Our Turn: When did bipartisanship become a sign of weakness?

It seems that the art of listening and thoughtful reflection in politics has been greatly devalued in this new century. The challenges confronting the United States both at home and abroad have become more complex, compelling and consequential while, at the same time, our national politics has become more simplistic, caustic and gridlocked. Everyone will lose if we let this continue.

There was a time when public figures could have strong disagreements on policy but still find a way forward. We need only go back to the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill for evidence. Even Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich found common ground. The art of bipartisanship has kept our nation together for over two centuries. But today, this kind of statesmanship is perceived as weakness, and finger-pointing is the new political sport. This lack of collaboration has turned us into an increasingly becalmed nation. It is time to raise the sail to move forward – together – with a common purpose.

As state co-chairs of No Labels, we have joined the national effort to raise our nation’s sail. No Labels is a national movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents committed to restoring a new politics of problem solving in America. No Labels is not a political party. We are not abandoning our party allegiances. We are a movement that has identified our country’s greatest need – the need to work together and unite behind big goals.

The question, of course, is “how?” – how might our leaders actually embrace effective governing over divisive rhetoric? To this end, No Labels has created a National Strategic Agenda, a framework for our next president and Congress to begin to solve our nation’s greatest problems. Together.

The National Strategic Agenda is oriented around four goals, chosen directly by the American people in a nationwide poll: create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years, secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years, balance the federal budget by 2030 and make American energy secure by 2024.
These are problems that affect every American regardless of party affiliation, and have remained unresolved through both Republican and Democratic administrations. They are problems that cannot, will not, be solved by one party alone.

No Labels’ goal is to elect a problem-solving president who recognizes the importance, and value, of bipartisanship and will, within the first 30 days of office, meet with Congress and begin to work on at least one of the four goals of the National Strategic Agenda.

Our goal is to elect a leader who will place the needs of the nation above the good of the party.

We believe signing on to the National Strategic Agenda is the best way for our presidential candidates to prove their commitment to uniting a divided nation. This is a chance for the candidates to move beyond just campaign promises and rhetoric. Agreeing to the National Strategic Agenda is a tangible way for candidates to prove their commitment to solving our nation’s problems.

And all of the presidential candidates will have the opportunity to demonstrate a capacity for problem-solving at the historic No Labels Problem Solver Convention in New Hampshire on Oct. 12. This first-ever bipartisan gathering of presidential hopefuls in Manchester will feature as many as 1,000 independent voters who will be there to hear from and speak with candidates about the candidates’ vision for uniting the country.

It will be a historic event and a chance to set the tone for a different kind of campaign: one focused not on tearing the other party down, but on building our country back up.

We have the power – with our voice and with our vote – to bring back the days when civility was admired and facts really mattered. We must encourage those candidates who speak of unifying our nation, but we must demand more than campaign promises. A National Strategic Agenda has the power to unite both Republicans and Democrats and puts words into actions; it speaks to our nation’s collective desire to move away from the stagnating waters in our current political climate and toward something much more powerful. No Labels will continue to encourage a new kind of politics – the politics of problem-solving – and we will continue to raise the sails to prepare our nation to move forward once again.

(John Broderick, a Democrat, and Renee Plummer, a Republican, are New Hampshire No Labels co-chairs. Broderick served as the dean of the UNH School of Law and the director of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership & Public Policy. Before that, he was a 15-year member of the New Hampshire State Supreme Court, serving as chief justice for six years. Plummer is vice president of marketing at Two International Group and serves on boards supporting such organizations as Veterans Count and Portsmouth Regional Hospital.)


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