Politicians on the winning side of elections inevitably quip “elections matter.” And so they do, but let me be more pointed.
The most important elections in the last 12 months, with apologies to the British, occurred in America and France. Americans, intensely frustrated, elected an entirely unconventional candidate. The opposition party has chosen a path of nullification — Democrats want to void the election any way they can, which is a poor strategy for their country and party.
In our Revolutionary War, America’s most important ally was France. Today the French, who recently elected a new president, are shouting at us across the Atlantic. In France, the most important conventional parties (Socialists, Republicans) and the populist one, the National Front, lost. The winner? En Marche.
Jean-Michel Frederic Macron’s party, En Marche, didn’t exist until April of 2016, yet he was elected President. Macron’s newly emerged party has just won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections. Macron left the Socialist party, and it barely retains a presence in the French Parliament.
Macron defeated the right and left and the populist, Marine Le Pen. He called for a “democratic revolution” and advocated “a collective solidarity.” Macron led a citizen movement.
Is a citizen movement possible in United States politics? Can enough talent and energy be organized to overcome the structural obstacles that protect the Republican and Democrat parties? They certainly no longer merit protection.
If a true citizen movement is possible, the central political question must be reframed. If the core inquiry is which ideological script should prevail, the energy is with the ideologues. But, as poll after poll confirms, a majority of voters are eager for leaders who are willing to lead from the center.
Leading from the center requires thinking. It demands leaders who look for government intervention or restraint informed by realities. If you listen to politicians on the left and the right today, you quickly realize they are mostly unmoored from thinking as they recite their talking points.
I am not talking about a centrism that splits the difference. What we need are centrist leaders who are acutely aware of what has worked or failed in our federal system. We need leaders who can utilize the extraordinary power of 21 Century technology to achieve efficiencies and successes. We need leaders who can capitalize on America’s diversity rather than using it to divide and conquer.
The latest Gallup political survey summary shows that 42 percent of voters identify as independent. In 2014 and 2015 polling, Gallup noted that the most frequently cited reason for being an independent was “frustration with party gridlock in the federal government.”
The election of President Trump was telling. He was certainly not the choice of the right. And it is increasingly clear that the Republican Party is struggling to become a governing party as the hard right pursues its view of perfection at the expense of leadership.
On the left, the offer is a new list of free services all to be paid for by a tax on the wealthy and debt. At present, the United States is only able to finance existing private and public credit appetites because of our international monetary strength. This strength is not ordained in the natural order of things, and if we do not pivot, the central government balance sheet will look like Illinois.
Vladimir Putin, whose nationalistic appeal protects him from a poor Russian economy, doesn’t need to intervene in our elections. We are in the midst of self-destruction.
There is literally a wall of laws that protect the major parties and incumbents will not, as President Reagan once demanded in Berlin, “Tear down this wall.” If a centrist coalition is to succeed, work needs to begin immediately, and the movement should organize for the 2020 presidential election. The critical mass of support needed will come from independents and success in the 2020 election should quickly be followed by organizing at the state and local levels.
What is necessary now is a farsighted leader who will devote himself or herself to a cause. It will be hard work, but saving the Republic will never be easy.
Al Sikes’ leadership helped shape the arc of 21st century communication technologies from positions as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and then President of Hearst New Media. In 2004, the Manhattan Institute chose Sikes as one of eight winners of the Social Entrepreneurship Award for having founded READ ALLIANCE, which trains teenagers to tutor children with reading deficiencies. Sikes second book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow was recently published by Koehler Books.