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Musings from Two Former Congressmen on Today's Political Climate

Kevin Burkett

Politics in the U.S. haven’t always been as bitterly partisan as they seem today – at least according to former Republican Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot, who served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 1997.

“[Democratic Rep. Dave Nagle] and I tried to be the grease that was in the gears that made the thing work, and now both parties are trying to be the sand in the gears to shut it down,” he says. “We had a much more bipartisan approach to things. There was a lot more comedy and comradeship than you see there today.”

The two parties - they just hate each other. They don't want to work together. - Former Representative Jim Ross Lightfoot

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Lightfoot and Nagle about the politics of the late 20th century (during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton) compared to what they see in Washington D.C. today.

“The last trip I made to D.C. was three years ago, and I took an extra day to go up on the Hill and maybe touch bases with some old friends," says Lightfoot.

“I was absolutely blown away by the anger and the hate that was in the air. The two parties – they just hate each other. They don’t want to work together. That’s where I think we got the train off the track.”

In this conversation, they also discuss how political tactics, public opinion, and methods of communicating with their electorate have changed for politicians over the past 20 years.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River