Dean Martha Minow welcomed former Senator Olympia Snowe and Jason Grumet ’98 to Harvard Law School on Oct. 30 to discuss their work at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the recent report, Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen our Democracy. Snowe is a BPC senior fellow and co-chairs its Commission on Political Reform. Grumet is president and a founder of BPC.
Dean Minow began the conversation by asking Snowe and Grumet why they’re so passionate about the Commission on Political Reform. Snowe said she got involved because “our overall political system simply is not working.” Snowe, who represented Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years and in the U.S. Senate for 18 years, said she was “stunned” by the degree to which the system had broken down. She said her decision to leave the Senate in 2013 reflected her belief that the polarization wasn’t going to diminish in the short term.
Grumet said the passion around this project stems from the desire to have a set of practical, actionable answers to overcome political divides in government. Political reform has historically been a “center left exercise,” he said. The goal is to avoid “heroic narratives that often lead to disillusionment in favor of some practicable ideas,” such as eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed in the Senate or returning Congress to a five-day work week.
Snowe served in both houses of the Maine legislature and both houses of Congress. During her career in the Senate, she was chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the first Republican woman ever to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee. Her book, Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, explains how Congress has become so polarized, and what Americans can do to encourage our Senators and Representatives to govern effectively once again.
Grumet founded BPC in 2007 with former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell to develop and promote bipartisan solutions to America’s most difficult public policy challenges. Prior to BPC, he founded and directed the National Commission on Energy Policy. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1998.