Can a King help restore leadership in Washington?

By Mark McKinnon and Bill Galston, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 18, 2012, at 5:13 p.m.

America has faced problems time and time again. But great leaders have always emerged at the opportune moment to solve them. Today, it can be argued America is facing problems like it never has before and is in dire need of leadership.

Decisions regarding our country’s debt and deficit have been kicked down the road. Now a fiscal cliff lies ahead, and there’s no more space to kick. Meanwhile, energy, immigration and tax reform are all needed, but gridlock is preventing progress.

Can a King from Maine help resurrect that American leadership?

The answer to that question is a definitive yes. If we learned one thing from this election cycle, it is that the American people are looking desperately for problem solving. But problem solving is only possible with leadership. Angus King’s election to the U.S. Senate is proof that America knows problem solving can only happen when leaders work across the aisle to solve problems.

As Maine’s former governor, King didn’t have the luxury of watching problems fester. If a budget, wasn’t balanced, he fixed it. When he saw problems in education and job growth, he worked with people on both sides of the aisle to find possible solutions.

That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when King supported common sense reforms like No Budget, No Pay during his campaign. This proposal states simply that if members of Congress can’t pass a budget and all spending bills on time, they should not be paid.

King’s election is a microcosm of what happened across the country. Look at No Budget, No Pay: More than 70 members of Congress who ran on that messaging won their races.

It’s time to put the fighting of the 112th Congress behind us and start looking ahead to potential fixes in the 113th Congress.

That’s where No Labels, a rapidly growing grassroots movement of nearly 600,000 Republicans, Democrats and independents, comes in. No Labels, which initially proposed No Budget, No Pay last year, is now building a Problem Solvers Bloc in Congress.

This bloc will help organize and empower legislators who actually want to get things done. Legislators will have the opportunity to talk about real, attainable solutions with others who put practical problem-solving before political point-scoring. We’ve found that most lawmakers in Washington are good people who genuinely hope to make a difference. They just happen to be stuck in a broken system.

That’s why No Labels is recruiting House and Senate members committed to working across the aisle to find effective solutions to our country’s problems. This effort could truly jumpstart constructive debate around America’s most pressing issues. It’s a banner for lawmakers to gather under to build across-the-aisle trust and develop real solutions.

This plan is ambitious, and in order to build this bloc it will take the voices of many. Olympia Snowe’s words in her decision to leave the Senate ring especially true today:

“For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building — but also a political reward for following these tenets. That reward will be real only if the people demonstrate their desire for politicians to come together after the planks in their respective party platforms do not prevail.”

Right now, with a new crop of lawmakers in Washington, we have a chance to reap this reward. With groups like No Labels bringing people from differing ideologies but common purpose together, we have an opportunity to see that strength, courage and honor in action. But to give lawmakers this reward, we encourage you to sign on to the No Labels plan at NoLabels.org. Lawmakers respond to incentives, and with enough people calling for problem solving, we might actually be able to find some solutions.

Maine has long been a place of plain common sense. Sen.-elect King says it best: “Maine is leading by saying that we are tired of the political divisions that are keeping us from solving real problems. Tomorrow and for the next six years, my simple goal is to … be a bridge between my new colleagues on either side of the aisle.”

The 112th Congress is nearing its end. With real leadership appearing possible, we can’t wait for the 113th.

Mark McKinnon is a former adviser for President George W. Bush, and Bill Galston is a former adviser for President Bill Clinton. Both are No Labels co-founders.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/11/18/opinion/can-a-king-help-restore-leadership-in-washington/ printed on October 24, 2014