Congressman John Delaney on How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation
Most Americans don’t want to hear it anymore about how politicians in Washington can’t get anything done because they don’t get along. But the argument Congressman John Delaney made at our Middle Class, Middle America, and Middle Ground speaker series event on June 13th was that a lack of bi-partisan compromise may not come from congressmen with bad attitudes, but rather because members are trying to pass muster with highly partisan voters in unequally drawn districts. To fix American politics, “you don’t sell bi-partisanship, you sell solutions,” he said on Wednesday morning. That’s exactly why he focuses on solutions to unify the electorate in his book, The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation.
With voters increasingly falling back on tribalism and party identity, on Wednesday morning Congressman Delaney pointed to the underlying system of incentives that motivates members to shy away from bi-partisan compromise. Because members prioritize reelection, they endeavor to appear closely aligned with the folks who will give them money and show up at the ballot box for them. This effect may actually facilitate more compromise from congressmen in the districts that hold a more equal distribution of voters from both parties because the congressmen ultimately need to secure enough votes to win. But in districts that are less evenly-weighted, members are discouraged from seeming too open to compromise in fear that they will be stifled from rallying the partisan voters who will reelect them.
While procedural reforms in campaign finance and redistricting could improve bi-partisan work in Congress, Congressman Delaney acknowledges that the solutions to deep divisions in our country must actually begin by solving divisions among voters. Success going forward is simple, he said. To unify voters of all different lifestyles and demographics, we must simply, “prioritize the issues that cut across the section of all voters: jobs, pay, and opportunities for our children.”
That is to say that the key to creating American unity lies in realizing that there is commonality among most voters, regardless of their political beliefs: Americans care deeply about the opportunity they have to earn a good living themselves, and the opportunity their children will have to earn a good living in the future. By considering this basic common purpose, we can focus on creating a political structure that creates high quality opportunities for Americans alike; in turn, Congressman Delaney says we will begin to unlock American divisions on a foundational level.