Bipartisanship is hard to come by these days in Harrisburg and in Washington, D.C., but former Gov. Tom Ridge remembers how that was the way he often got things done during his political career. Whether it was serving in Congress when Republicans were the minority party or as a Republican governor with a GOP-controlled General Assembly, Ridge said he knew he could be far more effective when he could persuade Democrats to support an initiative. Ridge, the nation’s first homeland security secretary, talked about civility and leadership in a live-streamed conversation with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber/CREDC CEO David Black on Wednesday. “This was before compromise became a dirty word in politics,” said Ridge. “Before social media and the anonymity around social media became unfortunately an inherent part of how we communicate and influence people’s decisions and opinions. It was remarkable.” Ridge recalled as a congressman, how he approached a Democratic colleague “or a friend, yes, Democrat friends,” to ask what they thought about his idea and ask them to promote it through Congress. It was that approach he used to move legislation rewriting the law restructuring the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said. As governor, he said he worked with former Democratic congressman Jack Murtha to get some federal help to build the shipyard in Philadelphia.
“I’m just not sure you could do that now,” Ridge said. “I don’t know how you can look at the environment today and say that there’s a civil environment.”