Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Overcoming Partisanship in Contemporary Politics

BOND: Is it part of your philosophy not to be discouraged about what I take to be just intense growing partisanship everywhere you look, in the Congress of the United States and local government, even in D.C. where partisan politics don’t intrude that much into city politics. You see it here.

SELLERS: I’m not discouraged at all by partisan politics. I take the cue from my president. He’s not discouraged at all, he epitomizes cool and he stays above — we’re not post-partisanship. We’re not post-racial either, I mean. But he stays above that fray. Some of his “allies,” the Senate Majority Leader or the Speaker of the House, sometimes make it a little bit more difficult for the President to navigate above partisanship as he so often tries to do, but I think he does a good job doing that, and for me, each issue — each issue I try to make a bipartisan issue.

BOND: And if you succeed, good for you, but I look at the President facing a group of people on the other side who say no to everything. If he said motherhood is a good idea, they’d say no to that. How do you deal with those people?

SELLERS: Well, that — my hope is that the Republican Party, and this is going to sound strange, but my hope is that the Republican Party has a moment of introspection because they’re letting the fringe destroy the Party. And I appreciate the dialogue you can get from even a John McCain or a Lindsey Graham, but the Glenn Becks of the world are drowning them out. And I think Lindsey has put his foot down recently and said that he doesn’t watch Glenn Beck and that he’s not afraid of the conservative right wing and he’s done things like bipartisan immigration reform. He’s done things like a patient’s bill of rights with Ted Kennedy and he also voted for Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor. So there are a few. There aren’t enough, but there are a few that think for themselves and hopefully, they take that moment of introspection and they kind of go back to the party that they were, which was not as crazy as they are moving towards now.

BOND: Let’s hope.