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.