Driving through New Hampshire last week, it would be easy to confuse its color-splashed trees and winding roads with any stretch of Durham Road in Bucks County’s early fall. Indeed, the similarities extend to small town Main Streets, quiet neighborhoods dotted with local political yard signs and hard-working, independent people willing to listen and learn, and eager for solutions.
As home to the “First in the Nation Primary,” New Hampshire sees its fair share of presidential candidates travel through its granite-carved landscape — delivering stump speeches and excoriating opponents. However, this past Monday, I was on hand as something happened for the first time in New Hampshire’s long political history. Candidates, from both parties, speaking at the same event, to the same people and answering the same question: “How will you work with the other party to advance common goals?”
The No Labels Problem Solver Convention brought together nearly 2,000 New Hampshire voters, hundreds of college students from across the nation, Republicans and Democrats, elected officials, and eight presidential candidates — from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders.
As a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus on Capitol Hill I joined a handful of colleagues in speaking at the event to discuss how we are bridging the gap between left and right. We discussed areas of agreement, issues to embrace and the ability of principled legislators, of every stripe, to come to the table.
Working together in this Congress, more than 70 senators and representatives introduced a resolution calling for a National Strategic Agenda — an outline that clearly defines goals that unite us and sets the table for lawmakers to work toward their achievement. They include: creating 25 million jobs over the next 10 years, balancing the federal budget by 2030, securing Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years, and making America energy secure by 2024.
Each presidential candidate in attendance Monday learned about No Labels’ strategic objectives and, if elected president, they’d have allies in Congress ready to sit down and begin addressing these four big issues.
Having principled and deeply held political beliefs does not require an all-or-nothing approach to governance. In fact, this all-or-nothing attitude is dividing our country and hurting our economy. No Labels offers a different path and it’s time for Washington to take it — starting with those seeking the highest office in the nation.
No one has any illusions about the difficulty of tackling even one of these goals. But goal-setting is where we must start. First, we have to agree where we want to go before deciding how we get there. There are many different viewpoints in Congress, but if everyone at least begins with a commitment to the same goal, we stand a better chance of success.
This isn’t a new idea; this is how our government has worked best throughout history. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was set to deliver these remarks the evening he was assassinated: “[L]et us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future.”
These are timeless words that resonate today with those of us who signed on to the No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda as a pathway for a stronger, more united America. It is the beginning of a much better way to govern, to lead, to solve problems.
No Labels originated with a simple idea: to solve any problem you need to set goals, get people to buy in and put a process in place. This is how any well-run business or household makes decisions — and it’s how a well-run government should make decisions. That’s what America is looking for in 2016.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick represents the 8th District, which includes all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County. He serves as vice chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.