A respect caucus? Small group of politicians fighting divisive culture
In today’s world of tit-for-tat politics, rallies, and even violence, all in the name of toxic politics, it’s hard to see leaders behaving well through the noise.
But they are there, if you look for it, according to Congressman Derek Kilmer, a Democrat who represents Washington’s 6th Congressional District. Kilmer is part of a newer caucus in Washington DC that he says “doesn’t contribute to the toxicity in our politics.” The primary goal of the group: civility and respect.
“There’s some value in getting to understand where folks come from, but beyond that, some of that is committing to each other, and the American people, that we will try to model good behavior,” Kilmer told Seattle’s Morning News. “We may have disagreements of ideas, but we won’t impugn the person.”
The Congressional Civility and Respect Caucus was launched in 2018. It includes 36 Congress members – a 50/50 split of Republicans and Democrats. Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) is a founding member of the respect caucus. His office argues that civility matters; incivility decreases productivity, costs companies millions, and harms the psychology of young Americans, contributing to suicide and other dangerous behavior.
Just imagine what it can do in Congress.
The respect caucus therefore strives to counter a divisive and disrespectful sentiment permeating throughout American culture.
“We’ve actually participated in a couple of what we call ‘civility exchanges’ where I’ve had a Republican come to my district, and I’ve gone to that Republican’s district,” Kilmer said. “It’s been really interesting. I had Steve Womack, who is a Conservative Arkansas Republican, come to my district. We went to the Port of Tacoma. They talked with him about containers that come to and from Arkansas through the Port of Tacoma.”
“And at the end of that visit, he said, ‘Wow, I now understand why you talk about freight mobility issues.’”
Kilmer said it has become more and more important to model civility, and beyond that, speak up against “hateful rhetoric and hateful actions,” which halt progress, and have led to the tragic loss of life in two mass shootings within a weekend.
“I’m disturbed at the divisive rhetoric and divisive actions that our president has taken,” Kilmer said. “I pray every night for him and other leaders. I pray that he embraces the better angels of our nature. That is, too often, not the case.”
The respect caucus is only 36 out of 435 members of the House. Despite being small, the goal is to have wide-reaching influence, and hopefully, other lawmakers can eventually learn to be adults.
“I think the original sin in this is how you define your job as public servants,” Kilmer said. “Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell has defined his role as, in his words, being the ‘Grim Reaper’ of bills that pass the House.”
“If you’ve looked at your job as simply denying action on bills, even bills … that have bi-partisan support, that’s a real problem.”