Politician stresses compromise among political parties

The former lieutenant governor of Texas, Ben Barnes, told a political science class Wednesday serious partisanship is the No. 1 problem facing the country.”Education is about compromise, marriage is about compromise and politics is about compromise,” Barnes said. “If we become so partisan that we don’t want to have the social conscience and see the need to work out compromise, then our government isn’t going to work.”

Barnes visited political science professor Jim Riddlesperger’s class Wednesday.

“It’s not enough to win; now, you have to destroy,” he said.

Barnes, a Democrat, said many issues facing Texas and the nation are being ignored because both Democrats and Republicans are playing the game of “I’ve gotcha.”

The highway system, education and health care are all issues that are lacking, Barnes said.

“Texas has the largest number of uninsured children in the United States, 70 percent of Texas highway bridges today are deemed to be unsafe by the federal government, and Texas schools are ranked 49th in high school graduates and our teacher’s pay is ranked 43rd in the United States,” Barnes said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Along with these problems, Barnes said, the country must also focus on global warming, stem cell research and the national deficit.

Barnes said the way the government makes its decisions today can eventually change based on the leadership of tomorrow.

“As long as the U.S. political system stays intact, I have faith in each one of you that you can make this system work,” Barnes said. “We can continue and we’ve got to do the right thing.”

Barnes also talked about his book, “Barn Burning Barn Building.” Barnes said he did not write about himself and his political career, but about his experiences during the 1960s and 1970s.

Barnes discussed many issues including the death of President Kennedy, his relationship with President Johnson, the Vietnam War, his conflicts with President Nixon and Sharpstown, and the stock fraud scandal Barnes said ended his political career.

Mike Haeg, a junior political science major, said he had been looking forward to hearing Barnes speak ever since he read Barnes’ book.

“Having the opportunity to hear him speak about his experiences was really enjoyable,” Haeg said. “I’m pretty sure the whole class was pumped about him coming today.”

Riddlesperger said having Barnes come to speak was an honor and unique opportunity for the political science students who attended the gathering.

“Ben Barnes is one of the true icons of Texas state politics,” Riddlesperger said. “He was one of the very small core of people who guided the ship of the Texas state through the 1960s and into the 1970s, and he’s been involved in Texas over almost the last half-century.