A Social Movement
Implementing the needed fixes to partisan dysfunction necessitates a social movement. We must persuade more Americans that we have no choice but to work across divisions and that, in fact (and not surprisingly), that is a key to mutual greater prosperity.
Activate American’s collaborative skills: Americans know now to collaborate; we do so at work, in our relationships, on our teams and clubs. Buying into the concept that we must also do so politically naturally triggers collaborative skills Americans already know, one of which is the need to understand “the other side.” From that evolves the empathy that has been missing. And from that empathy will evolve recognition of the economic challenges facing middle-class Americans. These economic challenges are real, a core cause of division and Americans should demand our representatives collectively confront them, through the call-to-action described below.
The Hook: The hook for the social movement is that people want to get things done. Everyone has something they are frustrated has not gotten done.
The Call to Action: So if the rationale for working across divisions is to get things done, then the call to action for the social movement is to demand that their representatives work past differences to get things done. The expected outcome would be the election of more representatives who are not necessarily centrist, but pragmatic — willing to “horse-trade” and negotiate to move the nation forward
Elected Officials: Politicians have a role play in this. Those that already advocate and deliver bipartisan progress should be supported and celebrated, likely regardless of ideological tilt. There is already progress illustrating the value of such behavior: the 2020 presidential election was won by the candidate with the longest record of bipartisan deal-making, the Democrats’ Joe Biden, who spoke the loudest and most repeatedly in favor of cross-aisle collaboration. Biden also modeled a return to empathy by quite visibly reaching out to the Rust Belt voters the Democrats had neglected in 2016, visiting and winning back Wisconsin, as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania. But that same ticket also warns us that the opposite risk remains: the winning Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, had the second most partisan voting record of any Democratic senator, as measured objectively by DW-NOMINATE.
News Media: There needs to be a thoughtful consideration of the recent divergence of news media toward partisan delivery and the implications thereof on an objectively informed electorate. We are avid supporters of free enterprise and perhaps extreme defenders of free speech, but also ask whether it is working for the nation to entrust the informing of its citizenry to the profit motive. Is it working? The question needs to be considered.
Social Media: Similarly we need to understand with sufficient confidence the influence social media is having on fair and accurate information dissemination. Again, we avidly support free speech, but that does not mean the nation should ignore, as one example, that rival nations seem now able to exploit our social information systems to spread falsehoods counter to our national interest.
Non-Proportionality: With regard to non-proportionality of representation, we believe this is a legitimate problem, but not an area in which we propose to engage. There are numerous initiatives already underway in this realm1 and in any case we view this non-proportionality as an “exacerbant,” not a root cause.
To distill the above to specific initiatives, E.Pluribus.US works to ignite a social movement through the following avenues:
- Awareness activities aimed at drawing attention to the necessity of working across divisions.
- Education programs aimed at teaching collaboration skills.
- Political advocacy aimed at supporting candidates that get things done by working across divisions.
- Support for research into and dialogue on the state of news and social media.
1 These include experimentation with “Top-Two” primaries in CA and WA, non-legislative districting commissions in at least 13 states2 and discussion of refining the filibuster in the Senate. As for the the GOP’s geographic structural advantage in the House, we’re not convinced that is a lasting condition, nor has it prevented frequent flipping of House control.
2 Robert Muirhead, “Finding the Center; Empowering the Latent Majority,” in Solutions to Political Polarization in America, Nathaniel Persily Ed. New York,: Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 234. Also see Redistricting Commissions: State Legislative Plans