A Record of Impact
To meet our mission of governing America from the center, we focus relentlessly on impact. Our benchmark: whether our ideas have influenced either a national policy or a national debate.
Third Way has created an entirely new policy discussion around advanced nuclear technology.
We need new baseload energy sources that don’t contribute to climate change, so Third Way launched a new policy discussion on how the government can encourage private sector innovation in advanced nuclear reactors. When we entered the space in 2014, no one in Washington was talking about this 21st century nuclear technology. Since then, we have engaged the White House, the Department of Energy, and Congress. This culminated in a White House summit that we proposed and helped run, new federal rules by President Obama, and the introduction of bipartisan legislation to provide the government access and regulatory change these new companies need to commercialize their reactors.
Third Way helped enact $3 trillion in deficit reduction.
2011 was the culmination of a Third Way-led effort on the Democratic side to enact a series of bipartisan deals that reduced the ten-year deficit by $3 trillion. Over a three-year campaign, we built support for deficit reduction that included both budget cuts and new revenue. Though these bipartisan deals were not perfect, they eliminated the near-term deficit problem.
Third Way played a crucial role in preserving the gains reformers made in No Child Left Behind.
2015 saw the largest public policy battle on education reform since 2001: the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which revised the law but kept core accountability provisions. Battling teachers unions and Tea Partiers alike, Third Way laid out the case for why Democrats needed to be at the forefront of efforts to maintain annual testing and federal guardrails for accountability. Because of our research, talking points, free media blitz, briefings, and policy support, many moderate Democrats turned from being highly skeptical of assessment and accountability to being their biggest defenders, which was a linchpin in the new law’s passage.
Third Way paved the way for executive action on gun policy.
In December 2016, President Obama announced a series of actions to reduce gun violence. These new policies, and the rhetoric he used to frame them, came directly from the work that Third Way has done to shape the federal gun debate. Both with his words and deeds, the President tracked Third Way’s recommendations, noting that rights come with responsibilities and that the best way to keep our communities safe is to use background checks, mental health screening, and expanded enforcement.
Third Way helped shape the Affordable Care Act.
Third Way fought successfully for a market-based approach to health care in the ACA, rejecting calls for the so-called “public option” single-payer system. We also developed a messaging framework built upon a series of reforms that would provide “stability and security” to the insured. In a moment when the bill was failing, President Obama’s shift to our messaging—he used those exact words repeatedly, including in a speech to a joint session of Congress—helped pass the ACA.
MARRIAGE FOR GAY COUPLES
Third Way’s narrative helped reverse decades of losses on marriage for gay couples.
By 2008, advocates of marriage for gay couples had a record of 0-for-30 at the ballot box. We conducted groundbreaking public opinion research to understand why and revealed a serious strategic flaw: the focus on the rights and benefits was driving voters away. To sway the middle, we counseled advocates to emphasize instead the common value that all married couples share: lifetime commitment. Our approach was widely adopted and helped turn the tide. Marriage went 4-for-4 with voters in 2012, political leaders from President Obama on down have used this “commitment” message, and this shift in public opinion helped pave the way for the landmark Supreme Court decision that made marriage a constitutional right.
Third Way has opened up a new, robust debate about the economy in Democratic politics.
For years, the focus of the Democratic economic agenda and narrative was on an unfair, rigged system. Yet this has not resonated with middle-income voters, who’ve abandoned Democrats. Third Way did a year of policy and public opinion research that has opened up a new discussion in Democratic circles about how best to improve the economy for the middle class. Our main insight—that middle-income Americans feel less that they are victims of economic malfeasance but rather actors in a rapidly changing world—and suite of more than 70 economic ideas to help the middle class thrive created the first serious challenge to the orthodoxy of economic populism. President Obama sounded many of these new themes in his final State of the Union address in January 2016.
Third Way proposed new rules that Congress enacted; they will save tens of billions on federal pensions.
In 2011, Third Way proposed a series of changes to bring federal pensions in line with the private sector. In 2012-13, Congress passed legislation that included our central idea: permanently raising the rate of federal employee retirement contribution from 0.8% to 4.4% for all new federal employees, a shift that will save hundreds of billions over the next decades.
Third Way has spearheaded a long-term effort to fix the safety net.
Third Way is the only center-left organization working to preserve and strengthen Social Security. Our multi-year effort has already begun to discredit the central plan on the left for an expansion of Social Security benefits for everyone by demonstrating that it piles hundreds of billions in new taxes on middle class families and shreds public investments. Simultaneously, we have built a centrist alternative: a bipartisan Social Security commission, which has been introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior member of the GOP leadership, and Rep. John Delaney (D-MD).
Third Way has been the lead Democratic group behind passage of free trade bills.
Third Way played a major role in passing free trade agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama, as well as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in 2015, the critical first step in ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Indeed, Third Way was the main organization on the Democratic side to aggressively address the special interest-driven scare campaign against TPA. To do so, we created the center-left’s intellectual foundation for trade, providing research, memos, and talking points to Congress. We spent hundreds of hours defending, educating, and backing each of the 28 House Democrats and 13 Democratic Senators who ultimately voted for TPA. The White House adopted many of Third Way’s pro-trade messages, and our papers were cited throughout the congressional debates.