By David Jolly
A new era has begun in American politics. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been inaugurated as our President and Vice President.
Joe Biden, ever gracious, was right to assert in his inaugural address that though he may have been elected as a Democrat, he intends to serve all Americans. That is, after all, the calling of public office and of public service. Americans from all walks of life, including myself, wish our new President great success as he assumes this awesome responsibility.
As President, Joe Biden will set the agenda. His Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill will work to advance that agenda. Republicans, after losing the presidency and both chambers of Congress will inevitably serve as a formidable opposition party. And millions of Americans, for varying reasons, will continue to wonder if there is any way to solve our endless partisanship.
There is. America is in the minority among leading nations as a country with an entrenched duopoly of only two major parties — parties insulated from accountability by a campaign finance system that rewards their mutual power and protected by election rules deliberately implemented to limit challenges by independent candidates or new parties. Conversely, many nations around the world have rich multi-party democracies, and research continually affirms that these multi-party democracies produce more inclusive policy outcomes, greater voter engagement and satisfaction, and greater participation of both political and demographic minorities.
This contrast is made more relevant today as the Republican Party now wrestles with its own future. Conservatives continue to chatter about either “reclaiming” the G.O.P. from the angry populism of Donald Trump, or starting a new party altogether based on rigid ideological principles. Trump himself has reportedly discussed launching a new party in his self-proclaimed image, flirting with the prospect of a “Patriot Party” rooted in what he considers an America First platform.
Democrats, though united in victory, continue to wrestle with the ideological diversity that strains all major political parties. Indeed, it was widely reported that following the Democrats’ recent election losses in Congress, moderate members of the caucus clashed with progressive members in a three-hour internal call on November 5 over which members, and which message, bore responsibility for the party’s losses. Those clashes will inevitably continue.
But our political problem is not one of ideology. In fact, one of the greatest blessings of America is that we live in a society where competing ideologies can be openly debated. We are made better by thought leaders that push the boundaries of new policy ideas and test them against our collective political interests. If we are to be truthful with our politics, Trump’s populism resonated with over 70 million people. It gave voice to many who felt they had been left behind. It is also true that progressives were aghast at the policy and leadership decisions of the last four years. That anger, that conviction motivated enough of the country to demand a change of direction.
These conflicting truisms apply within our major parties as well. The moderate members of the House Democratic caucus have been elevated by a constituency that chose that ideology, just as the progressive members of the caucus have been elevated by a constituency that wants a progressive voice. So too for Republicans, where the most conservative members have been elevated by conservative constituencies, and more moderate members by more moderate constituencies.
No, the problem is not the diversity of our ideologies. The problem — the fatal flaw in today’s American political system — is that there is not a political party structured to accommodate our diverse ideologies.
Which is why the next successful political party will not be one that defines itself on the left-right ideological spectrum. The next successful political party will be a big tent platform that welcomes progressives, conservatives, moderates, and single-issue voters. It will be a party that coalesces these competing policy perspectives around shared values of problem solving, democracy protection, election reform, and accountability.
The SAM party (the Serve America Movement) is one such party. A coalition of current and former Democrats, Republicans, and independents, SAM has run or endorsed candidates at the local and state levels in Connecticut and New York, including unity tickets for Governor and Lt. Governor. SAM’s regional task forces have advanced significant electoral reform initiatives and continue to speak to the value of ideas like ranked choice voting, open primaries, and gerrymandering reform. SAM is growing and will be endorsing and running more candidates in the 2022 and 2024 cycles.
Whether SAM holds the keys to disrupting our politics, let us not miss this opportunity to rethink how we approach politics. For too long, we have needlessly limited ourselves by subscribing to politics only through the lens of left, right and center. The truth is our nation’s most pressing problems can be solved through policy prescriptions found across the ideological spectrum.
Show me a political party willing to recognize that healthcare can be strengthened through both a strong public option and a true and robust private option, that public education deserves greater investment but students and parents also deserve choice, that immigration policy can include border security but also a pathway to dignity and citizenship for those who desire it, and that the rights of responsible gun owners and our obligation to public safety can both be secured through greater regulation — show me that political party and I’ll show you a governing majority for the coming decades.
For now, the major parties will continue to provide a political home rooted in rigid left-right ideology, as will minor parties like the Green and Libertarian organizations. Perhaps a new conservative party indeed emerges from today’s GOP, or a new populist party under the leadership of Donald Trump. But for many Americans, the SAM Party is providing a new political home.
The next successful political party in the United States won’t be bound by the dictates of ideology, it will be bound by the dictates of conscience — reflecting incredible diversity of thought, a remarkable spirit of cooperation, and a resolve to forever disrupt the politics that our founders forewarned us of and that today leave so many people behind.
David Jolly is the Executive Chairman of the Serve America Movement, SAM. and served in Congress from 2014-2017, representing Florida’s 13th District.