Everyone is grumbling about Washington gridlock, and rightly so. By all accounts, today's partisan atmosphere is so poisonous, it makes even the vitriolic Clinton years look warm and fuzzy. I know much of the problem is systemic, but I was struck by something Evan Bayh wrote in his weekend op-ed for The New York Times:
When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This type of social interaction hardly ever happens today and we are the poorer for it. It is much harder to demonize someone when you know his family or have visited his home. Today, members routinely campaign against each other, raise donations against each other and force votes on trivial amendments written solely to provide fodder for the next negative attack ad. It's difficult to work with members actively plotting your demise.
Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help.
So, a truly modest proposal: could someone in D.C. with clout and charm please invite Trent Lott and Bernie Sanders to a backyard BBQ. Ground rules: casual clothes, kids and grandkids welcome, no political talk, everything off the record. Just human beings getting to know one another a little better.
Now let's expand this exponentially: what if 50 or 100 such hosts banded together and made a point of pairing up all Senators-who-regularly-lambaste-each-other. They could call themselves The BBQ for Comity Club. Is it possible that, with their grandkids climbing trees together, some of the poison gas could dissipate and some differences could get resolved?
David Shenk is a writer on genetics, talent and intelligence. He is the author of Data Smog, The Forgetting, and most recently, The Genius In All of Us.