By: Monte Frank, Chairman of SAM CT
This article first ran in the New Haven Register and seven other papers across Connecticut. You can find the original here.
Things have gotten so bad in America that a Super Bowl ad for Jeep featured Bruce Springsteen preaching reconciliation. The continuing aftermath of the 2020 election has exposed structural weaknesses in American democracy that left unchecked will continue to erode the foundations of our government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Our democracy is at risk. It’s time for the rising.
The hyper-partisanship that has been building in Washington for two decades and the exploitation by former President Donald Trump of the deep divisions in our political institutions have left our country with two different countries: one that accepts that the 2020 election was fair and one that continues to fiercely believe that the election was stolen.
According to a national poll by Fox News, 68 percent of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump. Among Trump voters, 77 percent think he actually won while 26 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats also hold the same belief.
But the political fracture between Republican and Democrat voters and the chasm that separates the Democrat and Republican parties started long before the 2020 election and will continue unless we find another way.
Division has been fueled for decades by acrimony and partisanship in Washington and the blue/red divide has been ever expanding as the number of wedge issues, and the exploitation of them to fuel the party bases, has steadily increased. The winner takes all attitude makes compromise impossible.
As a result, the serious problems that face our nation are kicked aside in favor of naked partisanship. Our government under the control of the duopoly consistently puts the acquisition and maintenance of political power ahead of resolving the issues that matter most to people and our shared quest to create opportunities and a better nation for our children.
Today, policy decisions are evaluated through the lens of “will it play well with our base.” Progress is measured not by how well a proposal has advanced the nation but how successful it is in advancing the party and the individual subservient politician. Representatives that challenge the party and party leaders pay the price. The chilling effect on members of Congress is so severe that they sometimes resemble a group of lemmings. The problem is they are taking our nation with them over the cliff.
Gaining and maintaining a majority is the focus of the Democrat and Republican parties and their fear of losing dominates every issue from gun violence to immigration to COVID-19 to climate change. Even the reaction to the insurrection at the Capitol was largely along party lines.
This dynamic creates intractability and gridlock in our government, impeding progress on the key issues that matter to people. Rather than paying the price for their dysfunction, the two parties are insulated from responsibility because they blame each other and then everyone “takes sides” — again.
More than ever, there are few compromises in Washington. There is the red platform and the blue platform to nearly every issue. Each of the parties imposes dogmatic discipline across an array of issues leaving individual legislators with no opportunity to mix and match and no chance to seek solutions on individual issues. Outcomes are achieved not by cooperative problem-solving but by the majority imposing its will — and the cycle continues.
To escape what one political scientist, Lee Drutman, has aptly described as our current “two party doom loop,” something new and disruptive is required. SAM (the Serve America Movement) is that different kind of political party. It does not define itself on the left/right ideological axis, but instead is a big tent party built around principles of good government.
SAM believes our elected representatives should be rewarded for their adherence to shared values of accountability, transparency, problem solving and electoral competition — values that are not defined in any way as red or blue, left or right. Through the SAM lens, public servants are challenged to serve their constituents, defined broadly, to solve our nation’s and our state’s significant issues, to restore faith in government, and to drive progress.
SAM believes that together we can fix America’s broken politics, but it will take new and different approaches. Einstein’s definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Not only has our political downward spiral proved that rule, but our insanity continues to result in draconian impacts on Americans. We must break the cycle.
If you fiercely believe your party, whether Democrat or Republican, is always right, then SAM is not for you. But if you believe, as we do, that we have been taking sides for too long in America, that compromise is a virtue, and that our political process needs to be fixed, then consider SAM’s approach to government, and join SAM.
Monte Frank, a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018, chairs SAM CT, an affiliate of SAM (Serve America Movement), consisting of current and former Democrats, Republicans, and independents who have come together with a common goal — to fix our broken politics in America. www.joinsamct.org