Pushing results, not polarization, in New Hampshire
About 1,500 citizens will attend Sunday’s “Problem Solver Convention” in New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first presidential primaries. That’s a good crowd for a small state, but there’s something else that makes this gathering notable: the attendees are people who tend to focus less on political personalities than on government results.
In this era of hyper-partisan brawling, that makes them almost exotic. Current and future candidates would be wise to pay close attention for two reasons.
First, many of these convention-goers will vote in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, whose primaries are open to voters who register as undeclared or no party. (There’s less incentive to vote in the Republican primary because President Trump is so heavily favored.)
More important, citizens like these are the hope of a functioning government (if we’re to have one) because they understand something that too many Americans ignore: Our federal system cannot operate without bipartisan cooperation. It’s mathematically impossible, and it’s the reason Congress remains gridlocked on even mundane issues.
The convention is sponsored by the non-partisan group No Labels, where I’m executive director. And it will feature leaders of the House bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. This group, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, is making a name for itself by doing something that once was fairly common in Congress: Working across party lines to get things done.
For this, what is their reward? Often, it’s scorn and retribution from their own party. That’s the sad truth in Washington, where polarization is so severe that leaders in both parties demand absolute loyalty, even when it’s sure to prevent legislation from passing (which presumably is the reason they came to Congress).
The Problem Solvers Caucus’s 48 members have shown courage to defy their party leaders and seek bipartisan accords, which are the only way a bill can pass in our divided government. And they’ve gotten results. Much-needed humanitarian aid to the southern border was blocked by partisan ideologues last summer until the Problem Solvers broke the gridlock. And they banded together to change the House rules – no easy feat – to make it harder for party leaders to bury bipartisan legislation they dislike.
Sadly, only a handful of presidential candidates thus far have said they’ll attend Sunday’s convention in Manchester. So kudos to former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and author Marianne Williamson, and Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
The other Democratic contenders are focused mainly on a loud and activist left wing, which has dominated much of the debate thus far.
OK, we get it. We’ve heard the jokes about “raging moderates.” But the citizens coming to the Problem Solver Convention are less focused on the ideological middle, left or right than on getting common-sense results from a government that ought to work for the American people.
And the people want results. A recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that “majorities in both parties say it is very important that elected officials be willing to make compromises with their opponents to solve important problems.”
This is something the House Problem Solvers Caucus members understand. Sunday’s convention-goers understand it too. Furiously defending your ideologies might feel good. But it doesn’t address this country’s persistent problems with immigration, deficits, infrastructure, climate change, wage stagnation, etc.
Eventually a Democratic presidential nominee will emerge. He or she, like President Trump, will need every possible vote in battleground states, which include New Hampshire.
The 1,500 highly engaged citizens we will welcome on Sunday are very likely to vote in the 2020 general election as well as the primary. Candidates who are paying scant attention to them now may regret it later.
And whoever is elected president – in 2020 and beyond – will need these types of patriotic, caring Americans to help bring our nation back to its senses, back to a self-governing society that values achievements above screaming matches.
“Problem solver” isn’t just a slogan. It aptly describes the work of the bipartisan House caucus. And it aptly describes the hopes and goals of 1,500 people who will devote this Sunday to a convention in New Hampshire exactly one year before the nation elects its next president.
Margaret White is executive director of No Labels.