Eliminating Nuclear Weapons a Consistently Bipartisan Trend in Washington

It was three weeks ago today that the unpopular government shutdown came to a bittersweet end. The sixteen-day partisan gridlock over the annual budget and amendments to Obamacare resulted in a $24 billion dent in the national economy, not to mention an immeasurable level of disenchantment on the part of American citizens. It is hard to imagine a more glaring manifestation of polarization between Republicans and Democrats.

Yet amid the “us vs. them” Washington divide, there is one issue on which the Republicans and the Democrats are willing to work together. Both parties demonstrate willingness to reach across the aisle to support the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, because they recognize that this is not an issue that can fall along party lines. It is an issue that indiscriminately affects humankind.

Republican President Ronald Reagan is remembered in history for Reaganomics, the protection of individual liberties, and aggressive anti-Communism. He was, however, the first President to urge the need for a nuclear-free world. With the end of the Cold War, the reduction of American and Russian nuclear arsenals took a new form. The fall of the “evil empire” seemed to seriously question the need for these weapons. In 1992, Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) formed a partnership to pass the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, that would dismantle thousands of nuclear weapons from both the American and the Russian sides. This innovative and persistent team put partisan discrepancies aside to work toward a higher cause. This partnership remains of the first shining examples, but is by no means a thing of the past.

In fact, bipartisan efforts continue to this day in eliminating nuclear weapons and preventing the emergence of new nuclear states. In 2010, Republican Senators like George Voinovich (OH), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Lamar Alexander (TN) joined Democratic Senators like Charles Schumer (NY), John Kerry (MA), and Diane Feinstein (CA) to pass the New START treaty. In mid-October of this year, a group of ten senators, six Democrats and four Republicans, issued a joint letter to President Obama supporting America’s diplomatic efforts at reducing Iranian nuclear capabilities and warning against an Iranian smoke screen.

The American public may be hard-pressed these days to find issues on which their national leadership agrees. Nuclear weapons, however, has long been an issue that both sides recognize as worthy of throwing aside partisan differences. In the event of a nuclear catastrophe, disaster will not pick sides.