Jonathan Miller, an Obama supporter, and Ted Buerger, a Romney supporter, are two of the co-founders of No Labels, a grassroots movement of more than 500,000 Democrats, Republicans and Independents, dedicated to promoting bi-partisan problem-solving. Below, each of them suggest what they'd like to hear from their candidate of choice in the closing days of Election 2012.
Jonathan Miller (speechwriting for Obama):
My fellow Americans:
Let me close this campaign for re-election with an overdue apology. Four years ago, when I first asked you for the extraordinary and humbling honor to be your President, I got a little carried away. I was so caught up in the excitement of the incredible crowds, so moved by the remarkable and quite unexpected history we were making, that I promised you a vision that was not only impractical, it was by all measures unachievable.
Sure, all politicians make promises that they can't keep; but despite my sincere belief in the goals that I shared with you in 2008, it would have been impossible for anyone to meet them. And I apologize for setting those expectations too high.
Where I feel I let you down most was failing to achieve my vision of a post-partisan politics. Like you, I continue to be fed up with our broken government, with the hyper-partisanship that polarizes and paralyzes our system, that makes tackling our nation's most difficult problems nearly impossible. I really believed that my presidency could transcend our mean-spirited and divisive status quo.
Unfortunately, I failed. I certainly admit that some of the fault lies in my own hands. I failed to do the little things: the intimate personal gestures mastered by Lyndon Johnson, or the brilliant employment of the bully pulpit demonstrated by Ronald Reagan.
But frankly, the larger problem was that I encountered an opposition that made bi-partisan problem-solving impossible. As early as the night of the inauguration, GOP leaders were plotting to undermine, even destroy my presidency. One was candid about it, when he admitted that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
It would be unfair, however, to simply blame the Republican party for this phenomenon. While hyper-partisan obstruction by the opposition has never been worse than during this administration, it has been an enormous and growing problem over the past few decades. Indeed, our current political incentive system forces most well-meaning public servants to adhere strictly to their party line simply to stay in office. Compromise -- the hallmark of our democracy -- has become a dirty word.
I believe that it is time to change the incentive system. We need to fundamentally alter the way we do business in Washington so that elected officials no longer will be shouting from behind their partisan bunkers, and instead will be reaching across the aisle to work with their colleagues to solve the nation's most difficult problems.
That's why, if you choose to give me a second term, I will call together congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week, and ask them to join me in changing the culture of American politics. I will bring to the table policy solutions that have been developed through diligent, bi-partisan work -- proposals such as the Simpson/Bowles deficit reduction package and the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate change proposal -- to serve as the starting point for negotiations to fix our country.
And, equally as important, I will ask them to endorse with me the ideas introduced by No Labels to Make Congress Work and Make the Presidency Work. These proposals mostly don't require new laws or new spending, and they don't favor any party or particular cause. They are simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Washington.
I can't promise that Congressional leaders will sign on. And that's where you come in. If they refuse to accept my olive branch, if they resolve to proceed with continued obstruction and hyper-partisanship, it will be up to the American people to make them pay the price. I encourage you today, to sign on to No Labels to be prepared to apply pressure to all of your elected officials -- including yours truly -- to ensure that we promote problem-solving, not polarization; that we act not in the parties' interests, but in the interests of the American people.
America truly reaches greatness when we all -- elected officials and average citizens - - put aside our labels to do what's right for the country. It is about putting our community and our country ahead of our selfish, pedestrian interests. And, in the words of the Scriptures, it is truly about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
My fellow Americans, if you give me a second term, I solemnly promise to fight my hardest to realize the post-partisan vision I painted during my first campaign. With your help -- and only with your help -- we can lift this country together out of the political muck, and toward common higher ground.
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Ted Buerger: (An entrepreneur who is the Founder and Chairman of American Towns)
A year ago, most pundits would have guessed that a slow economy with millions out of work, and record spending and deficits projected into the future, would favor a credible Republican challenger. Yet Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are locked in a see-saw battle, as polls fluctuate daily at the national and state level. Why is the race so close?
Despite the Governor's resume in business and public service, it is clear his strength is not in retail politicking, and the Democrats have smartly exploited Republican weaknesses and idiotic statements. The President's campaign also defined Romney through negative ads in swing states, and is now running as many ads as the Republicans through election day.
To win, Gov. Romney needs to make the affirmative case that he can address the huge problems facing America. Bush II notwithstanding, the traditionally Republican ideas of spending restraint, responsible budgets and limited but effective government still play well with most voters. But after years of hyper-partisanship and Washington dysfunction, the people want government to actually work, for everybody's benefit.
This past summer No Labels conducted a poll and found that 54 percent of American voters want candidates who are focused on problem solving rather than on loyalty to their political parties. 84 percent want candidates who will work across the aisle to solve their problems.
No Labels argues that the only way to address our country's big problems is to work across the aisle to find practical solutions. That's what undecided voters are looking for, and that's what Romney needs to focus on.
In a recent ad Romney said, "We need to have leadership -- leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if -- if it's a Republican or a Democrat. I've done it before. I'll do it again."
As an entrepreneur, I understand the poor state of our nation's finances and that big things get done only when people pull together -- that's why we need a leader who can work across the aisle and appeal directly to the American people. In 2008, then-candidate Obama won in part on the hope for a united "red-white-and-blue America." In 2012, this is the roadmap to a Romney victory and to a Presidency worth having. And in 2013, the President (whoever he is) needs to embrace the No Labels philosophy. That's the only way to begin truly fixing our big problems.
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