Congressmen Ami Bera, David Cicilline, Rodney Davis and Adam Kinzinger talk problem solving.
It was March 14, 2012 when I turned on “The Colbert Report” as I always do. Normally I shut off the television when the interview during the last segment of the show begins. This time, however, Colbert started by saying, "My guest tonight is the co-founder of No Labels, a non-partisan group trying to get government working again." Government? Working? I had rarely ever heard those words is the same sentence except when “not” was in-between them. This I had to see. The guest was Mark McKinnon, a self-described “progressive Republican” who had worked with George W. Bush and John McCain. He wasn’t there spout partisan talking points, however.
Mark began by explaining that ninety percent of Americans disapprove of the Congress. He jokingly suggested that the ten percent who did approve were just “paid staffers and relatives”. He spoke about No Labels and how their goal was to bring Republican, Democrats, and Independents together with one very simple yet noble goal: Make Congress Work. As Mark McKinnon was explaining his ideas, applause continually erupted from the audience. Even I clapped a few times. This was not just a guy looking down at the ground and saying “It sucks but whacha gonna do?” This was an actual plan to fix the only system we rely on to pass laws and budgets at a federal level, the Congress.
I was immediately enamored with No Labels and decided that I was going to be a part of this valiant effort to make Congress work. I printed off flyers and posted them all around my school. I posted a link to the Make Congress Work! action plan and the McKinnon-Colbert interview on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I talked about No Labels to anyone who would listen. I called my Congressman. I called my Senators. I called everyone! By the end of the next day, I had gotten eight people to join. Five of them even signed up to be Citizen Leaders! The message was simply that universal. Making Congress work is something everyone can agree on. If everyone simply knew about No Labels and their plan, it would easily be the largest grassroots activism organization in the nation.
Yet it is easy to submit to our own cynicism. All too often we say, “We couldn’t change anything,” or “The task is too big. Why even try?” As with many questions, the answer lies in the past. In 1783, the Revolutionary War was over. We needed to create a new system of government and everyone certainly didn’t agree on how that government would be set up. Yet in only four short years, people who had started out as average citizens in a newborn nation came together and created a system of government which has lasted 225 years so far. Compared to their task, ours doesn’t seem so big. They had to create the machine. All we have to do is fix it. As No Labels says, “If America’s founders could create a new nation, then we can create a better Congress.” In fact, we’ve already gotten started. The No Budget, No Pay Act has 75 co-sponsors in the House, 11 in the Senate, and those numbers are growing. So go ahead. Sign up! Become a digital leader! Print some posters! Call your friends! Call their friends! That way in the future, when America is prospering and its Congress is functioning, you will know that you were part of the movement that got us there.