Perspective & Prescriptions


Hyper partisan politics rule Washington and two former legislators are shining a light on the structural challenges that prevent bipartisan cooperation in Congress.

Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican David Jolly embarked on a statewide tour that included a stop at the University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service. The duo spoke about issues ranging from gerrymandering to campaign finance to closed party primaries and the way these issues have led to the current levels of stalemate and dysfunction in Washington.

"What we are trying to do on this tour, frankly, is be optimistic," said Jolly, who served one full term in the U.S. House. “There is room in today's political environment for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground and work together and that’s not a message that we always hear.” 

Murphy reflected on his first taste of partisan positioning upon arriving in Washington in 2013. He met a fellow freshman congressman, a Republican from North Carolina, with whom he shared many common concerns. Together, they drafted legislation that identified and eliminated nearly $400 billion in wasteful spending. But, due to political pressure, his North Carolina counterpart was essentially forced to abandon the bill.

"He said to me, 'Patrick, look we are trying to beat you in your district. If we were to do this you might get a good headline. […] I was basically told I'm not allowed to work with you and if I do I’m going to be dropped from my committee and blocked from fundraising.’" 

Daniel Smith, chair of the UF Department of Political Science, moderated the conversation. He asked the former congressmen to speak to the importance of fundraising and the outside influence of money on campaigns and voter expectations.

Jolly listed a number of national organizations that came out to financially support his first political campaign — the NRA, the pro-life groups, the Chamber of Commerce —but said they quickly abandoned him when it was evident he was not willing to pander to their political objectives.

"In my final race, had they come in and spent a million or two, I probably would have won. But they faded away, because I wasn't a 100 percent down the line loyalist to their agenda."

Murphy said while he supports and understands the need for legislative transparency, voting records have unintended consequences.