The 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is credited for observing that laws are like sausages, as “you should never watch either one being made.”
But if the figurative sausage-making that occurs during the 2019 Legislature is anything like the literal sausage-making that happened last weekend just outside of Helena, the process shouldn't be too hard to stomach.
A week ago today, a bipartisan group of legislators gathered at the Clancy home of Chief Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion to prepare batches of fresh pork and elk sausage from scratch.
The Republican and Democratic lawmakers who attended the gathering put their differences aside for an evening to create something they could all be proud of. And, as they packaged and vacuum-sealed their finished product for everyone to take home at the end of the night, it was clear that they accomplished their goal.
So, what political lessons can our elected leaders learn from making the sausage?
In a video message sent to the group, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester pointed out that good laws, just like good sausages, require quality ingredients. When it comes to making laws, he said, those ingredients include communication, trust and hard work.
Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines told the lawmakers in a video that it will be important for them to keep their cool during the session, just like a sausage must be chilled during the mixing process.
The activity also demonstrated:
1. Many hands make light work.
Making sausage can be accomplished much more quickly and efficiently when people work together. The same can be said for making laws.
2. Everyone needs help sometimes.
Without guidance from Bennion, who learned how to make sausage from the Volga Germans on his mother’s side, the results of last weekend’s sausage-making activity could have been disastrous. Similarly, lawmakers who will not listen to those who have researched the problems and opportunities facing our state are doomed to make decisions that have disastrous consequences for Montanans.
3. The opposing side is not that much different.
Though Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on everything, they have more similarities than differences. And it’s important for our political leaders to find that common ground – whether it’s a shared appreciation for sausage or a shared love of clean water and safe communities – which leads to the types of compromises that benefit all Montanans.
In our increasingly polarized society, it was refreshing to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together to get to know each other on a personal level. And we hope those personal connections will help things run a little more smoothly during this legislative session, which will likely be highlighted by impassioned debates on contentious issues like Medicaid expansion, infrastructure projects and how to pay for it all.
If all of our lawmakers would take more time to develop bipartisan relationships like this, maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to see how the sausage is made.
This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board.