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George H.W. Bush

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo, speaks during the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral on Wednesday in Washington. 

Earlier this month, former Wyoming U.S. Senator Al Simpson joined 43 other former senators to pen an op-ed warning the current U.S. Senate of a “dangerous period” in American democracy, in which the rule of law, the Constitution and national security are threatened. In the editorial published in the Washington Post, the former senators urged current leaders to put the greater good of the nation ahead of partisanship and personal political interest.

Our representatives in Congress certainly need to hear this message, especially in the wake of the government shutdown that began Dec. 22. The “win at all costs” style of politics embraced by federal, and often state and local, officials is coming at a cost to American citizens.

We’re glad to see a former Wyoming senator using his platform to speak about the state of divisiveness in American politics, even if it may be controversial for him to do so in his home state.

Though Simpson wasn’t exactly known for bridging the aisle during his time in the Senate, he did always know how to disagree with political opponents without making enemies of them. A plainspoken statesman, Simpson represented Wyoming during a time when politics were markedly more civil.

The op-ed states, “Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.”

Unsurprisingly, as is often the case, Simpson became far more moderate after he retired from politics. He’s been an outspoken advocate for many bipartisan issues, such as getting super PAC money out of politics, and he supported recent moves for juvenile criminal justice reform.

During his eulogy at George H. W. Bush’s funeral, Simpson touted the late president’s values of loyalty and family – values that seem a little thin in Washington lately.

Good for Simpson. He is setting an example for other lawmakers who would do well to heed the warnings in the op-ed. Partisan divisions are unavoidable – but political opponents are not real enemies, to Simpson’s point. At minimum we should expect any and all elected representatives in Washington to share common goals centered on the well-being of this nation.

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