When working for Sen. Jake Garn in 1990, I recall learning the $5-word “comity,” referring to demonstrating courtesy and respect toward opposing partisans.
While Congress was a partisan place at the time, the spirit of comity was genuine. The principals and the staff respected their counterparts across the aisle. Not only have things changed in Congress but also in our community. It is becoming difficult to talk about politics even with our friends — especially with our friends.
Watching the recent Democratic debates, we’ve seen heightened tensions boiling over as underdogs face elimination and seek to make a name for themselves by attacking front runners. Utahns and other Americans are uncomfortable watching the performance. We expect our future president to be above the fray not down in the mud.
At the same time, the issues facing America remain challenging. We must talk about them.
The challenge for our community is to learn to discuss difficult topics while respecting differing points of view. If we believe our ideas are superior to others, we shouldn’t be threatened by hearing others’ opinions. Listening is a key sign of respect.
In Congress, it is time to restore the spirit of comity that once pervaded both houses. People on both sides of the aisle have been accumulating their own fact sets that support their respective positions, depriving them of the ability to agree on anything.
When Sen. Mitt Romney broke with his party, voting to convict President Trump during the Senate impeachment trial, he was pilloried by Republican colleagues who rejected his assertion of having been guided by his faith to “do what is right and let the consequence follow.”
There was a time when flatly rejecting such an expression of faith from someone whose faithfulness is so well documented would have been unthinkable, especially for Republicans. It should serve as a red flag marking out of bounds, suggesting extreme caution and recommending a return to safety.
For years, I’ve been advocating for ending extreme poverty, improving global health and reversing climate change. Now, I’m running for Congress to accelerate bold solutions. As I contemplate serving in Congress, I reflect on my experience working on Capitol Hill. I remember the collegiality I experienced fondly and believe that restoring that ethic is critical to getting work done for the Utahns who will send me to Washington.
When I left Washington almost 30 years ago, I said I wouldn’t return until I was elected. I’ve decided it’s time to go back to restore comity and do the people’s work. In the meantime, let’s work together on showing respect to one another right here in our community.
Devin Thorpe, Salt Lake City, a Democrat, is running for Congress in Utah’s 3rd District.