First, a word of explanation for my long silence.  I was away for a month, attending my 50th Harvard Business School Reunion, then a vacation on tour to Portugal and Northern Spain, which was delightful.  Although I had good intentions, it proved impossible to write and publish, with no available time for concentration.  I hope to get back to publishing one post per week.

 

Despite the title of this post, I wish anyone reading this, a Happy Fourth of July.  It is our nation’s 241st birthday, and that in itself is a good reason to celebrate.  We have a wonderful country, a blessing for all its inhabitants.  No other nation on Earth today or any time in the history of humanity, has been as dedicated to the principles of liberty, equality under the law, opportunity, advancement, assimilation of newly arrived immigrants, generosity, and progress as the United States of America.  We have had our problems and issues: we still do and we always will, as perfection is impossible.  But we address those problems and issues in a democratic way, and sooner or later, arrive at solutions and move on.

 

So, why have I titled this posting, “(Un) Happy 4th of July”?  We all know.  The Republicans have elected a President who is decidedly un-Presidential.  The Democrats are still in a state of shock, disbelief, and constant protest.  We, the electorate, were presented with a choice of two unappealing candidates.  The White House is at war with the media, and it’s ugly on both sides.  Although the Republicans control both houses of Congress, they are not a unified party, and the far right Tea Party faction makes progress extremely difficult.  The President’s limited travel ban is in court, reform of the Health Care law (ACA or Obamacare) is stalled, tax reform is in a state of delay.  No one can be pleased with the current state of affairs.

 

Even if we had a more conventional, less unpredictable President, our current state of divisiveness would still obtain.  The two parties, Democratic and Republican, are increasingly controlled, or at least strongly influenced, by their party’s extreme wing.  And the extreme wings are both ideologically driven, unwilling to consider any compromise, and totally lacking in the historical American pragmatism.  These fundamental problems would remain if President Trump were gone—replaced by Vice President Pence, or even if Secretary Clinton had won.

 

At my Business School Reunion, among other speakers, we heard from Professor Michael Porter, renowned business strategist, and author of many books and articles on competition.  He is doing research now on the political “market” in terms of competitive analysis, and is finding that both parties are competing, but as an oligopoly, effectively preventing any third party from entering the marketplace.  He did describe a strategy being discussed, called “the Senate Fulcrum”.  Since the Senate only has 100 voting members, and it is usually split between the parties in a ratio no higher than 55/45 (with a few exceptions that have gone to 60/40), a centrist bloc of only 4 or 5 senators could have power way beyond their numbers.

 

I am beginning to see increasing editorials and opinion pieces stating the need for a third, centrist party, or for the centrist wings of both parties to unite temporarily to pass specific pieces of “bipartisan” legislation.  Since the two major parties have worked deliberately to exclude third parties, forming a new party will be exceedingly difficult, and will require a patient, long term and determined effort.  But it can be done, and I believe it needs to be done.  It will never succeed if it is based solely on a charismatic leader deciding to run for President, during the year before the general election.  It can only be done by a group of citizens, working over many years to develop a party at the grass roots, winning seats in the House, the Senate, and Governor’s mansions, building an organization, raising money, all before a Presidential election candidate is backed.  Remember, when Abraham Lincoln won the Presidential election in 1860 as the first Republican victory, the party had been formed in 1853, seven years prior to the election.

 

I love our country, and would rather be right here, right now, than in any other country or in any other time in history, despite our current discomfort.  We all need to work to preserve that status as a truth for me, for you, for all of us, and for the generations to follow.

10 thoughts on “(Un) HAPPY 4TH OF JULY

  1. While I think that both the Republican and Democratic parties are equally at fault with respect to the divisiveness and hostile environment that currently exists in both the senate and the house of representatives, it is the Republican party that I blame for putting up with the vile, disgusting, and totally unpresidential behavior of our president. The democrats can do little to change this horrible man’s behavior but, if they put their mind to it, the key leaders of the Republican party might be able to reason with him, let him know how much harm he’s doing to the country and to his own party and, hopefully, to get him to act in a more civilized, rational and mature fashion, rather than acting in the increasingly vicious, childlike fashion he’s been exhibiting lately. But, up until now, they have shown no inclination to bridle him, and that is sad indeed.

    I totally agree with The American Centrist’s thoughts about “the Senate Fulcrum,” and I think that Professor Porter’s point about the need for a centrist block of senators hit the nail right on the head. That could be achieved, of course, by forming a new party. But another perhaps more practical and quicker approach might be to have a number of states elect a few truly “independent” senators who were elected to their offices based on their common-sense, centrist views. Six or seven such “independent” senators could make all the difference going forward…..

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    1. Paul–thanks for your comments. On the issue of our current President’s behavior, I think there is little the Republican Congress or party can do to alter his course of action or discourse. He is who he is. Our institutions will provide real constraints on the domestic front, but I am far more concerned with international relations, where the President has far more freedom to act and fewer constraints. I think the North Korean missile/nuclear situation is likely to become an major international crisis, where our inexperienced and rash leader faces off against a truly crazy and dangerous dictator.
      On the hope that several states would elect “independent” senators who are centrist, I think that would be wonderful, but will always remain just a hope without a party organization to back them, and consolidate their views.

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      1. It does not bode well for the G.O.P. if its leaders cannot, or choose not, to (at least to a certain extent) constrain and limit the damage the President is doing to the party just because “he is who he is.” Trump is a disaster and, with his poll numbers dropping, Republicans should remember what happened in the next election cycle when Bush’s poll numbers started dropping significantly in 2008.

        As for the need for a third party, while I completely support that idea, I believe that if the “independent” senators I referred to were, indeed, elected to their offices based on their common-sense, centrist views, those common-sense centrist views would go along way with respect to their developing many mutually-agreed-to voting positions, even without their having a party organization behind them to support their views.

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      2. Paul–it would be nice to think that 4 or 5 independent centrist senators could get elected from different states, but the fund-raising requirements to do that without some kind of a party backing seem to present an insurmountable problem. For better or for worse, it takes money to run and win a senatorial campaign.

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  2. I think it was Golda Meir who said peace will not come until the arabs love their children more than they hate us. With a few word changes, that could be a rally cry for the centrist party.

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    1. Jeff–thanks for your remarks. As an attorney, with great command of the English language, you can provide me with those word changes, and I’d love to hear your suggestion and rallying cry.

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  3. An inspiring post for July 4. The Senate has a chance to be that fulcrum and was designed as such…and was largely run as such until recently. But unfortunately both parties have eroded the comity and balance of the institution over time. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as leaders have been just as divisive and naked in their political ambition as anyone else. This reconciliation and judicial appointment nonsense – “we’ll require 60 votes when it’s easy but drop it to 50 when it’s hard” – is preventing the institution from working the way it was envisioned. And while I realize the 60-vote threshold and filibuster were largely designed to keep Civil Rights legislation at bay, in the last 50 years proved to be a practical device to force legislation closer to the center.

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    1. Good points, Matt, and thanks for your thoughts. As long as the parties are under the influence of their extremist wings, this behavior will continue. To someone ruled by a rigid ideology, “winning” isn’t just important, it is everything. Only a new, centrist party can force a change in outlook and willingness to compromise.

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  4. WHILE I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT OF A CENTRIST PARTY I BELIEVE THAT, AS MATT SUGGESTS, IT GOES BEYOND THE PRESIDENT AND NEEDS TO START WITH CONGRESS AN THE SENATE. THEY HAVE LOST SIGHT THAT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY BEGINS WITH THE ELECTORATE AND THEIR PRESENT INABILITY TO STAY IN CONTACT WITH THE CITIZENS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE THAT HAVE ELECTED THEM TO DO OUR BIDDING RE: WHAT WE FIND IMPORTANT ON A GLOBAL BASIS AND NOT WHAT THE FEW RABID AND DISJOINTED PEOPLE UNREALISTICALLY YELL AND SCREAM ABOUT. THE PRESIDENT DOES, MANY TIMES, ACT UNPRESIDENTIAL, BUT HE IS ONLY ONE PERSON AND IT IS INCUMBENT ON THE SENATE AND CONGRESS TO BRING HIM BACK TO THE REALITY THAT HE AND THEY ARE THERE TO LISTEN TO US. A CENTRIST PARTY CAN DO THIS WITH A COMMON OBJECTIVE THAT STARTS WITH THE WITH AN ELECTED CONGRESS AND SENATE THAT ACT ON BEHALF OF THE COMMON GOOD AND NOT WHAT THEY FIND RINGS WITH A FEW MISGUIDED AND LOUD INDIVIDUALS LIKE BERNIE AND OTHERS OF HIS BENT.

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    1. Wayne–we are in complete agreement. I think a concerted, but long term effort to start a third, centrist party, has to begin at the grass roots, first with the election of some Representatives, then Senators and Governors, and then the President, in that order, and over several election cycles.

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