Washington offers underwhelming options for both parties
© Getty Images

During this tumultuous period of political upheaval in the country and governing turmoil within Washington D.C., one would think that a leader would emerge — someone who would rise to the moment and present something fundamentally new — offering a new course, a new direction for our country in the 21st century. 

But that has not happened. All we have is more of the same — or Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

Last week, Democrats, with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren warns another 'economic crash' is coming The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Biden's lead narrows in early voting states: poll MORE (D-Mass.) in tow, released their “new” economic agenda — aimed at out-populist-ing, the populist Trump.

 

Their slogan? Surely, it would be something bold. Something that tells us about their new vision for the United States in the 21st century, right? Wrong. 

Their slogan…wait for it: “Better Deal.” Perhaps an homage to FDR’s “New Deal” from the 1930’s? I think FDR is rolling in his grave.

OK, not to worry. There is hope from the Republicans, right? Wrong again.

Also, last week, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Ariz.) released a new book titled: “Conscious of a Conservative.” Wait a minute, I’ve heard that title before. Oh, that’s right, it was the title of the late Barry Goldwater’s book from…1960.

OK, another homage. Let’s check the subtitle: “A Rejection of Destructive Politics and A Return to Principle.” So, a return to 20th century conservatism — in the 21st century. Sigh.

Democrats and Republicans, the 20th century wants its politics back.

What other options do we have? Let’s look at Trump. 

Trump has brought new ideas to our politics, but he has endeavored a destructive path —opting to further divide our already divided country. Moreover, at this point, Trump hasn’t been able to translate his electoral victory into a governing or legislative agenda. 

So, what are we left with? Democrats who incorrectly think that more, one-size-fits-all government solutions will meet the multi-faceted and complex challenges that we face in the 21st century; Republicans who believe that they have not been conservative enough; and Trump who has not shown the discipline or capacity to lead — whatever new politics he represents.

Let’s take it a step further to understand the interplay between the Trump voter and our two major parties.

What have Republicans, like Flake, offered them: “An America that is strong abroad,” unbridled free trade and the goal of reforming Medicare and Social Security. For the Trump voter, all they hear is: more wars for my son or daughter to fight, jobs moving overseas and their only safety net for their vulnerable, aging years taken away.

Let’s look at Democrats. They offer more big government, bureaucratic solutions, which to the Trump voter translates into enduring the control and paternalistic judgment of elites in Washington.

So, what we have are both Republicans and Democrats looking backwards with stale ideas and weathered rhetoric.

And Trump — he is failing.

America, we have a problem.

We need something new — truly new. But what would that be?

First, we need to reject the linear thinking associated with left and right, Democrat and Republican. Even center. It is meaningless in the 21st century — given the nature of the challenges that we face and the moral questions that are at hand.

Today, we need new, nuanced and vision-based politics and policy solutions. And every American needs to know how they fit into that vision — rather than having political leaders from both sides of the aisle deliberately sowing divisions within American society in order to win.

Second, we must allow solutions to originate, develop, incubate and grow from the local level. Given the complexities of the 21st century and diversity of our country, solutions will only work if they fit into the local context. Some will naturally ask what is the role of the president, the Congress and the federal government within this context. It’s not to get out of the way. On the contrary, it is to direct the federal bureaucracy to support this bottom-up approach, facilitate the incubation of new policies and innovative ideas at the local level, and follow those policies and ideas — not dictate.

Third, we need to build a new political movement that has at its core a vision and national purpose of rebuilding the foundation of our country and reconnecting Americans through new, economic and social partnerships — from cities to small towns, urban to rural. This could include creating new, national and public service opportunities that contemplate “service” through the prism of the changing economy — rather than for exclusively governmental purposes — to build new job skills and create new educational opportunities for the American people in the 21st century.

Folks, there is hope. We can create a new, vision-based approach to our politics. But it is going to take a new generation of American leadership with truly new ideas.

Because the “Nancy Pelosi, Jeff Flake, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE generation” will never, ever get us there.

Alex Gallo is a former House Armed Services Committee staff member. He is a West Point graduate, a combat veteran and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter @AlexGalloUSA


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.