Though partisanship amongst the Senate's Republican and Democratic men has never been greater, lady legislators have maintained a civil level of discourse mostly, writes the Daily Beast's Margaret Carlson, by attending a monthly "no boys allowed" supper club, ironically held in the Capitol's Strom Thurmond Room.
Carlson laments Republican Senator Olympia Snowe's announcement this week that she will not seek reelection, a move that many of her colleagues believe will leave a void in the Senate and only exacerbate the already divisive rhetoric that has split the two parties along ideological battlefronts. While tales of bipartisanship friendship among Senators are nothing new, Carlson observes that male Senators have been quicker recently to wrangle with one another in C-SPAN death matches, shouting and harumphing until their opponents are silenced.
Senate women, on the other hand, have established bonds of civility and empathy through their dinner club, which they started to restore some level of the camaraderie that existed before they left their families to spend every waking moment filling their campaign coffers. From this conscious effort to get to know each other, Senators such as Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu (who offers pecan pie at her office), Alaska's Lisa Murkowski (R), and Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar (D) can all can agree, if not on the merits of drilling for domestic oil, than on the fact that Mary Landrieu's pecan pie is delicious. The dinner parties, since they encourage civil interaction, help women on opposite sides of the political spectrum become familiar with one another and, according to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, to "resolve conflicts the way friends do," the logic being that it's a lot harder to hurl imprecations at someone when you have to share a meal with them at least once a month.
Snowe was a famous across-the-aisle cooperator, teaming with Barbara Boxer to put together the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights and to send a joint letter in 2009 to President Obama asking that he nominate a woman (now Justice Sotomayor) to fill departing Justice Souter's seat. When Snowe is gone from the Senate, Carlson rightly worries that yet another voice of reason will become a casualty of increasingly partisan politics. No doubt her colleagues are worried about the very same thing. And also about who among them will bring the lobster rolls to the next dinner party.