In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama said he’d “like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership.” Unfortunately, he did not follow through on that good intention. We appeal to him to do so in 2015, starting with his State of the Union address on January 20.
Imagine how refreshing it would be to hear a State of the Union Address that is a list of shared goals instead of the all-too-typical wish list developed in a White House vacuum. Imagine a State of the Union in the voice not of “I,” but of “we” — meaning we, your elected leaders.
Now imagine the ripple effect of such a speech. We can easily imagine the stock market surging, consumer sentiment rising and small-business optimism ascending from its doldrums. Because having faith in our leaders, and confidence that they are working hard to solve problems instead of just scoring political points, makes Americans feel positive and confident. And when we are feeling good, when we are on our game … we Americans are unstoppable.
We believe it is never too late to make good on good intentions, and that it is critical for the president to not just hold one or two meetings or photo opportunities with congressional leaders, but to really lead the problem-solving process in Washington, D.C. with an ongoing dialogue that takes place on a regular basis, face-to-face.
This would be good policy and good politics — we know the majority of Americans want their national leaders to have a shared set of goals, regardless of party affiliation. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll recently showed 63 percent of Americans want the 114th Congress to make agreements across the aisle.
Since we come from different points on the political spectrum ourselves, we also know that this is achievable. We disagree on issues, but we also agree on a lot more. Furthermore, we know that establishing goals is the first step toward solving problems.
We are not asking the president and congressional leaders to agree on every aspect of the most contentious issues of the day, but we know that there is broad agreement among our citizens on many things — like the need for job creation and energy security, and goals like balancing the federal budget and making Social Security and Medicare solvent for future generations. The president and congressional leaders need simply to pick from a list of goals that are already widely-agreed-upon, then sit down, roll up their sleeves, and negotiate the kinds of compromise agreements that can solve some of America’s problems.
There is ample evidence that congressional leaders are ready for this important process to begin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently told The New York Times, “All of us from time to time make a point. But it is time now to make a difference.”
The current atmosphere truly could not be better for the president to invite Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to the White House on a regular basis and for them to wholeheartedly commit to those discussions. The start of a new year and a new Congress carry a feeling of possibility and, yes, hope. This is not a partisan feeling. It is an American feeling. The president and congressional leaders of both parties should capitalize on it.