Governors Chris Sununu (R-N.H.), Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) and Larry Hogan (R-Md.) discussed bipartisanship in an era of division on Monday at the Parkway Theater. PBS Managing Editor Judy Woodruff presented the talk, titled “Divided Nation, United States.” The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute sponsored the event.
University President Ronald J. Daniels explained that the Agora Institute focuses on combating political polarization and promoting civic discourse.
“The idea of bringing together governors who have to work across party lines with a legislature of the opposite party, we thought, would be a wonderful way of organizing this discussion,” Daniels said.
Hogan addressed rumors that he is planning on running for president in the 2020 elections. He explained that his upcoming trip to Iowa, known in political circles as home to one of the earliest major contests in the presidential primary schedule, was purely in his official capacity as vice chair of the National Governors Association. He added that he is “focused on Maryland.” However, he did not rule out the possibility of running.
“Who knows what is going to happen two years from now? You never know,” he said.
The three governors discussed the role of pragmatism in politics. They each explained what they would have done to avoid the recent government shutdown, which at 35 days was the longest in U.S. history. Wolf described the role of democracy and governance, and Hogan agreed.
“Democracy... is not just about trying to make public policy,” Wolf said. “It is about actually running a government and making self-government work.”
Sununu believes that governing is all about finding the ways in which the state can serve the people.
“The secret of government is this,” he said, “How do you get the big system to focus on an individual? I believe that that is the secret.”
Sophomore Samantha Gould said that while she found all of the governors personally engaging and their perspectives interesting, she was less impressed by their discussions of working with divided state legislatures.
“A lot of it was rhetoric I had heard before about bipartisanship,” she said.
Sophomore Kayla Ostrow agreed that some of the governors’ stances did not surprise her.
“Of course they are here to say how well their state is performing and how well they are reaching out across the aisle,” she said.
Many of the attendees, such as sophomore Sam Mollin, asked the governors about climate change during the discussion’s question-and-answer portion. Hogan discussed Maryland’s clean air standards, which are stricter than 48 other states. The other governors, similarly, described the environmental policies in their home states. However, other students said they would have liked to hear more.
At the end of the discussion, attendees asked the governors how people should find hope in the U.S. government considering the current political context. Governor Sununu said that he finds hope in the leaders that he sees working hard to listen to their constituents, despite partisanship today.
“As a politician, I will tell you... it is really hard right now, especially on families,“ he said. “There is no politician that is not giving a very significant sacrifice, because they are saying, ‘30 percent of the people on any given day are going to blast me just because there is an R or a D after my name.’”