Reaching Across the Aisle: A Bipartisan Dialogue

Last week, the Saint Mary’s and the surrounding community gathered for “Across the Aisle,” an evening of bipartisan dialogue between California State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and Assemblymember Catharine Baker (R-Dublin). Glazer, who won his senate seat in 2015 in a special election, is a Democrat who represents the 7th Senate District, which comprises most of Contra Costa County. Baker, a Republican, won her seat in the 2014 California State Assembly elections.  

President James Donahue started off the event by addressing the audience. “[This is] a truly special event,” he said, “Having bipartisan [dialogue] is kind of an elusive thing, but we’re having that dialogue today.” “[It’s a] really cool thing,” he added, that the event was “created and developed by [both] the College Republicans and Young Democrats.” This was met with lots of applause from the audience.

After introductions by Kavya Maddali ’18 and Matthew Fitzgerald ’17, presidents of Saint Mary’s College Republicans and Young Democrats respectively, Glazer and Baker took the stage in comfy-looking chairs.

The two elected officials took turns hailing the merits of bipartisanship. “Every major challenge... is best solved when both parties sit down and work together on a solution,” said Baker. “I’m going to represent the people of my district and not my political party,” said Glazer.

Tim Farley, director of government and community relations, posed several questions submitted by students to both officials.

“How do you see the Democratic Party reaching out and appealing to the rural parts of California?” Farley asked Glazer. “There are issues in the rural parts of the state that are just completely ignored by the Democrats,” Glazer said. Part of it, he thinks, has to do with the fact that these issues are within Republican-dominated areas. Democratic lawmakers “are not sensitive to the people that are not like [them],” he said.

The floor was later opened up for students in the audience to ask questions. One student asked what each politican’s position was on the sanctuary movement. This came up in light of a resolution passed by the Associate Student Senate calling for the Saint Mary’s administration to call the College a sanctuary campus.

Glazer responded by deeming the term sanctuary as a “framing element” used by both political parties. The term, he said, misguides the public on what local law enforcement can and can’t do. “There’s nothing that … local or state governments can do to give anyone sanctuary from federal law on immigration,” he said.

However, Glazer also said he was concerned that undocumented immigrants might decide not to work with local law enforcement at all if localities became involved in the execution of federal immigration policy.  

He said immigrants are “intricately tied to the wonderful, beautiful fabric of our state and country.” In addition, he said we ought to do “everything we can” to help DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students, who are temporarily protected from deportation because they immigrated to the United States as children..  

“I believe passionately in a welcoming immigration policy,” Baker said. “It has only been good for our country.” Baker agreed with Glazer that law enforcement should not be a part of executing federal immigration policy. “We need to let law enforcement focus on making people safe,” she said.

Throughout the event, both elected officials presented themselves as bipartisan lawmakers, bucking the party line in pursuit of cooperation, personal convictions, and responding to constituency needs.

“Even if [Senator Glazer and I] haven't voted the same way on this or other issues every time, there are elements of common ground [between us],” she said.