I can’t be the only one who is fed up with the extreme partisanship that has infected American politics. It’s been around for decades, and it seems to be reaching a boiling point. The extreme animosity between the two major parties has degraded political discourse, for proof of that look no further than your Facebook or Twitter feed or your Thanksgiving dinner table. According to a Pew research poll, 70% of Democrats think that Republicans are “close-minded”, and 52% of Republicans feel the same way about their Democratic counterparts. And that’s just the beginning of the troubles; Congress is stuck in partisan gridlock, with little to no work getting done due to the animosity between the two sides and the almost outright refusal to work together. (You know we’ve reached a tipping point when Mitch McConnell uses the possibility of working with Democrats on healthcare as a threat)
Many Americans, myself included, feel politically homeless. With both parties being driven further to the extremes, the large population of political moderates are left to either vote for the perceived lesser of two evils or vote for a third party that rarely if ever garner more than one tenth of the share of the vote. A huge swath of American voters are effectively left out in the cold by a system rigged by both of the parties to keep themselves in power. Yet despite the 17% approval rating Congress has, around 95% of Representatives and around 85% of Senators have gotten reelected since 2010. Why is this happening? And what can we do to fix this?
To fix the political divide between ordinary Americans is a daunting task, it’s a problem that finds its roots in all aspects of life, from governance to social media. That will be a problem that will take awhile to fix and will involve a change in national mindset, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start now. Fixing the broken, rigged machine of Congress is an equally huge task, but for that a solution has presented itself.
The solution is brought about by The Centrist Project, whose goal is to break the partisan divide in Congress and to get our legislators back to work creating legislation that people approve of and that works by supporting independent candidates for office in State and Congressional elections. To quote Victor Hugo, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. With 40% of voters identifying as “Independent” and a Congress with a 17% approval rating, the time has come, and The Centrist Project has the idea.
The fundamental ideas behind the Centrist Project involve putting country above party, following the facts, and finding common ground. Their political views combine the best aspects of both parties into a slate of ideas many Americans can get behind; fiscal responsibility, social tolerance, environmental responsibility, and modernization of the economy. Evidence-based policy that has a broad consensus is the goal of Centrism.
The strategy behind the Centrist Project is centered on what they call the “Fulcrum Strategy”; which involves electing a small number of politically independent and Centrist candidates to the Senate in order to deny both parties a governing majority. This small group would have outsized power, forcing both parties to come to the table to work with them in order to pass legislation. Republicans and Democrats would both have to work with the Centrists in order to get bills passed. This would transform how Congress works, stopping the passage of bills that don’t have a broad consensus and don’t appeal to the political center.
This isn’t just the pipe dream of some disgruntled voters, for evidence of a successful Centrist political movement look no further than the recent French election, where the politically Centrist Emmanuel Macron won the presidency and his new party En Marche! won enough seats in the National Assembly to control the legislature. Their achievement is huge, and it proves that Centrist movements are possible.
This February I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by the Centrist Project’s Executive Director Nick Troiano in Washington D.C. as part of a school trip where he laid out the fundamental ideas behind the project and outlined how they can move forward. I left the presentation inspired, and I could see that many of my friends were just as inspired as I was. It takes a lot to inspire a room full of high schoolers, and the Centrist Project did just that.
Reforming our political system is a daunting task, but it is possible and it is within our reach. Political moderates are the fastest-growing group of American voters, with more and more people getting fed up with the partisan divide both in the Government and in daily life. This is about channeling our frustration with the current system into progress to get the political factions in our government and our country working together again.
“We need an insurgency of the rational: a generation of Americans who are fed up with the current political system, who believe we can do better, and most important, who are ready to do something about it. Are you one of those people?” – The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan