March 16, 2012
Challenging the two parties
By: David Boren, Christine Todd Whitman, and William Cohen
America's standing in the world has declined in the last decade. That decline could become irreversible if America continues to remain in a state of governing paralysis.
At home our strength is also eroding. Deficit spending is putting our nation at risk. The national debt is surging out of control.
Our grass-roots democracy is threatened by a tidal wave of special interest money flowing into campaigns. In the 2008 presidential campaign, 30 times as much was spent as in the Carter vs. Ford election of 1976. The creation of Super PACs —allowed by a recent Supreme Court decision — enables billionaires, unions and corporations to funnel huge amounts of money into campaigns.
It's no wonder, then, that a majority of the members of Congress receive more than half their campaign money from contributors outside their home states. As the perception grows that many public officials are virtually bought and paid for by special interests, citizens' faith in government is likely to continue to diminish and we'll continue failing to build the consensus needed to address the serious issues we face as a nation.
Political polarization is preventing action on a long list of critical challenges, including repairing a crumbling infrastructure, creating jobs and improving our energy security. Democrats and Republicans waste time fighting instead of working together. This fighting is a major cause of pessimism — polls show that two-thirds or more Americans are not optimistic about our future.
Is the decline of America inevitable? Absolutely not! We continue to be the strongest nation in the world and our challenges can be met. But we can't wait four more years until the next election. We must act now!
The American people should challenge the two parties and their presidential candidates to make three ironclad commitments:
First, candidates of both parties should endorse the main principles contained in the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan budget proposal. We all understand it takes both spending cuts and revenue increases to balance the budget. That way, all Americans would participate in the sacrifice and it would be fair.
Second, candidates of both parties should create a national unity government by including leaders from both parties in the Cabinet. During World War II, Winston Churchill created a "war Cabinet," representing all parties, to unify Britain in a time of great crisis. Today America desperately needs the same kind of unity government.
Third, candidates should commit to support a statutory approach or, if required, a constitutional amendment which permits a limit on campaign spending and allows only individual citizens eligible to vote in each election to contribute. The buying and selling of elections and public office must be stopped!
To ensure these pledges are more than campaign rhetoric, voters should demand that the candidates outline how they would begin to fulfill each pledge.
If the party leaders ignore these serious challenges, then it is time for the voters to consider another alternative in this presidential election. One option may be offered by Americans Elect.
This group has set up a process to hold an on-line convention to select the first bipartisan presidential ticket in U.S. history. Registered Democrats, Republicans and independents will be eligible to participate. The ticket candidates for president and vice president would be required to be from different parties.
For example, a Democrat and Republican would run as a team. If elected, they could form a truly bipartisan cabinet and administration.
Americans Elect will likely obtain the petition signatures needed to place a bipartisan ticket on the ballot in all 50 states this November. Millions of Americans have already signed the petitions. A victory by this ticket with this approach could be the "shock therapy" needed to get the two party system working again.
An alternative ticket may help get America's leaders back to their greatest responsibility – "governing." Voters must also, of course, carefully evaluate the Americans Elect ticket, with a Republican and a Democrat, to determine whether it merits endorsement and support.
All citizens are responsible for helping build a future worthy of the sacrifices of previous generations. There is something far more important than either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It is the United States of America. Together, we must fight for its future.