The late Sen. Bob Dole, in a final opinion piece, spoke out against political divisions not only between Democrats and Republicans but within the parties themselves and said that little can be accomplished without cooperation.
“During my years in Congress, Democrats and Republicans were political combatants, but we were also friends,” Dole wrote in his column, which was published in USA Today on Tuesday, two days after the World War II hero, longtime congressman, and one-time presidential nominee died at the age of 98.
“I learned that it is difficult to get anything done unless you can compromise — not your principles but your willingness to see the other side,” Dole also wrote.
Dole represented Kansas in the House of Representatives from 1961-1969, and in the Senate from 1969-1996, including several years as the Senate Republican leader. His body will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Thursday.
The late senator started writing his last opinion piece in October, using pen and paper, and finished it on Nov. 23, less than two weeks before his death, notes USA Today.
In the article, Dole writes that late President Dwight D. Eisenhower had said that America is “best described by the word ‘freedom,'” and that “too many of us have sacrificed too much in defending that freedom from foreign adversaries to allow our democracy to crumble under a state of infighting that grows more unacceptable by the day.”
He also called on the nation’s politicians to refuse to allow political differences to stand in the way of the common good. “Our history is rich with political debate and deep divisions, but collectively we share a common purpose for a better America,” he wrote.
The late GOP senator recalled his years growing up in the Dust Bowl of Kansas, when “drought didn’t wear a party label” and his time in the U.S. Army, which reinforced his belief in teamwork.
“During my years in Congress, Democrats and Republicans were political combatants, but we were also friends,” said Dole. “I learned that it is difficult to get anything done unless you can compromise – not your principles but your willingness to see the other side. Those who suggest that compromise is a sign of weakness misunderstand the fundamental strength of our democracy.”
He recalled the times he worked across the aisle and said that “nothing in public life gave me more satisfaction” than teaming up with Democrat Sen. George McGovern to combat world hunger.
Dole and McGovern received the 2008 World Food Prize for their work.
That work continues with the USDA’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, he noted.
“Meaningful change comes to the country when everyone puts aside their party label and works for the good of the country,” said Dole. “That is why 15 years ago, I teamed up with Sen. Howard Baker and two former Democratic rivals, Sen. George Mitchell and Sen. Tom Daschle, to create the Bipartisan Policy Center.”
But deep political divisions are “especially evident” with Democrats in control of all three branches of government, said Dole, noting he is watching the “tug of war” between progressives and moderates in the party.
“I can speak from experience on this as well. When votes came and we lost, we did not have time for hard feelings. The next day needed to be business as usual as we moved on to the next battle,” wrote Dole.