A Conversation with Sen. Danforth
Senator Jack Danforth, one of the nation's leading public figures and now a leading public citizen, dropped by Oct. 24 to take part in an informal conversation with SLU LAW students. In a wide-ranging talk on topics including the recent federal government shutdown, the national debt crisis, and religion and politics, Danforth often stressed the importance of elected officials to compromise.
He led off the discussion by telling a story about Sen. Bob Dole’s favorite way of getting both sides of the aisle working together: putting them together in a cramped, stuffy room and telling them to “work it out.”
“[There are] a lot of people, even in my own party, who don’t believe in compromise. The role of the ordinary Senator is gone. The two leaders govern what can happen…I don’t know why anyone would want the job.”
Continuing on the subject of the current state of Congress, Danforth said the political center “is almost nonexistent in Washington. I think it exists in the country as a whole, but the real activists are the people who are the most doctrinaire.”
Danforth believes one of the solutions to this polarization that has pushed politics towards the fringes is for the moderates to get more involved. “Vote in primaries, attend political meetings and caucuses,” Danforth encouraged. “Show up, be vocal, weigh in to the best of your ability and, generally, push back. Don’t be a punching bag.”
On religion and politics, the subject on which he wrote a book, Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, insists religious people can have a role politics. “First is to insist that politics isn’t religion. Politics is compromise. Religion isn’t. To take a political position, whatever it is, and make that the highest good of your philosophy is idolatry…so I think one thing religious people can offer politics is an alternative to the extreme polarization, which is the insistence: my way or the highway.”
Check out the SLU LAW Twitter feed for more of the Senator’s thoughts.
“A Conversation with Senator Danforth” was another in a series of Inaugural Year Events being held at Scott Hall. For a list of upcoming events, please click here.