In a recent column, I wrote (hoped) that the time is ripe for a new political movement. I cited the success of En Marche! in France. En Marche! did not exist before 2016, yet led by Emmanuel Macron, swept recent elections for President and the Parliament.
The response to the column was quick and animated. Most encouragingly, people said they had sent the column to friends, and one said it would be sent on to Michael Bloomberg (more on that later.)
It is, of course, easy to call for change. It is more difficult to clothe the idea.
Today America’s principal parties have scripts and bases and the latter anchor them to the former. It is as if the search for knowledge has died. America’s political class and especially the leaders of its two protected parties have failed. They have occupied positions of responsibility and power, but have forgotten the first. They have failed to rise above their differences.
America needs an open-minded — indeed curious party with leaders who are willing to embrace civic research and development — beginnings, successes, failures, and new beginnings.
Scientists, engineers, and leading-edge business leaders awaken each day to the promises and risks of new and often disruptive technology. Many of the companies that top a list of the world’s largest (capital value) didn’t exist or were quite small a generation ago. And the scientific breakthroughs in medicine, data analysis and communications products and services are staggering.
In the decades that followed American astronauts landing on the moon, it was often said, “If we can land a man on the moon we can cure” (fill in the blank). Rocketing to the moon, impressive as that was, did not prepare the nation to more insightfully deal with human needs. Conversely, this generation’s technologies provide deep insights into human behavior and how real needs can best be met.
Yet, politicians awaken in a tactical world. Each day they spend most of their energies protecting their jobs.
A curious party, one led by the principle that generational improvements are possible, will necessarily be a federalist one. Constitutionally, America is a nation of state and local governments. It is often said that the States are our laboratories. They should be given more power and when necessary economic incentives to improve services that the private sector cannot provide. Washington should be attentive, not predominate in most domestic matters.
Today the central government’s template for dealing with domestic needs is to try to “boil the ocean.” This, of course, doesn’t work, but the programs become entrenched, and outcomes matter less and less as the beneficiaries ear-mark their political giving and advocacy.
Americans are generous — they answer needs. Tens of billions are spent annually on an extraordinary range of not-for-profits. But, and this is the pivotal difference, if a worthwhile mission is unable to show mission-related success, it will fail for lack of support. Programs in Washington persist, regardless of results.
New political leadership should respect America’s diversity. When Washington, through the Congress or Supreme Court becomes Culture-Maker-In-Chief, positions harden and polarization becomes more intense. While there are basic freedoms America’s central government must enforce, a significant measure of cultural expression should be left to the States.
And this brings me around to New York’s former Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. I lived in Manhattan during the first part of his administration and watched with admiration as he encouraged innovation in public schools as teacher’s unions fought his every move.
Mayor Bloomberg would be an excellent third party leader. He has certainly considered beginning a new movement and his pattern of business and government leadership point to curiosity and innovation. And, importantly, he is experienced. While he has recently declined any interest in running for office again, he should play at least an enabling role.
Also, a new political movement must be led by a tenacious person who is not easily intimidated. An innovation movement will quickly breach the walls of entrenched interests.
Finally and most importantly, this must be a citizen movement — a countervailing force to displace cynicism with some measure of hope. America’s health requires an engaged citizenry, and one will only exist when candidates for office are not programmed by entrenched interests. And believe me, a viable third Party would shake the protected parties very foundation.
In my lifetime, there has never been a better opportunity to start a third party with real staying power. But, if such a movement is to succeed, it will require real, not feigned leadership.