By: Prema Rahman, MPAC Policy Analyst
The passing of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, has prompted many of us Americans to reflect on his legacy of reaching across the aisle for the advancement of our nation.
A staunch conservative, Senator Hatch’s friendship with the liberal Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) embodied the spirit of our union in a way that has now become all but obsolete. Together, the unlikely duo achieved tremendous legislative progress with landmark policies like the Americans with Disabilities Act which continue to benefit Americans to this day. Senator Kennedy, a Catholic hailing from an elite political family, and Senator Hatch, a Mormon from a working-class family, were on opposite ends of the sociopolitical spectrum. Yet, throughout their decades in the Senate together, they had each other’s backs. They had cracked a code that seems to evade American politics today: we can be deep-seated in our political or ideological stance and still respect our fellow Americans on the other side of the aisle.
Senator Hatch had also been an ally to American Muslims. Like his friendship with Senator Kennedy, his friendship with Muhammad Ali broke down barriers and encapsulated the beauty of pluralism in America. He and Ali shared a mutual devotion to God and deeply respected each other’s faith. In his eulogy for the legendary boxer, Senator Hatch shared, “In Ali’s willingness to put principles ahead of partisanship, he showed us all the path to greatness.” Senator Hatch put those same principles into practice when he stood up for religious freedom and defended the construction of the proposed Park 51 Islamic community center near Ground Zero despite nearly all of his fellow Republican leadership opposing the project. This is the kind of leadership America needs, one that prioritizes our founding principles and our shared humanity above party divisions and political gains.
To truly attain effective advocacy and foster a healthy legislative environment that churns out policies benefiting every American, our political leaders and America as a whole need to engage both sides of the proverbial aisle. We need to champion pluralism, which, in Senator Hatch’s words, “is the adhesive that holds together the great American mosaic.”
At MPAC, we strive to do just that. Over the course of more than three decades, we have engaged both sides of our political spectrum to champion pluralism and practice effective advocacy. The MPAC model of advocacy is built on the understanding that we cannot push for progress and policy changes by completely shunning those who have different political beliefs. Instead, we need to appeal to one another’s shared values and recognize that refusal to work together only stunts progress for America.