection of failed Democratic policy.

“I think the electorate rejected what certainly had been the status-quo under Obama for eight years and so they view Hillary Clinton as an extension of those policies” Ayotte said. 

But with moderate incumbents like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake bowing out of races, it seems as if Ayotte’s brand of pragmatist conservatism might be out of favor with the general electorate. After all, Ayotte herself lost her reelection bid in 2016 by the slimmest of margins. To that point, Ayotte places her faith in her fellow Republicans. 

“The American people do have a general appreciation that the government is not working as it should for them and so they entrusted Republicans with control and that’s why it’s important that they get something done,” said Ayotte. 

Partisanship was a major theme in the talk, a fitting topic for Ayotte given her reputation of reaching across the aisle to Democrats while retaining a stiffly conservative point of view. During her tenure in the Senate, Ayotte sponsored bills with Democrats aimed at curbing the opioid crisis and another with intent to prepare young people for skilled manufacturing jobs. 

The good, from Ayotte’s perspective, was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the lone accomplishment of the republican controlled federal government. However beyond that, hyper-partisanship extends into American culture as well as politics according to Ayotte.

The source of that division? It’s complicated, according to Ayotte, but one reason she cited was the so-called “echo-chamber” effect caused by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.