By Kevin O’Hare
This past week, I joined 130 college students at the Problem Solver’s Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire, where we said enough was enough. We stood up to big money, big power, big egos and said we want to work together. Eight presidential candidates, six members of congress, governors, and party leaders, all joined us to take a stand. Even Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two polarizing individuals, came and embraced the idea of working together. This was a bipartisan coalition focused on making government work.
The event was put on by the social welfare group, No Labels, an organization founded to promote bipartisanship and set goals first before working together. It has adopted a National Strategic Agenda, which calls to create 25 million new jobs in the next 10 years, protect Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years, balance the federal budget by 2030, and make America energy secure by 2024, according to No Labels’ website. The organization has a caucus of close to 100 members of Congress, hundreds of state and local elected officials, and scores of citizens who support the National Strategic Agenda. No Labels has already worked to push its message of setting goals first and working together to achieve them. The “Problem Solver’s Caucus” in Congress has over 90 members of the House of Representatives and Senate that are ready to put partisan issues aside and work together.
Why is it so hard for government to just do its job and work? Think about it: Every year, gerrymandering creates districts that are focused around one party, making competitiveness in the House of Representatives only reflected in less than 10% of all U.S. House seats. State governments are becoming more partisan, with statehouse control unfavorably balanced to one side versus another, while city and municipal governments reflect the same way. Changing demographics in our nation makes it increasingly challenging for fair competition to be sucked out of the political spectrum. When the number of competitive races goes down, the stakes get higher as power becomes more solidified.
You can see it in Tallahassee, where 80% of elected officials in Florida’s State Government are Republican. You can see it in Tampa’s City Hall, where all seven of the elected officials on City Council are registered Democrats. Why work together when your team dominates the field? You would think that by having one side control an entire process, then it would be streamlined and run more efficiently – think again in government. Democrats at City Hall spent the past two months at odds over a Civilian Review Board for Tampa Police Department. Republicans in Tallahassee, with a supermajority, have held four special sessions to deal with the drawing of congressional districts, and Congress’s dismal approval numbers show that supermajorities are not ways to force legislation into law.
Bipartisanship is now a concept of the past. The spirit of Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, once seen as the pinnacle of good governance, have been absent for the better half of a decade. Politicians are now plagued with everything from financial collapse to war to email scandals and even an Export-Import Bank. Those who claim they want to restore american glory are looking in all the wrong places. Compromise is at the center of what makes this country exceptional and it’s exactly what we are lacking now.