Two months into President Obama's second term, America finally has a new secretary of defense. After a contentious confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate approved the nomination of Vietnam War hero, and former U.S. Senator, Chuck Hagel, with a vote almost entirely along party lines. Next up -- the battle over Sequestration. America simply cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis!
In good times many would view gridlock in Washington, D.C. as a positive -- effectively keeping the government in check. But these are not good times. Calls from the Federal Reserve and from corporate leaders to both parties to work together to eliminate government-induced uncertainty have gone unheeded as Democrats and Republicans appear locked in a battle to the death.
This reality cries out for a new, independent third party, dedicated to centrist policies of fiscal pragmatism and social moderation. The Democratic and Republican parties act as if they are playing a zero-sum game, employing little more than "Gotcha" politics. They ask questions not to glean information that will lead to better legislative outcomes, but instead to embarrass the opposition. How else can one understand Senator John McCain's demanding only a "yes" or "no" answer from Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearing? McCain was not interested in understanding any nuance in Senator Hagel's thinking, but merely in scoring points against the nominee and by extension against President Obama.
Even if we were to trust that rather than being focused on consolidating their power, politicians of both parties truly believe their policies are right and their opponents are wrong, such behavior still reveals each party's hubris, evident in its black and white world view -- its certain knowledge that it has a monopoly on truth and wisdom.
Our new party would be committed to the notion that multiple and competing truths exist. We would recognize -- for example, that Americans care about their neighbors and do not want to see them go hungry or do without medical care when they are sick. At the same time Americans appreciate that government resources are finite and it is unforgivable to spend money we do not have today, mortgaging our children's future as a result.
Only through an open and authentic exchange of ideas can we move beyond the present zero-sum game to a world where the synthesis of competing truths can lead to better ideas and better results; where one plus one can equal three.
The two-party system has a long history in America, but is no longer serving the interests of our country. The goal of our party will not be to elect a president or to win control of the Senate or House. Instead we will focus on identifying potential candidates for races where the candidates of either of the two major parties hold views that are too extreme for their constituents. In recent years, moderate Republicans have pointed the finger of guilt at the Tea Party for nominating unelectable candidates who are woefully out of touch with mainstream America. How else to describe a Todd Aiken, or a Richard Murdock? And one could also easily imagine the Democratic Party nominating a tax and spend liberal who is equally out of touch with today's need for fiscal responsibility.
Our party would work to elect true independents -- not Democrats or Republicans in independent's clothing -- who would not caucus with either party and who would vote their conscience on all issues. If we could elect a mere 5 percent of the Senate or House, optimally providing the requisite swing votes on important issues, this could be sufficient to obtain significant leverage in shaping policy.
Perhaps just as importantly, our new party and its policies would act as a center of gravity, encouraging both Republicans and Democrats alike to reject extremism. It might even provide the cover necessary for Republicans and Democrats to begin working once again in real bipartisan fashion and to even consider breaking party ranks on votes precisely because they would find themselves in the company of independents (not just the opposing party)--something that rarely happens today.
Surveys indicate that the American public blames Congress for the dysfunctional state of the federal government. An independent centrist third party, can make it work again. What's stopping us?