Vanderbilt College Democrats (VCD) and Vanderbilt College Republicans (VCR) will co-host Bipartisanship Week from Nov. 5-7. Leading off the week’s events is a discussion between former Tennessee Govs. Bill Haslam and Phil Bredesen on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the Student Life Center Board of Trust room.
The sold-out discussion between Govs. Haslam and Bredesen will be panel style, with Professor Alan Wiseman of the Political Science Department asking a series of questions.
“They’re not just going to be talking about rote partisan talking points,” VCR Vice President Danny Harris said. “In the spirit of Bipartisanship Week, they’re going to be talking about things that both individuals and the government can do to reach across the aisle and identify positive sum solutions.”
Gov. Haslam, a Republican, served from 2011-2019 and joined the Vanderbilt faculty this fall as a distinguished visiting professor of political science. Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, preceded Haslam and served from 2003-2011. Bredesen ran for Senate in 2018, but lost to Marsha Blackburn.
Although the panel has become the flagship event of Bipartisanship Week this year, the event almost crumbled during the planning process.
“By far, the largest challenge of organizing the week was getting Governor Haslam and Governor Bredesen to agree to join us for our panel discussion on Tuesday night,” VCD President Will Newell said. “Once Gov. Bredesen said he would participate if Governor Haslam did, we were able to get Gov. Haslam to express interest. It wasn’t easy getting there! We nearly had to cancel the event.”
In addition to the discussion between Govs. Haslam and Bredesen on Tuesday, VCD and VCR have planned a joint service event at Second Harvest Food Bank for Wednesday. Three members from both VCD and VCR will be participating in the service event.
Although the service event engages only a small fraction of the Vanderbilt political community, Newell believes that the activity is one of the essential pillars of Bipartisanship Week.
“I think the community service is an important part of Bipartisanship Week that can be easy to overlook,” Newell said. “Joining VCR in community service is a great way to demonstrate to ourselves and the community that we care about the issues we talk about beyond the political game we play.”
VCD and VCR will cap off Bipartisanship Week with a debate on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:00 p.m. in Wilson 103. VCD and VCR have split the debate into two parts: the first about the role of the federal government in redistributing wealth and the second concerning a generally less partisan issue – the role of the United States in promoting democracy abroad.
Members of both VCD and VCR hope that Bipartisanship Week will spur thoughtful discussion and allow students to realize the unities that underlie the community’s political divisions.
“I think something that my college experience at Vanderbilt and my involvement in various extracurriculars has taught me is that you can have friends of varying viewpoints and still get along, be friends and engage in civil discourse,” Harris said. “That’s what the week is all about.”