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Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 12:26 a.m.

Panelists remain optimistic despite partisan gridlock

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CNN correspondent Dana Bash, former Sen. Robert Bennett, former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. and political science professor John Sides presented a range of solutions to the broken state of politics in an event hosted by School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno. Avra Bossov | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Omeed Firouzi.

Media personalities and political buffs offered varying methods to mend the broken state of increasingly polarized politics in America during a panel Monday at the Jack Morton Auditorium.

CNN’s senior congressional correspondent and alumna Dana Bash, former Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., D-Tenn., and political science professor John Sides remained optimistic that Americans could resolve political roadblocks by working more closely on legislative issues.

With School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno as host, the panelists mused on a variety of topics ranging from the rise of the Tea Party to the debt ceiling debate.

Since the end of the civil rights movement in the 1970s, Sides said, the nation’s two major political parties have been “far more ideologically apart than they used to be.”

Bash said this development has led to a lack of “adults” in Congress who can forgo partisan leanings and focus on solving major crises.

“You kind of always knew there would be an endgame or that the adults would come in and fix it. There are no adults in the room now,” she said.

Bennett, whose Senate career was ended by a Republican primary challenge from a Tea Party-backed candidate in 2010, called for election reform to resolve gerrymandering issues, arguing that “redistricting is the most broken thing in politics.”

A partisan gridlock has persisted, Ford said, due to a lack of leadership from the executive branch. He urged President Barack Obama to rise above partisan politics and convert ideas to legislation.

“This country was built on forging compromises and that’s what it means to have successful leadership,” Ford said.

Though they disagreed on the tools needed to fix politics, the panelists shared a sense of hope that citizens could overcome what Bennett called the “American tradition to hate politicians.”

He ended the discussion with a quote from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing at the end of the day after they have exhausted all other options.”

“We have exhausted all other options,” Bennett said.

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