The Hill Life: Crossing the Aisle
Jun 27, 2012
I was recently at a reception and ran into a friend that is attending grad school in the DC area and I haven’t seen in a while. So of course we caught up and chatted. I happen to work for a Republican office on the hill, while my friend has worked for Democratic offices. I felt as though I was getting strange looks from other conservatives, especially from those who work on the hill. Obviously we have our differences, but I don’t think that means we can’t be civil. This friend happened to ask me to grab drinks this weekend, and I thought it sounded like a great idea. Then I was approached by a conservative friend who couldn’t believe I would accept. Do you have friends on the “other side of the aisle?” If you do, do you think it has hampered your relationships with friends of the same values or coworkers? Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see the big deal.
Thanks for any advice you can give!
When I was a staffer, I had a number of grad school and college friends who worked in Democratic offices. I also worked with Democratic staffers to write and promote legislation, manage bipartisan caucuses and offer amendments. Neither I, nor they, ever expressed any reservations about working together, being friends outside of work or being seen together at Hill events.
In fact, I contacted nearly a dozen current and former staffers from both sides of the aisle and could not find a single person who felt that having a personal relationship with someone on the other side of the aisle was a problem. One current Majority staffer even remarked, “What is she going to do, show her friend the secret handshake?”
I don’t mean to make light of your question, since you clearly feel that your colleagues were looking at you strangely. But unless your office is the reddest or bluest office on Capitol Hill, I don’t see how having personal or professional relationships with people on the other side could be viewed as a problem.
The Hill is a small, small place and staffers often work together in a bipartisan fashion or meet at after-work events. Having friends who work for a member of the other party can be a huge help when you need an alternate perspective, are trying to gather intelligence or need a bipartisan cosponsor for a bill. But you also have to know where to draw the line. I certainly wouldn’t advise taking a Dem friend for lunch at the Republican Club or sharing internal policy discussions outside of the office.
Frankly, I would be more concerned if my employee refused to be friends with a Democrat than I would if my employee had friends who are Democrats. Some of my best friends are Democrats (*wink*), and for me, having friends on the other side of the aisle was an asset.
So what do you think? Is crossing the aisle a do or a don’t on Capitol Hill?