Politics

It’s Bipartisanship or Bust for Bob Inglis

3 American Questions challenges politicians to get real

Former Rep. Bob Inglis, right, appears with former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., left, and former Sen. Timothy Wirth, D-Colo., in a panel discussion during the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 in Las Vegas in 2013. (Isaac Brekken/Getty Images file photo)

Solving our country’s myriad problems is too great a burden for any one person, Republican or Democrat, to shoulder alone.  

That's why South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis is teaming up with a results-seeker from the other side of the aisle, along with a socially conscious rocker, to try and change the world — while we’ve still got one.  

“The people that have lost faith, have lost trust, just don’t have any moonshot left in them,” he said, invoking the disaffected masses currently ushering the end of the status quo with each successive presidential primary. “We need to show … that we’re still looking for something better.”  

The six-term lawmaker has pursued that goal — although his perspective has evolved over time — for several decades now.  

Inglis served six years in the House before bumping up against a self-imposed term limit in 1998 then unsuccessfully challenged then-incumbent Democrat Fritz Hollings for his Senate seat. He reentered politics in 2004 and served three more terms on the Hill before being knocked out of contention in a 2010 primary runoff by tea party favorite Rep. Trey Gowdy.  

He’s since poured his energy into RepublicEn , a non-profit dedicated to ferreting out conservatives looking to lead the charge on climate issues. Inglis recently married that passion to the broader 3 American Questions campaign, an advocacy effort spearheaded by him, former Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Nirvana bassist cum political disrupter  Krist Novoselic.  

Inglis said he and Baird bonded as ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology subcommittee on environment. So locking arms around a push to have voters grill candidates about three core issues before extending any type of support, seemed like a natural fit.  

“We have a nice personal relationship as well as a commitment to these issues,” Inglis shared.  

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., left, watches as astronaut and former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, signs two flags for Baird's twin sons during the tribute event to the Apollo 11 astronauts celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing on Tuesday, July 21, 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., left, watches as astronaut and former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, signs two flags for Baird's twin sons during the tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2009. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Their mission is to get anyone running for federal office to explain, as explicitly as possible, how they intend to deal with climate change, the snowballing national debt and mounting dissatisfaction with political malfeasance.  

“The message to candidates and parties is simple — if you want to earn the right to represent us and lead this nation, you must earn that right with honest answers to the questions that matter and that will determine our future. That’s what real leaders do,” Novoselic charged in a press release.  

Coming clean is one thing. Playing dirty is another.  

“We tend to label the other side as a socialist or fascist, depending on whether you are looking left or right,” Inglis groused, decrying the divisiveness and derision that typically overwhelm any attempt at political discourse.  

“The partisan model, which the Founders did not like, gives you grudging compromise. A better model gives you creative collaboration,” he estimated. That better model, Inglis calculates, is achievable, assuming interested parties are willing to work toward a greater good.  

“We must give our leaders permission to treat us as adults, permission to give us the facts, and permission to find solutions. If we do that, they will stop feeding our fears and start leading to solutions — on the budget and climate change and a host of other issues,” Inglis assured a Redditor curious about what it would take to force Congress to come to terms on anything.  

Getting there may prove much trickier, he warned, if apoplectic constituents continue down the path of a Donald Trump presidency.  

“That they have to go to a strongman who they know has no answers, that is the problem,” Inglis asserted, denouncing the current GOP front-runner as a “showman,” a “shyster,” and a “footnote in history.”  

The key, he said, is to lure the disillusioned back into the fold by reminding them “of the pride they should have in this constitutional republic.”  

“You don’t just have an angry town hall meeting and then upend things,” he argued.  

Inglis is concerned, however, that this particular life lesson — whether it be that Republicans suffer a crippling defeat come November or that the entire country is exposed to the whimsy of Trump rule (“What do the shirtless Putin and Trump do at a summit? We have no idea. Because they are completely untethered,” he warned) — may prove inescapable.  

“One way or another, experience is gonna teach us here,” he said. “I just hope that that the consequences aren’t so grave.”  

What’s even more troubling to Inglis is that our current leaders are actively contributing to the chaos.  

“We’re gonna find out what a banana republic looks like,” Inglis, who is also a lawyer, said of the procedural maneuvering Senate Republicans are employing to sideline President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee until after the election.  

Regardless of how the presidential contest plays out, Inglis anticipates that allowing cooler heads to prevail will obviously take time.  

Which is why he is insistent that we all put on our thinking caps right now.  

“This effort needs to extend beyond the current cycle … [because] they are the issues that will define the history of our times,” he stated.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.