It’s Time for a National Strategic Agenda

If you wanted to distill the dysfunction in Washington down to one simple phrase, you could do a lot worse than this:

“All tactics, no strategy.”

In Congress, there are plenty of hearings being held and laws being proposed. In government agencies, there are countless programs, initiatives and imperatives.

What we don’t have, as a nation, is any sense of where all of this is taking us. For too long, there simply hasn’t been a unifying vision that Americans can rally around.

But there is now.

On Sept. 17, No Labels is kicking off an unprecedented year-long effort to forge agreement on where America needs to go and how we get there. No Labels is calling for America’s leaders to support a new governing vision to build a National Strategic Agenda centered on four goals. These goals – chosen with input from a nationwide survey that No Labels conducted last fall – are:

  • Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years;
  • Balance the federal budget by 2030;
  • Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; and
  • Make America energy secure by 2024.

But the goals themselves aren’t what makes the agenda so unique. It’s the approach No Labels has developed to meet them.

The National Strategic Agenda will be created with input from people across America beginning with No Labels’ National Ideas Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17. Subsequent events in New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere will enable No Labels to gather opinions from people across the political spectrum and translate them into a comprehensive policy plan to achieve the goals of the agenda.

Helping to facilitate and support this dialogue will be Deloitte Consulting, which will provide objective, tested approaches, as well as access to their leading industry and functional specialists.

More than 80 members of Congress have endorsed the process to create the National Strategic Agenda as well as the four goals, and many of those members are participating in our Ideas meeting on the 17th.

The completed agenda will be unveiled in New Hampshire and Iowa on Oct, 5, 2015, just as the presidential election campaign season is ramping up. The aim of this exercise is to shape the upcoming presidential debate and ultimately, for the next president to use the agenda as the framework for bipartisan action.

Nothing like this has ever been tried before. Many of our leaders say they want to unite our country, but they never tell us how.

The National Strategic Agenda is the how, and no organization is better equipped to guide this process than No Labels. No Labels has a unique view on the root causes of dysfunction in our government and the required solutions. Many reform groups are focused on the big systemic fixes like reducing the influence of money in politics or gerrymandering. These are really important endeavors. But they are tough, multi-year, state-by state slogs with very uncertain odds of success.

No Labels believes America’s challenges are so urgent that we need to find a way to bring the country together now around a new politics of problem solving.

That’s why we have spent much of the last few years organizing a first-of its-kind group of problem solvers on Capitol Hill that eventually featured over 90 Democrats, Republicans and independents meeting regularly to build trust across the aisle and to work on bipartisan legislation. Recently, some of these members created the first-ever official problem solvers caucus in Congress, which represents a big step towards members taking real ownership of the problem solvers mantle.

No Labels has also developed ambitious reform plans to fix the flawed processes, procedures and structures that make it tough for Congress or the federal government to get things done.

No Labels proposals have been turned into law, most notably our signature No Budget, No Pay idea. And we’ve recruited more than a half-million citizen members in every state in the country.

In short, we have spent the last three years building the infrastructure for bringing people together for discussion, debate and consensus-building.

We’re ready to guide the creation of a National Strategic Agenda and we feel a real sense of urgency to get it done.

There needs to be a new paradigm for decision-making in our government. One that begins with agreement on big goals and progresses to agreement on key facts and the principles and policies that will be part of the solution.

That’s what the National Strategic Agenda is all about.

Although the agenda is certainly a new approach to governance in contemporary Washington, it is a tried-and-true approach to problem solving.

The process of uniting around big goals, and progressing to agreement on key principles and policies worked for leaders like President Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill when they brought their parties together to fix the tax code and Social Security. And it worked for President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich when they did the same to balance the budget.

The same process can work for the next president and the next Congress, if they embrace the National Strategic Agenda.

It’s up to us – the American people – to show our elected leaders the way and to ensure that they hear this call for a National Strategic Agenda loud and clear.

Nancy Jacobson is a founder of No Labels, a national organization of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to a new politics of problem solving.


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