In the middle of a political season, with members of Congress hunkering down amid the midterm election season, it’s refreshing to pick up a book — a policy book even! — that makes the case that it’s possible to work across party lines for the common good.
Aneesh Chopra, former chief technology officer for the United States and Virginia’s former secretary of technology, writes in his book “Innovative State” that the way to go beyond the management cliches of “working smarter” and “doing more with less” is to both keep in mind that innovation has defined basic human progress and good people usually come around to good ideas, whether it’s a non-spoils civil service or digital communication.
Another valuable lesson Chopra, a proud Democrat, offers is that it’s not necessary to trade in your party identification to work effectively across party lines. Ego is another thing, presenting perhaps the biggest challenge, but not an impossible one. As an example, he ends the book with anecdote about his talking to the Congressional Future Caucus at its inaugural event about one year ago. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Aaron Schock, R-Ill., the co-chairs, prevail upon him to tell them more about “pragmatism and collaboration,” a sign that not everyone in Congress is interested in using their time in Washington to scorch the other side.
Another positive sign Chopra sees is that, despite some negative perceptions of government, the best and the brightest continue to want to work in public service. “Where it matters, on the recruiting front, I will say, it’s never been a better time to recruit people to try to solve the big problems. It’s an incredible group of people,” Chopra told CQ Roll Call, saying the quality of resumes you see for people lining up to work on Capitol Hill and the adminstration is an extremely hopeful sign and one of the first steps to having government “deliver world class service” to the people it represents.
Meanwhile, Gabbard and Schock are fast friends to this day. Another example to add to the list is a story from CQ Roll Call’s own Emma Dumain and Lauren Gardner, whose story in Thursday’s Roll Call details how Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., are working together on climate change, an issue that has cut along partisan lines for years. Along the Southern border, Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., are working together, much to the chagrin of their leaders.
In the partisan garden, a few pragmatic weeds seem to be stubbornly clinging on.
Roll Call Book Club returns on Sept. 16 at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital with Aneesh Chopra to discuss his book. The free event starts at 6 p.m. at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and includes a free book, beverages and snacks. To register, go to our spot on Eventbrite.
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