These days most folks in Washington are binge-watching Netflix’s House of Cards, an ode to the nasty, cynical underbelly of this city. So, it’s nice when life doesn’t emulate art.
A few months ago during the government shutdown, I wrote a story about 20 female senators gathering together to overcome partisanship and restart the conversation in Washington. Their efforts led to the reopening of the government. The 20 are now being honored by Allegheny College, which is giving them the third annual Prize for Civility in Public Life.
“This year we’re going to honor a moment in time when 20 women in the Senate at very difficult and challenging moment in American politics, a time when incivility was reigning, got together and said enough and set a wonderful example for us and particularly for young people,” says Allegheny College President Jim Mullen. “We’ve allowed sometimes a cynicism to set in about the possibilities of American politics. If that cynicism takes hold and people won’t go into politics, that’s dangerous for the nation, for democracy.”
The 20 women in the Senate aren’t less partisan than their colleagues; they simply shy away from personal attacks and make a point of being civil in their dealings. Being nice isn’t just putting a good face on things. It actually does get things done in Washington. As I note in my story, the women have been responsible for the vast majority of legislation passed this year: the budget, the Farm Bill, the Transportation Bill, the Water Resources Act, Violence Against Women’s Act… The list goes on.
The prize is not a check but a framed certificate—if it comes down to paying for civility, “we’re in trouble,” laughs Mullen—and will be awarded Thursday morning at the National Press Club. Previous winners include Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D—Calif.)— now a two-time winner with this year’s award— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R—S.C.), and journalists David Brooks and Mark Shields.