MINOT, N.D. — The term "bipartisan" is an odd thing in politics. Many commentators treat it as something that is self-evidently virtuous, but it's not.
The idea of people working together, despite ideological differences, is a nice one, but what should matter most is the purpose at which they're working.
If Republicans and Democrats strum guitars and sing Kumbaya while spending their way to a trillion-dollar budget deficit, is that a good thing?
Bipartisanship doesn't turn bad policy into good policy.
Having established that caveat, I will say that the rankings of members of Congress by their tendency toward bipartisanship recently released by the Lugar Center (a non-profit founded by former Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar) are interesting, especially in what they say about North Dakota's members of Congress.
If you were to believe the hype from our friends on the left, you would likely guess that Sen. Kevin Cramer is a right-wing demagogue and that former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who he replaced, was a model of reasonable governance and working togetherness.
You would be wrong.
According to the Lugar Center's ranking for 2019, Cramer's first year in the Senate, he was the 19th most bipartisan Senator.
Sen. John Hoeven, by comparison, was 37th, which is also a surprise. I think most would have predicted that Hoeven is much more bipartisan than Cramer, but it wasn't so.
Congressman Kelly Armstrong, in his first year in the House, ranked 348th out of 435 voting members.
Interestingly, Cramer's bipartisanship score is more than double that of Heitkamp's, though that's comparing just one year of Cramer's service in the Senate with all six years of Heitkamp's.
In her last year in the Senate, Heitkamp ranked 38th for bipartisanship with an index score from the Lugar Center that, again, was roughly half of Cramer's for 2019.
How is this score calculated? "The Bipartisan Index measures how often a member of Congress introduces bills that succeed in attracting co-sponsors from members of the other party, and how often they, in turn, co-sponsor a bill introduced from across the aisle," says the Lugar Center release.
They're just looking at the meat and potatoes, too. They don't measure bills, which are non-binding resolutions or ceremonial.
Here's something else to shatter some of the notions you may have about politics, particularly in the Trump era. According to the Lugar Center's ranking, Republicans are far more willing to reach across the aisle than Democrats.
At least in the Senate. In the House, Democrats had a slight edge on bipartisanship over Republicans.
Again, your mileage with this metric may vary. Bipartisanship is no virtue if it's in pursuit of bad public policy -- also one's ability to be bipartisan hinges on who you're working with.
But if we're looking for evidence of our elected leaders' willingness to compromise and set aside partisanship, this is it, and it pierces certain assumptions.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.