The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Jason Grumet of the Bipartisan Policy Center
Welcome to our twelfth Common Sense Colloquy, a Q&A with Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
We’ve been fortunate to work with Jason and his team on multiple occasions including in support of the launch of the American Energy Innovation Council in 2010 and, more recently, with the launch of the Carbon Capture Coalition in 2018. As President of BPC, Jason works with a team of policy experts on topics as varied as energy, education, health, economy, infrastructure and more. BPC is recognized and respected as a think tank that aggressively promotes bipartisanship in solving often- challenging policy and political problems.
Jason has a background in energy and environmental policy, having founded the National Commission on Energy Policy in 2001 and served as leader of the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management. Jason’s first book, City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy, was released in September 2014. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and J.D. from Harvard University. Jason’s commitment to substantive solutions that drive actual change is one of many reasons he’s a sought-after expert in Washington and across the country.
Our thanks to Jason for sharing his time and insight with us – and you.
Q: As head of the Bipartisan Policy Center, you're in the middle of many of the most important policy discussions. What's your take on the role of bipartisanship now with a split Congress and a controversial administration?
A: In a closely divided country, all or nothing politics leads to a predictable conclusion and it’s not “all”. The U.S. has historically benefitted from a relatively stable policy environment because the party out of power gets to play a role in decision-making. As we have seen from the Affordable Care Act, partisan legislation is not resilient. It is likely that the same will hold for the 2018 Tax Reform legislation. In the current congress, I see opportunities for political collaboration on a number of important, medium sized issues that have a clear impact on peoples’ lives like paid family leave, increased access to retirement plans, college access and affordable housing.
Q: Bipartisanship would seem to be a benefit in these fractured times. But is it? Does representing a broader perspective help you communicate effectively?
A: It is difficult in these polarized times to develop ideas and messages that resonate with a large portion of the electorate. Most politicians are choosing to prioritize base enthusiasm over national leadership. If one’s goal is to motivate forty percent of the country, passionate communication anchored in denouncing the “other side,” is very effective. However, if you actually want to create policy that serves the broad national interest, it is necessary to dignify differences and find passion in pragmatism.
Q: You have a background in energy and environmental policy, having founded the National Commission on Energy Policy in 2001 and having led the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management. Based on your experience, what's your take on the best way to communicate about energy and environmental policy in the current political climate?
A: Energy policy has historically had a significant regional signature enabling communication strategies based on local environmental quality and regional economics. In the last two decades, differences about climate change have come to represent a cultural divide in American politics. Many organizations on the left and right have seized on this fight to define their mission, garner attention and animate their most passionate constituents. We simply don’t have another twenty years for posturing. The key to moving forward on climate is supporting a set of solutions that resonates with progressives and conservatives. By promoting nuclear power, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), carbon removal and innovation funding along with renewables, efficiency and storage, it is possible to shift the conversation away from cultural caricature and engage in a productive fight about solutions.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received?
A: Assume the mike is always hot.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you've given to others?
A: 1) Talk, don’t read. I am always amazed when incredibly capable people put slides on a screen and read them to an audience.
2) Provide a framework for presentations. “Today, I want to discuss 3 topics…” People retain 3x information if they know where a speaker is heading.
3) It is possible to be substantive and entertaining.