By Emre Ersolmaz
On Monday, January 13, 2013, I attended a gathering in New York City of over a thousand people who were fed up with hyper-partisanship and political gridlock in the Congress that has maimed American politics in the last few years. The event was named “Make America Work” and was organized by No Labels, a 501(c)(4) organization, which aims to coalesce politicians, regardless of their being Democratic, Republican and Independent, into a national movement to make problem solving a national priority above party lines. Specifically, the group wants to redefine the relationship between citizens and elected leaders and offers 5 common sense principles for leadership:
citizens the full truth
for the future
the country first
These principles offer a guideline for their practical proposals to reform the Senate and the House and its outdated ways of conducting politics. Particularly, the No Labels organization is offering some real world solutions to actualize their principles of leadership in Washington with four proposals on the table:
Senate and the House should institute monthly bipartisan gatherings, in which the leaders will engage with each other off the record and take the first step in solving problems;
Elected leaders should come to work in their congressional offices for 5 days a week;
Congress should be governed by a “No Budget, No Pay” policy such that elected officials would not receive a salary unless they pass a budget;
Senators who want to filibuster legislation should publicly explain why and it should tougher for members to needlessly stall legislation. Moreover, all presidential appointees should receive an up or down vote withing 90 days of their name being sent to the senate.
The message of day was consistently one of radical pragmatism, optimism and commitment to change.
Throughout the event, the atmosphere in the room was one of optimism and determination about reforming the way Washington goes about politics. There was a feeling close to religious zeal and community among the attendees, who repeated the words “Make America Work” or “We Can Do It” on a variety of occasions. With a number of high profile political figures, like Gov. Jon Huntsmann, Sen. Joe Manchin and Mayor Corey Booker, attending and speaking, a feeling of achievement and hope was prevalent among the attendees. Admittedly, and perhaps no so importantly, some strange and showy things did happen in the event. For instance, the daughters of Gov. Huntsmann opened the gathering with a not-so-well sung version of “God Bless America,” the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all attendees and referred to throughout the event and Deborah Cox made a two track performance, showcasing her arrangement of the No Labels anthem, which was put together in 2010 by the R&B and hip hop artist Akon. However, looking beyond such inconsequential, showy elements the message of day was consistently one of radical pragmatism, optimism and commitment to change. The call to action for the ordinary citizen was clear, pressure senators and representatives to compromise when approaching national problems and make sure those who are not willing to do so are set back politically during the primaries and/or the elections.
The leadership principles and the corresponding proposals seth forth by No Labels are evidently common sensical and non-partisan. This has successfully showcased a radical sense of pragmatism as the main driving element of the organization. The proposals are so simple and straightforward that they would put whoever opposed them in a politically difficult or even untenable position. The rise of new leaders in Washington who follow such principles of leadership and adapt the proposed procedural changes provide a necessary and obvious step to prevent political gridlock in the future. However, as the political simulation in the afternoon greatly put forward, compromising during times of national emergency, like the economic crisis in 2008, is not as easy as it looks. Politicians are pressured by a variety of interest groups and constituents to act in contradictory ways. Hence, the adoption of such principles and procedures must only be the beginning of a more sustainable and substantive solution to the American political problem.
The call to action for the ordinary citizen was clear, pressure senators and representatives to compromise when approaching national problems and make sure those who are not willing to do so are set back politically during the primaries and/or the elections.
The polarization of the Republican and Democratic parties that we have seen over the last decade have made some people more committed Democrats or Republicans than ever, while also creating a considerable amount of undecided voters, who don't agree with one side on some issues and the other side on other issues. Unfortunately, they did not have enough political space to make themselves heard, or have had to compromise on their own beliefs and vote for one of the two political giants occupying the political scene. Hence, I believe that the establishment of a third or even a fourth political party that can gain considerable political support as essential to the solution of the American democratic predicament. Such parties not only would allow for the better representation of different opinions and experiences of Americans, but also would promote political collaboration and compromise by serving as tie breaker political movements. It would make politicians everywhere more responsible and open for compromise as it would have more direct and overwhelming effect on their being elected for another term.
Now that the polarization between Democrats and Republicans is greater than ever, there is potential opportunity for a centrist party in the American political machine. The Democrats and Republicans are more or less two sides of the same coin with small differences in social and economic issues. The establishment of such a third party would not only allow for a more genuine democracy by allowing for better representation of the people who are not “as liberal” or “as conservative” as the parties they end up voting for, but also would serve as the key to solving political gridlock by pressuring more productive debate, collaboration and compromise.
Take a look at No Labels