Yet heres an issue that should unite them all, no matter what their party or ideology: The next president should have Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Thats because TPA is an essential tool that gives Americas chief executive the versatility that he (or she) needs to pursue the economic self-interest of the United States, while also preserving a way for Congress to exercise its legislative judgment.

TPA makes so much sense that it should be above partisan bickering. Unfortunately, its often kicked around like a political football. When a Democrat is in the White House, too many congressional Republicans sack TPA. When a Republican is in the White House, too many congressional Democrats line up against it.

President Clinton had TPA and lost it, thanks to a GOP-controlled Congress that refused to renew it. Then President Bush was handed TPA, but he lost it last year, when a Democrat-controlled Congress let it expire.

This tit-for-tat partisanship helps nobody, except perhaps for the finger-pointing pundits who gather around the medias real and imagined controversies the way hogs congregate around troughs.

Anything that raises party above principle leads to the very worst kind of Washington gridlock. This type of reckless obstructionism frustrates just about every American who isnt emotionally or financially wedded to the fortunes of the Democrats or the Republicans.

By itself, Trade Promotion Authority is an empty vessel. It doesnt advance or inhibit free trade. It simply creates a set of conditions that gives the president a reasonable level of flexibility to negotiate or renegotiate trade agreements with other countries. Congress has the opportunity to approve or disapprove of these agreements in an up-or-down vote–it can accept or reject trade deals, but not amend them.

The restriction on congressional amendments is essential. Any change to the text of an existing agreement actually creates a new agreement. The White House would have to re-open talks with one or more foreign governments, persuade them to accept the changes no matter how large or small, and then resubmit the revised agreement to Congress, which could demand even more modifications. In this vicious cycle of congressional whimsy, its easy to see how the whole process would break down.

The fact is that without TPA, other nations wont even bother discussing trade accords with the United States. Thats because they arent negotiating with the president, but rather with the president and 535 senators and representatives. Its an impossible situation.

Ive personally been at the table with negotiators from India, Honduras, Brazil and Mexico. While my time with them was limited, it was easily apparent that they have little confidence in the American Congress. Our US Trade representative and State Department, along with the Foreign Ag Service (FAS) and USDA personnel spend hours and hours working to get the best agreements for us and everyone involved. Without TPA, there would be little if any progress around the table.

Even with TPA, checks and balances ensure that Congress will have a voice in the process. The U.S. trade representative must win Senate confirmation and remains in regular contact with members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means, which have jurisdiction over trade matters. Individual members of Congress may have varying opinions on any single trade agreement, but theyre never surprised by the contents and theyve often played a role in shaping it.

Most important of all, Congress keeps the ability to rebuke a trade agreement–if either the House or the Senate says no, then it fails.

I dont know who will win the presidential election this year. I dont even know who the Democrats and Republicans are going to nominate over the next few weeks. But I do know this: Americans are tired of the partisan rancor that falsely pits blue-state voters versus red-state voters in a squabbling battle that seems as pointless as it is endless.

There are meaningful distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, and there will be meaningful distinctions between the candidates this fall. Not everybody will be pleased by the outcome of the election.

Yet there are many ways for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground, and TPA is one of them. At different moments, large numbers of members from both parties have supported it. In their hearts, they know its right.

Now is the time for the politicians to accept a truce on TPA–and to admit that its always worthwhile, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

John Rigolizzo, Jr. is a fifth generation farmer, raising fresh vegetables and field corn in southern New Jersey. The family farm manages both road side retail and wholesale markets. John is a board member of Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrrade.org