“Divided Government: Bipartisan Dysfunction, Bipartisan Solutions”

– This is the Rockefeller Center, my name is Charlie Wheelan, I teach here at the Rockefeller Center and
germane to our discussion here I’m also the founder and
co-chair of Unite America, which is an organization
working to support process changes around elections and also moderate candidates in both parties. It is my honor to
moderate this discussion, not debate, today with our two members. Zach Wamp served in the
House of Representatives for more than 15 years representing Tennessee’s third district. He was a senior member on the
House Appropriations Committee and co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. This one is particularly interesting, he also founded the
Congressional Fitness Caucus. He is now the president and
owner of Zach Wamp Consulting, a bi-partisan consulting
and development firm for a wide range of
businesses across the country. He worked as a small
businessman and a commercial real estate broker prior
to serving in Congress. Tim Roemer, to his right, served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives for Indiana’s third
congressional district. You both served in the third district for whatever that is worth, and was an instrumental
member of the 9/11 Commission after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. In Congress, he was known
as a consensus builder and worked on education
initiatives through such as Head Start, AmeriCorps, Affordable Higher Education, and the like. As ambassador to India,
Tim led one of the largest diplomatic missions and helped move India from America’s 25th largest
trading partner to 12th and expanded the
country’s commercial sales in defense and space industries. I would also like to
welcome back Dick Swett, former representative from New Hampshire and former ambassador to Denmark and member of the ReFormer’s Caucus. I’m going to start by having
each of you talk about the work that you’re
doing now with Issue One and then we’ll have some
more specific questions. Zach, you want to start? – Tim can start, he’s the senior member. – See, this is how it works. – Senior meaning older? (laughter) – Not wiser, just older. – Correct. – Well, Charlie, thank
you for the introductions, the gracious and kind
introductions for both me and for Congressman Wamp
and for Ambassador Swett. We wouldn’t be here without
your kind introduction and invitation from
the Rockefeller Center, and without Ambassador
Swett’s deep connections to the community here that
we’re very grateful for. I’m particularly proud to
be at Dartmouth University and the Rockefeller Center
because I have a nephew here, Connor Roemer, who’s attending
as a freshman at Dartmouth and my daughter, Grace, is
dating a Dartmouth freshman so it feels a little
bit like family for me to be here at this great university. What are we doing at Issue
One and why is it important? I think that’s one of
the most common questions that my brother here and I get when we go from campus to campus,
from Tennessee to Iowa, from Indiana to Pennsylvania,
and talk to different audiences and crowds, if
you look around the world and I’m sure it’s one of the
reasons why people are here in the audience, democracy
is under assault. I just returned from Beijing, China, where the Chinese can say to us at times, “You don’t have a functioning
democracy, Tim, in America.” You have 435 representatives,
only about 70 of those are competitive seats
anymore, the rest of them are kind of rigged, and
that’s probably pretty true. We have, from the Philippines to Brazil and China with Xi as the leader, we have autocrats, authoritarian regimes dominating the world since
the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s no different in America. I think a lot of working, middle class people in America are saying, “We don’t trust either party. “Congress doesn’t represent us enough. “There are lobbyists
ahead of us in the line, “There are moneyed interests and donors “Ahead of us in the line, when
is our voice going to be heard “As average people in our communities?” Whether they be students at Dartmouth, whether they be staff at Dartmouth, whether they be people
with the opioid crisis in New Hampshire, or healthcare concerns, people want the government to work to solve some of their
problems, and it’s not, Charlie. It’s dysfunctional too
often in Washington. So Issue One, a Republican, Zach Wamp, and a Democrat, Tim
Roemer, have come together and we’ve helped with the
leadership at Issue One. Meredith McGehee is here, Nick Penniman is our executive director, we’re working in a bipartisan way to bring 200 former Members
of Congress together, governors, senators, majority
leaders from the Senate, ministers, ambassadors, all
have common interest to say, “Let’s put country before party. “Let’s bring America’s great
magical experiment back “So that our freedom, our liberty, “Our representative government
is the most important thing.” That’s why we call ourselves Issue One. Because if you’re concerned
about the environment and global warming as a Democrat, or deficits as a Republican,
if you don’t have a functioning government to help solve some of these problems,
nothing works, folks. So this is the cause of the day. This is the compelling
issue of the moment. How do students and citizens
of this great country come together to try
to make sure we cherish this magical experiment
that was our revolution over 200 years ago and
bring people together to help fix a broken political system. That’s what we’re doing, Charlie. – [Charles] Zach, do
you want to add to that? – Well, as a Southerner,
I’m really honored too to be in New Hampshire,
given the history here, particularly at Dartmouth. What a prestigious
place and great history. Charlie, thanks for hosting us. As Tim just said, from the very beginning, this was an experiment. Can people with this much freedom baked into our constitution
actually govern themselves? And I would suggest that for 200 years, that experiment went pretty well, but for the last 25 or
so, it’s not going so well and we’ve devolved into
this tribal environment where we no longer trust each other and it seems like our
enemy is our opponent, as opposed to any
potential foreign adversary and we can talk a lot about
that, defining the problem, but we’re also about
solutions and coming together and finding ways forward
because there’s a lot at stake. You know, I’ve got three little grandkids and I did serve in Congress for 16 years and I don’t want them to grow
up and when somebody says, “Did your grandfather serve in
the United States Congress?” For them to actually
either be ashamed of it or not even admit it, and the confidence in our institutions in
this country is in decline and the Congress may be
at the front of that line. Even the Supreme Court,
the confidence is way down. So what do we do to restore that? What do we do to engage ourselves? We’ve assembled this big
team of former members that are united around this proposition that we have to go back to, as
Tim said, putting our country above our party, but working together in ending the dysfunction
and getting the Congress moving again, and that’s
what Issue One is all about. The latest big thing
that we got involved in is this whole issue of elections security. If we can’t trust the
security of our own elections from cycle to cycle, we
have an even bigger problem, and in this day of artificial intelligence and what’s called deep fakes, we can actually now look for,
in the next election cycle, foreign adversaries to actually use this latest in technology to send messages that appear to be real
but they’re not even real, and playing in our space
and we don’t even have a regulatory scheme to
prohibit it in this country, and there’s a political
defense of the status quo that is just unacceptable,
and a lot of people, you may say, what’s a Republican doing here talking about this? Guys, I came to Congress
in the class of ’94, I signed under the Gingrich
era and the Hastert era, what’s called a discharge
petition to force the bipartisan Campaign Finance
Reform Act to the floor. As a matter of fact,
they were so surprised that a conservative Republican like me who came to Congress as a real reformer, didn’t take PAC money,
didn’t use any Franked Mail, I can go down the list
of things that I did to try to be different, to try to put this back in the hands of the people as opposed to the special
interests, and then I signed the discharge petition
when McCain-Feingold, which was called
Shays-Meehan in the House, came to the floor for the debate, I closed the debate on the House floor. We forget, but maybe he didn’t
even want to, but he did, a Republican president
signed this into law. There’s no real exclusivity
on ethics for either party, so if anybody thinks that if we just had all Democrats or all Republicans, we’ve seen this movie before. Frankly, it’s institutionally
corrupt in the sense that the special interests
really drive the train, so what is Issue One about? We’re trying to disrupt
it in a positive way. I got back into this
after fighting the fight for 16 years in Congress,
I got back into it when I felt the earth shaking in 2016. Sanders was a disrupter on one side and Trump was a disrupter
on the other side and Sanders darn near disrupted this side and Trump did disrupt this side, and obviously we know
what’s happened there. I don’t want to get into all
that because what I want to talk about is what’s this country
going to be like after Trump? What are our expectations,
what are our standards, what are our values? It’s real important that we
come together on that now, in my opinion, because
there’s going to be a moment where he’s no longer the
disruptor, he’s no longer there, he’s gone, and then what? ‘Cause I want our values and our standards to be the traditional
ones we had as a country where we meet at the
water’s edge on big issues. The Democrats and
Republicans fight like hell for things you believe in but at the end of the day
you got to compromise, you got to move the process forward. – Let’s talk about that,
because Americans have always had disagreements, you can go
back to Jefferson and Adams and so on, what’s different in this movie that we’re watching about how those ideological disagreements play out? – I’ll say one thing and
then Tim, you take this. I believe that blame has become a tool, a political tool of the
parties when they can’t govern and they can’t lead successfully, they just blame the other team. Now it’s almost systemic
that it is actually a ploy that it’s all their fault, don’t blame us, it’s all their fault. This is now a systemic problem. Americans used to accept responsibility together for big things. We made bad mistakes,
the flawed intelligence going into Iraq, that was all of us. That was Hillary Clinton
and George W. Bush. We should learn as a country
to accept our failures. Slavery was a tragic, tragic
flaw in American history. We all own that, that wasn’t
them or those, it was us. That’s the big difference,
is we’re not willing, as a nation, to accept our
collective responsibility in the world and at home, Tim? – So Charlie, I think
there are several things that are propelling us in
this tribal direction today, and Issue One is right at
the forefront of trying to, in a bipartisan way, solve
some of these issues. One, I won’t get my phone out, I pay too much attention to it anyway, but they are addiction machines. The more we pay attention to our phones and our iPads and that technology it not only sucks up all
our data and gives it free to big companies, it doesn’t allow us the time to build
friendships and communities that are so important as Americans. I think the social
media, the digital media, we have to find the right balance. Two, I think we have problems
with our general media. If you turn on Fox News
or you turn on MSNBC, these are two echo chambers
playing to minority bases in both parties and talking
about riling people up rather than delivering news, interesting news, to most people. Three, I think gerrymandering
is a huge problem. Creating safe districts for
Republicans and Democrats and not the competitive you
got to fight for every vote, you got to represent your interests, you got to be home all the time. Zach and I both come from
those kind of districts. We didn’t have safe districts that your only worry was a primary. We had tough, a Republican
could beat me any two years. That’s a good thing, that
makes me more accountable to the voters and to the people. That’s something that we
talk about at Issue One, changing gerrymandering,
and four, money in politics. When Zach and I would run for office, you’d spend maybe 20% of
your time raising money, that’s still too much time. Now, Members of Congress spend
60, 70, 80% of their time dialing for dollars and
they’re not talking to the construction worker down the street and the nurse around the corner. They’re talking to the
billionaire out in Silicon Valley, they’re talking to the investment
banker in New York City. That’s not us, they’re not
hearing about our problems with healthcare or higher
education costs, opioid crisis. We need to fix Congress so that they’re paying attention
to the average person. Those are some of the
problems that Issue One, in a bi-partisan way,
is paying attention to, and I’d say the last thing, and Zach talked about
this, elections security. As a 9/11 Committee member,
I don’t come at this politically at all, I
come at this strictly from an objective perspective. Bin Laden attacked America with 19 people. Wasn’t an army, it
wasn’t tanks or fighters, it was people trained in
the caves of Afghanistan. Today in 2019, America can be attacked asymmetrically on the Internet. We can have a troll farm
in St. Petersburg, Russia, pretend to be certain
people and get Americans fighting against each other
with false advertising. We can have Chinese
hackers get into our system and try to attack our
state electoral systems and disrupt that security. – And they did. – And the one vote pride
that we take in our votes and potentially them not being cast. That should make all of us angry that a foreign power
is trying to influence our elections and get us
to be mad at each other. They’re trying to get Zach and I to fight against each other to divide America. I don’t care if you’re a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter or one of the others, no foreign entity should
come into our country and try to get us fighting
against each other as Americans, that comes first, our
pride in being Americans. So those are some of
the problems, Charlie, and Issue One is the only
bipartisan organization out there trying to work on solutions for it. – I want to ask about how
you engage two groups. One is you’ve got an
impressive array of former Members of Congress but
I’d like to see the same bipartisanship with current
Members of Congress, now how do you change the
incentive for those folks? – Well, I want to give you
some hope, because again, I don’t want to be too
much on the defensive as a Republican on a lot of
these issues, but we are. Frankly, Mitch McConnell is
the guy standing in the gate or the door of the United States Senate on a lot of these issues,
but as we’ve proven several times now, he’s
not completely invincible. If you want to know why
he just switched last week to support $250 million more dollars for election security,
we’re a large reason. We ran this Don’t Mess With
Us campaign all summer long, we activated the reformers, we got dozens and dozens and dozens, like
100 of our former members to sign onto these initiatives. We have worked with
Marco Rubio in the Senate on an election security bill,
James Lankford of Oklahoma, even Lindsey Graham has
supported one of the bills that we support as the
original co-sponsor, and so instead of– – [Tim] And Democrats like Amy Klobuchar, and Mark Warner are working together. – Of course, the Democrats are there, my point is we’re moving Republicans. In the House we got, in the last Congress, 32 reformers, like the ReFormer’s Caucus, the former members, current members, and we go Noah’s Ark, Charlie, one Republican, one Democrat at a time. Everything we do we keep it that way, otherwise this thing gets lopsided and everybody starts pointing fingers. So, 16 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Some of the Republicans are
the newer, younger members that actually don’t drink the Kool-Aid. A guy I’ll point to is Mike
Gallagher from Wisconsin. Marine vet, speaks fluent
Arabic, Ivy League educated, I won’t say where, but
anyway, really an amazing guy and he has stepped out as
kind of an independent voice, like the conscience, so we’re
actually, on both sides, we’re recruiting guys in
and out to lead this charge. Why, because we have to. We’re in an unraveling here. Charlie, I’m telling you,
we’re making real progress now inside and outside to answer
your question directly. – And I would just add to that, Zach is absolutely right and not crowing and bragging enough about Issue One’s work on the Senate side and
bringing together Republicans who will say to Mitch McConnell, “Look, you got to let us vote on this. “This is good for America to try “And get this election security forward.” And on the House side, Charlie, I’m up there, and more positive news, I think I’ve probably met,
and Issue One has met with about 40 of the new Democrats elected in the midterms since 2018. Now, you don’t hear
about these new members. You all read about– – [Zach] The Gang. – Omar, and Tlaib, and AOC from New York, which generate a lot of Twitter presence and social media presence
and media presence. I’m talking about some of the members also that are stars in the Democratic Party that you don’t read about. Congresswoman Spanberger from Virginia, Congresswoman Slotkin from Michigan, Congresswoman Sharice Davids from Kansas. These are Democrats that
won in Trump districts, and they come not with an ideological bet, they are not party stalwarts, they’re practical, pragmatic people, and they’re in Washington
to do two things: reform the system and make it
work for the average American and represent their constituents and not be dialing for
dollars all the time. – That leads me to my second question, if either of you had promised free college or to make America great
again we’d be in a bigger room or if I had said I was
going to insult your wives and then let you fight, it’d
be made for better media so how do we persuade
people that they should pay attention to half a loaf conversations that are civil, if less exciting. How do we encourage moderation
when it is inherently civil and therefore sometimes less interesting, at least from an entertainment standpoint? – Well, as a people we still slow down when we go by wrecks, and Jerry Springer gave rise to this reality
TV mindset of a food fight, so it’s sort of the underbelly of us, but I think it’s imperative, knowing that, that that’s a tendency for
humans to gravitate towards that kind of conflict,
that kind of nastiness, that we have to kind of work against it and say that’s not our tradition. At the end of the day, we
rise above these things. Like Mrs. Obama said, when
they go low, we go high. I mean, we have to do that as a nation and it’s imperative that
people that have led, Ambassador Swett’s a great example from our ReFormer’s
Caucus, of staying engaged and actually taking our
country through this. This is a low spot, this is a time where the future is going to be determined whether this civil
government survives or not. There’s no guarantee that we
do, to be honest with you, and it’s going to take
people coming together, so I think we actually
have to intentionally be about the business of convincing people that that’s not the best
way, and I do think, frankly, post-Trump, this disruptive period, we have an opportunity to decide. Do we want to hold up our
values and our expectations and our standards or are we going to go to the Kardashian era next? Is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
going to be the next president after Trump or after this next cycle? I would also say this: I am encouraged by the next generation. These younger, newer Democrats
that he’s talking about and the younger, newer
Republicans, I mean, frankly, Dan Crenshaw, the patch guy from Texas, he is a Navy Seal, we’re seeing
these intelligence leaders, these national security
leaders from both sides, from the next generation
be really patriotic and really pragmatic and
really working together and it gives us great
hope that if we can help transfer power from this
generation to the next generation sooner we’ve got a chance to
come back together as a nation and if that happens at the top
then everybody’s going to get it but I also believe now that
we can’t blame the media. There’s an important role for the media but we got to have their cooperation because they can’t zero-in
on these food fights as the most important story every day and expect for everyone
else to act differently. – Charlie, if I could
too, I’d just say, to us, and I think I’m speaking for Zach, Zach, you elbow me sharply–
– I will – From the fitness caucus
if you disagree with this. We’d rather have 10
people in this audience, even though every seat isn’t taken, decide they’re going to get involved, they’re going to do something about taking their government
back, rather than a packed audience and nobody, they’re
coming for entertainment, and nobody ends up taking action
or doing anything about it. There’s a great stock picker by the name of Warren Buffet
who says the time to buy stocks is not when they’re most popular, when they’re least
popular in a value stock. Same thing can be said about getting involved in our government. Right now we are in a abyss. – A valley. – We are in valley and it’s deep and we’re going to come out of
it as a people and a country but you will be the
reason we come out of it sooner rather than later. Dartmouth students from the Democratic and the Republican clubs
coming together and saying, you know, we’re not going
to just invite extremists from both sides to come to campus. We’re going to jointly invite
some Democrats and Republicans to be in the same room and talk
about solutions for America. Or you guys can start running
for office at the local level. We’re seeing change ablaze across America at the local level. Reforms, ethics reforms, lobbying reforms in the state legislatures. You can influence things
at the local level. Maybe faster than you
can at the state level, no matter what age you are, so Charlie, there are ways to make a difference. There are things we can do right away and differences that Americans can make to make sure our government works for us. – For those of you looking
for spots of optimism, With Honor is a group
that elects veterans, and the ideology is when
you’re in the trenches you don’t ask whether somebody is a Republican or a Democrat. There’s obviously a history and a culture of working together. There are lots of little groups
and if they can build force, along with what you’re doing, then hopefully there’s
some optimism around that. – Great. – Let’s talk about structural factors. The primaries have the
effect of bringing out the most partisan voters, a
relatively small proportion of the electorate compounded by districts that aren’t very
competitive so your, really, your only chance is
losing in the primaries so you attack hard, you
attack hard right, hard left. Is there anything we can or should do about primaries to try
and move the elections back towards the middle
being the decisive factor? The bigger middle. – Do you want to go first? – Let me say this. I had hoped, frankly,
I grew up a Democrat, I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1980, moved me over as many Southerners and my whole family followed me, but I’ve never been one to think that either party had an
exclusive on integrity or ideas, and today I dislike both
parties almost equally. I dislike both parties almost equally. The two party system served us really well for about 100 years, it
engaged me as a young person, and I’m thankful for that. The party systems can do good things, but I got to tell you,
we’re ground down to a halt in large part because of the parties. Now, in me, there’s a libertarian streak and there’s an independent streak that wished and hoped that independents might get elected at the local,
state, and federal level, but reality is today in
this tribal environment it’s very, very, very hard. If you don’t work through the two parties you’re not going to raise the money, you’re not going to be credible, you’re not going to get the attention, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So with that in mind, we have to change this primary process, we have
to change the party system, and there’s all kind of
reforms, ranked choice voting. What I love is what’s
happening at the state level. Follow our sister
organization, RepresentUs, is leading a lot of these
referenda on anti-corruption, gerrymandering, ranked choice voting, a lot of these reforms are
coming from the state level. What do we do? We track at the federal
level what is happening and try to throw gas on
the fire because this stuff needs to start at the local
level, the state level. Frankly, even the Supreme
Court has to be impacted by what the states are
willing to do themselves and then you lead that,
and the federal government helps that and supports that, so Charlie, we watch this with interest
every cycle because the people are actually speaking
through these referendum. – Maine has passed ranked
choice voting twice actually. The parties were not real keen
on it so people went back– – [Zach] Get with the program. – And said you should have
listened to us the first time. I think there’s a ballot referendum to do it in New York
City, Massachusetts has, these things do tend to– – [Zach] They’re bubbling up. – To build on each other. Do you have thoughts on primaries about structural changes, Tim? – Well, Charlie, I think it comes down to getting the right candidates to run. And Democrats, and here’s where Zach and I will disagree a little bit,
but do it respectfully, the Democratic Party needs
to do a much better job of recruiting new people,
new ideas, younger people. – [Zach] Amen. – To run in our party. We can’t just say well
who’s going to run next year in the third district of Indiana
and let’s see what happens. We should be out there recruiting somebody that we know is going to have great ideas, that is going to be an
attractive candidate, that can compel the
interests of the blue collar and the working community,
as I grew up as a Democrat, that was our message, square
deal for working people and we have gotten away
from that as a party, so we need to do a much better job. We should be a party that
can openly and very, very, I think genuinely, talk about our faith, if it’s important to us as people. That needs to be something
that, as a party, we do a better job of. Secondly, and I would say Meredith McGehee does a great job helping us on this is, in the meantime, at the federal
level after Citizens United, and after the flood of
money that’s coming into our political system,
we have what’s called dark money out there, and
I can run against Zach for an office and I’ll
raise a million bucks and he’ll raise a million bucks and our money is absolutely worthless. My message of running to
represent blue collar workers and his message of trying to
do something about the deficit is completely washed out by
these dark special interest groups that are funded
from Miami and New York and San Francisco and Seattle and Houston, tens of millions of dollars come in from these unaccountable secret groups and they flood out our message, and our people don’t
get to tell the story, it’s an outside group that tells… That we need to have
transparency and disclosure. If you’re going to give
to a candidate, Charlie, disclose that you’re
giving to that candidate. Everybody should know who’s giving, and so disclosure and
transparency, accountability, that’s what we’re working with because we know under the
current Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell in the Senate, we’re not going to change that tomorrow but we can change transparency and accountability and disclosure laws. – And enforcement, the
Federal Election Commission really hasn’t enforced
the law in a decade. They’re basically an impotent organization that’s been gridlocked. – They don’t even have a– – No, they’re not even basically chartered and they don’t enforce
the law, and Porter Goss, the former CIA director,
who’s one of our most active members like Ambassador
Swett, of the ReFormers Caucus and he continues to say if you have no enforcement you have no law, and we’re not enforcing
campaign finance violations. You talk about dark
money, the coordination between these outside groups
and the actual campaign is not supposed to exist under the law, but there’s almost zero enforcement. I think the very first enforcement at all was a Jeb Bush presidential
campaign from ’16, but other than that there’s
been no enforcement in 10 years so these are critical issues
that we’re pressing for and we now have some horsepower behind and I do think after this
next presidential election we all need to come together
around restructuring the Federal Election Commission and insisting that they’re chartered, stood up, and enforce the law. – Now I would just again say
to my friend from Tennessee let’s try to come
together before, not after this presidential election. For instance, here’s
something we all can do: you guys in New Hampshire
are extraordinarily lucky. You get to help us pick the president before I get to vote in Indiana
or wherever I would vote. I hope that people in this great state that have such power about who we all will get to pick from
in the next election, will show up at forums,
I hear Senator Sanders is going to be on campus
at Dartmouth coming up. – This weekend. – Stand up in front of
Senator Sanders and say, “You have been talking
about changing democracy. “It’s a rigged, unfair
system with too much money. “You’ve been in the
Senate for a long time, “What have you done in a bipartisan way “To actually push for reform
and benefit our country?” And I would say then to President
Trump when he comes here, “You promised in 2016 to
drain the swamp, you haven’t, “it’s become worse, what
are you going to actually do “working across the
aisle to drain that swamp “and make more people
confident in our government “and in Washington D.C.?” Hold both parties accountable. You have the power to do
it now, let’s do that. – And Charlie, while we’re on this topic, most people don’t
realize this but in 2018, when Democrats won the U.S. House back and it was a very competitive
national election, Democrats received more outside
dark money than Republicans. So for anybody who thinks
this is a Republican problem, trust me, the Democrats that benefited from all this dark money in 2018 campaign and they’re in office
today, they’re not likely to help us out here,
so it takes reformers, not just one party or the other. If you think that, oh,
sweep all the Democrats in this is going to change,
we’ve seen this movie before. Speaker Pelosi, President Obama, had a lock solid all three
branches, the whole nine yards for two years, this
didn’t happen back then even though it was supposed to happen, so it’s not as much which party governs, it’s that we get new
committed people to reform that will do this no matter what, and we’re seeing ’em
emerge from both parties. We just need a majority. – And I got to say, Charlie, I agree. And we at Issue One, I
think this was even before you joined Issue One, we were
critical of President Obama for not taking some executive action to do more about money in politics. – So we have some times for questions, there’s a hard stop at
five, is there a microphone? Or I can just repeat the questions. So I will turn it over to you. – While they’re getting those microphones I want to thank every one
of you for being here. I mean, I’m encouraged by the diversity that’s in the audience of
every age group, et cetera, so whatever prompted you
to come out here today, I want to personally
thank you for doing that. It encourages us that people care still. – I would join in on
that and say we were just walking around, the sunshine was out, and I didn’t think
anybody would come inside with that sun shining here at Dartmouth. – It’s kind of nice here
in New Hampshire, you all. – Beautiful. – I know the snow’s coming
but it’s really nice. – Come back for the
primary, it’ll feel cooler. (laughter) The microphones are ready, questions? There’s one right down here, actually, that’s closer right there. – [Stuart] I’m not a student
but I’ll start it off. Thank you. – Sir, your name, can
you give us your name? – Sure, my name is Stuart Johnson. – Stuart. – And, hi, Charlie. – Hello. – I think, I’m not sure
I reflect the thinking of everybody in this room,
but we can’t help but be pretty discouraged, even
after having heard you speak. – Sure. – I don’t think anybody here
can pretend that something’s going to change, and
that’s pretty discouraging. Now, having said that, for example, you mentioned a
congresswoman from Virginia, and I forget her name but
she was very good last night. – Spanberger from Virginia. – Very good, very articulate,
and I was on the edge of being sure she would say
we can’t start impeachment proceedings until we’ve read the issues that were going to be presented
today and had testimony from the national security
director, but she didn’t. She did the party line, and I said, what the heck is she doing that for? She’s a smart person,
okay, but what has happened is that there’s this herd mentality. Everybody’s got to get on board,
and until you can break that and get people to actually
think for themselves and think differently, you’re
not going to get anywhere down there, it’s herd against herd and it’s breaking the country. The second thing I want to say is this: I hear what you said on independents and their potential
for having any success. I’m not going to buy that quite yet, okay? Of course, I love Howard Schultz, I think he’s the only human being– – You might be the only one. – [Stuart] That I’ve seen
so far that makes sense if he runs, and I think
maybe he’s not going to run. – He’s out. – He’s out, he’s not running. – Already quit. – [Stuart] And that’s very sad. Maybe, Charlie, in your initiatives you can take some
advantage of what I think, it’s only my opinion, a bright man. If you think about a
head-to-head between either, let’s say Joe Biden,
okay, and Donald Trump, put yourself in the
position of the electorate, and I’m only one member, who
are fed up, really fed up. Think about the position of an independent that has some credulity,
if that’s the right word– – It’s a good word. – [Stuart] Such as a Howard
Schultz, just think about it. Don’t give up on independents,
don’t give up, okay, on individuals that
might not be a Democrat and might not be a Republican. I hear you, I know the current thinking, it’s right down the
middle, but I think you can argue both sides as to who
an independent would benefit. I think that gets to be very murky, so if ever there was a
chance, and if I had any hope for the future of this
country that would be it. Getting an independent to have success. Pretty long shot, anyway, that’s all– – Stuart, let me try and be brave. I know Zach is jumping out of his seat to try and answer your good question too. First of all, let me just
say on the independents, we need good people to run. Democratic, Republican, independent. I have four kids, I think
I mentioned that earlier, and on abortion, on gay
marriage, on deficit reduction, on the environment, on education,
they’re not traditionally in the Democratic or the Republican Party, and when I spend time on
campus at my kids’ schools and go to visit them and
have a beer with them and we talk politics all the
time late into the night, they’re not happy about any choices, and so this movement is coming. We older people may try
to funnel it into certain things we understand, but
I think there is a major effort going to be
taking place to redefine some of these issues that
will redefine the party system or create a third party at some point. You could look at the
abortion issue just by itself or the deficit issue
just by itself on that, and then the second part
of your question was? – [Stuart] Well basically, it
stems from the herd mentality. – So I want to address Spanberger and what you said about Spanberger. – [Stuart] The need for
a voice either not here– – So that’s what I was kind of
talking about with my answer. I want to talk about
Spanberger because I think you misinterpreted something
that she said that was key, and you come back at me if you disagree. I lived through the Clinton
impeachment proceedings and know how divisive this
can be for the country and my advice to Speaker Pelosi
was go very slow on this. Make sure you bring the
American people along and don’t go for a proceeding
until facts are in. You said that Spanberger was
for an impeachment proceeding, that’s not what she’s for. She’s for an impeachment inquiry. The articles of impeachment then will be voted on by the house after the inquiry and then they will
decide as the full House, whether or not to go forward
if they have the facts. They may well determine
that there is no proof here and so there’s not a level of treason, high crimes or misdemeanor
to remove him from office, and therefore to
recommend from the Senate. I voted as a Democrat for
the inquiry on Bill Clinton. He was not happy with me
to even look at the facts, but my constituents wanted
to get to the bottom of it, they wanted to see the facts,
I think they deserved them. But then I voted against the articles as they were proposed to the House because I didn’t think they reached high crimes and misdemeanors. Morally they were deeply
offensive what he did, but not to the Founding Fathers’
threshold of impeachment and therefore I voted no
for it to go to the Senate. – [Stuart] You’re absolutely
right on a clarification that you made with
respect to Congresswoman, I forget her name– – Spanberger. – [Stuart] Her position, she
was in line with Nancy Pelosi’s step yesterday, it was not the full step and I do recognize the distinction, but you’re absolutely correct
in making that clarification. Still, she went further
than I expected her to go. – All I want to add is in
Tennessee, your disgust with where we are with
the major party nominees maybe in ’16 and ’20, in Tennessee we don’t call
that the lesser of two evils we call that the evil of two lessers. (laughter) Where 340 million people, and
these are the only choices that we get, seriously, seriously? Two cycles in a row, all due
respect to all the candidates, all due respect to all due respect, this is not good and
we can do a lot better, and the next generation
needs to be encouraged to step up without fear of
how much experience you have but we need patriots from the
younger generation to step up. We don’t have good choices
in leadership in this country and that’s not our tradition,
we’ve had good choices. We’re finding that on both
sides that these military and intelligence experts from both sides make really good representatives and they might have a little more courage than the other person that is a party wonk and somebody that drinks the Kool-Aid and hides in the bosom of their party and has no courage, and frankly, the military is one of the
institutions that still has the confidence of the American people, so those veterans from both sides from the next generation
may be that field. Now, I would just say,
I get your cynicism. My wife has the same cynicism, she says, “Zach, why do you spend so
much time with Issue One? “This is not going to change.” And I say, “Kim, if it doesn’t we’re toast, girl. “We can’t give up.” So don’t check out and
we’ll keep an open mind about whether independents can go. – [Tim] Stay engaged, Stuart. – But an independent,
listen, if Michael Bloomberg two years ago would have said, “I’m running as an independent.” With his resources, he would
still be in this thing, man. If the founder of
Starbucks is stepping out and he’s a smart guy, it’s
hard for an independent unless they’re super, super wealthy. How do you compete with the two parties? You either have to have the fame of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Oprah. Oprah would make a good candidate. (laughter) But otherwise, how do
you break this thing? And at the congressional level, running as an independent with
these gerrymandered districts and the parties, they protect their weak. These parties protect
their weakest members. That doesn’t work in anything else unless you’re the Cleveland Browns, they seem to protect their weakest people, but everybody else
continues to lose, yes sir. – And while the mic comes down, I just want to add as somebody
who worked really hard to elect independents
in 2018, I still believe that having people who don’t drink either Kool-Aid is a step forward. – It’s good, it’s good. – And I wake up every morning hoping I’m going to turn on the radio– – It’s good. – And Lisa Murkowski and Joe
Manchin and Michael Bennet have said, you know what,
we’re not leaving the Senate but we’ve left our parties. – We’re leaving the party. – Angus King. – Angus King, he’s already there, and the five of us will deny
either party a majority. You know what, we’re now in charge. – That’d be a force. – That is my dream, but in the meantime, you were there in Nashville
when Howard Schultz spoke to the group that leaned left and the reaction was more
hostile, I would say, than if Trump had been there. – I know. – Because the view, the
irony of the partisanship, is that people don’t like their choices but they hate one more than the other and they are desperately
afraid that the one that they hate most is
going to get elected. – That’s right. – And independents,
because of the structure, mess with that, Jim, sorry. – [Jim] It’s interesting
because I’m presently teaching a course exactly on this topic. – So your name is Jim? – Jim Wilson, yes, and I
appreciate your platitudes and your hopes and I share them, but I’d like to hear you speak about some specific reforms
that could take place to bring about, what I
think is the real need, is some real genuine
competition between the parties where each party is held accountable. A lot of talk has been
talked about ranked choice, about some sort of bipartisan
top three or four in primaries rather than having separate different independent party primaries but
having bipartisan primaries. You mentioned gerrymandering. Are there reforms that
can be made in those areas that can really have a difference? – Jim, I think there are
all kinds of things going on at the state level that
are accomplishing these. 28 states out of our
50 have already passed significant reforms on
ethics, on disclosure, on lobbying, on many of
them, as Charlie just cited with Maine, on ranked voter preferences, so that is happening despite
what the federal government is not doing and not taking action on. So there are all kinds of specifics out there that are taking place. I come back to what I
mentioned before is, you know, we got to step up and have new people run and infuse the system with the new ideas and help define either
the parties differently or create a new party that can be viable. Charlie’s talked about
how many hurdles there are to an independent getting on the ticket. When I first ran, Ross Perot
was running for president and nobody gave him any
kind of chance to win votes. He got, in my state, between 19 and 28% of the vote, independents. He was a force on talking
about blue collar workers, about the challenges of globalization. – [Jim] But candidates like
that are just spoilers. – No, I don’t think he was, Jim. – [Jim] I think we need a system– – When Clinton finally won that presidency the two issues that Ross Perot
was most concerned about, trade and fair trade and deficits, although they’re still
bad today under Trump– – [Charles] That was the high point. – Those were the issues that
Clinton talked a lot about. Now, he didn’t address them formally. – So Jim, though, I want to say this and you’re an educator so
I definitely don’t want to act like I know half as
much about it as you do, but I do think this, and
this is an instinctive feel having grown up a Democrat from the South and been a Republican and an officeholder on the Republican side, and
knowing what’s happening in the Republican Party today, because this is not the Republican Party that I signed up for,
this is the Trump party and it’s a very, very different moment, but it’s going to come
to an end and I think there’s going to be a
complete realignment. There are factions in
both parties right now that may find their own way. This may be the end of the two
party system as we know it. I don’t know, I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you that
it could very well happen as a result of this period of disruption, and again, the disruption was
coming even had Trump not won because you could feel it on both sides. Again, what was Sanders, a socialist, coming on and almost
beating Hillary Clinton and still being out there,
the progressive movement was born because of the
Sanders campaign, frankly. You see Ron Paul and Sanders,
we serve with these people, they’re not great candidates,
but they had a message that resonated with a lot
of people on both sides that got people activated. There is a realignment underway of these traditional parties right now. What’s the Republican Party
going to be like after Trump? It’s wide open. The last time I was in this state I was campaigning for Marco Rubio in January of 2016 for president. What a different moment it
would be had he succeeded. He was here campaigning
for Barack Obama in 2006. – Eight. – 2008, in this state, excuse me. – I wasn’t that early. – I just think, for you the
professor talking about– – 2007, I was early. – The future of the
parties, we don’t support, at this time, Issue One
doesn’t have anything on our agenda trying to
change the two party system. That’s a big bold task,
but I think it’s happening. I don’t know where it’s going, but I think there’s a complete realignment. There’s such groups in the party. You think about the Tea Party coming on. The Tea Party looks like
a nothingburger compared to this Trump thing in my party, so there’s a massive disruption going on. What’s going to happen after it? Somebody’s going to fill this void ’cause there’s going to be a big void. And what are we all about? – [Charlie] And I want to talk about– – [Jim] I just want to
say one thing though. I applaud what you are doing, and I think you’re probably right, the
parties are going to redefine. – They’re going to do it. – [Jim] Whether there’s
a new party or not, none of us are smart enough to– – It depends on what the parties do, Jim. – [Jim] Even if they redefine themselves, that doesn’t do any good if
they’re not working together. – Yeah, I know what you mean. – Let me talk about the specifics of– – [Jim] They could be
going this way and this way and I don’t like most
of the way the parties– – We end up Italy, we look like Italy. – I want to go over the specifics of ranked choice voting though because I think that you got to get at the institutions to change the incentives. Ranked choice voting is
where, in its purest form, there’s an open primary,
which immediately changes the incentive, so no longer do you have small groups on either sides picking very rarefied candidates. The top four in one form
advance to the second round among all voters, it’s a
variation of California’s top two, and then you rank– – California’s done it, right? – Just with two, though, but
it’s still an open primary– – It’s an open primary. – So you have two Democrats running, it certainly creates
an incentive to appeal to a broader swath of
voters in that first round. You then rank your choices,
one, two, three, four. If nobody gets a majority,
the lowest person is knocked off the
ballot and it keeps going ’til someone wins a majority,
but the important thing is it creates incentive for
all candidates to be more civil because being someone’s second choice vote is very important, you can’t just light up the other candidates. It provides an opening for
independents, for a Green Party who then are no longer spoilers ’cause if they get eliminated,
think about Florida in 2000, Nader still runs, gets eliminated, presumably those votes to to
Gore and he’s not a spoiler. So that alone, and when
you explain it to people it’s quite popular and Zach was there, he introduced her, the
most popular proponent of ranked choice voting right
now is Jennifer Lawrence. – Yeah, you all know her. – I’d vote for anything
Jennifer Lawrence is for. – Zach’s going to bring
her back later this term. – I’d be on her side. – Other questions? – Next question? – Got two microphones at the same time. – [Bill] You talked about how the media exacerbates our bipartisan dysfunctional government situation, by obviously often focusing on the food fight and things that have gone wrong without much attention to
things that have gone well, so what would you do to
reduce that influence of the media or change it? Would you do anything to
improve the situation? – Well, this is not an Issue One thing, but some of the other
parliamentary systems around the world could be modeled. We don’t have to have
a consecutive two year political cycle in this country. One of the things that perpetuates it is the media and advertising
and focus and attention, but wouldn’t it be nice if we actually couldn’t campaign for one year and then you could campaign for one year? That you actually call an election season where you can campaign,
you can’t raise money. Guess what, 10 states have done this including my home state of Tennessee. You cannot raise money
while the legislature’s in session in the State of Tennessee. From January to May,
you can’t raise money. Guess what they do, they legislate. Guess what they do, they work together. They don’t have fundraisers
the night before they cast votes, they have
a season that is off-limits. In our two year election cycles, we could have a season that is off-limits. What happens to the
nightly 24/7 talk stations? They can go talk about something else. Maybe they’ll actually cover the news instead of the food fight
because the food is perpetuated with the ability to have
all politics all the time. The American people are checking out, they’re sick and tired of it. They’re on politics overload. Let’s go back to the old way
where there’s a campaign season and the rest of the time we’re Americans working together to solve problems. – What’s your first name? – [Bill] Bill. – Bill, so Bill, I don’t know
if you ever saw this episode on CNN Crossfire where
they used to have this show where the two women or
two guys would get on and they’d just yell at each other. – Paul Begala. – It was just, you know,
blood pressure rose across the country and you never really learned much from the show,
so Jon Stewart gets on and as a comedian, they
think this is going to really inflate their ratings to
have this popular comedian on the show and he looks at the two hosts, I think it’s Tucker Carlson
and Paul Begala and he says, “You should be ashamed of yourselves. “You guys have this great
platform to educate, to motivate, “To tell positive story, and all you do “Is yell and scream at each other.” And they think he’s kidding. They think he’s doing a comedy
routine, and they’re going, “Oh, that’s funny, Jon.” And he goes, no, no, no, no, I’m serious. And then he gets a couple
words that are bleeped out, you got to look at this on YouTube, and they cut to a commercial ’cause CNN doesn’t want to be held accountable for Jon Stewart saying you’re
not being responsible here. I think these news networks are
only going to be responsive, and I say this in kind of a crude way. – Advertising dollar. – Advertising dollar and eyeballs on. – [Charlie] Yeah, turn it off. – Turn it off. I said to my wife six months ago– – Go digital. – I’m not starting my day with TV. It gets me too irritated, I
don’t learn any of the good news going on anymore in the world. They don’t give me objective information. I’m going to go and get my
sources online where I can and I’m going to learn
what I want to learn. I was talking to some Dartmouth students today at lunch and I said, “Where do you get your news?” And they said, “Not TV, we never watch it. “We just go to A, B, and C sources “Online for objective stuff.” If we start doing that as a people, they’re going to be responsive to us. But again, it takes, just like this effort to get our government
back, it takes all of us making it a priority,
and that takes energy. – Joanne’s going to shut
us off, let me just– – [Joanne] Well, we’re told
our guests have to leave in a minute but we have one last question. – One last question then a hard stop. – [Audience Member]
Hopefully this is quick. I’ve heard you say a
couple times, after Trump, but he was elected and the
electorate that elected him will still be there, and
approximately, from what I hear, 80% of them still support him. How are we going to get an
educated sophisticated electorate? – So in the state of Tennessee
our new governor, Bill Lee, just made a huge
commitment to civics again. We have an entire
generation that doesn’t know the difference between the
United States Congress, the State Legislature, the three branches of the federal government,
they can’t tell you the name of the Vice President of the United States or the Speaker of the House. We absolutely have lost our focus on what’s necessary to
restore the Founders’ promise of civil government, and
so you’re exactly right. I always tell people, yes,
it’s half the elected’s responsibility and it’s half
the people’s responsibility. It goes both ways. We’ve got to bring the next generation, we’ve got a whole generation
now we’ve got to remediate. Catch up people on what
the civil government mean and you’re right, we have
an electorate, though, that was so restless
they were willing to grab whatever choice, other than
the establishment, they could. And it’s happened, now the question is what are we going to do afterwards? I do believe there’s still,
maybe not a majority, but a lot of Americans that are willing to step in and help us
bring civil government back to action, and I have great hope with this next generation. I’ve got a 32-year-old,
30-year-old adult children that are real active and really engaged and they are very pragmatic,
and so I have great hope for this next generation
but we have to bring civics back at the heart of education, you know, and I think we’ve lost that. – I would just add to that
too, I agree with Zach, civic education is a
critical component of this. I also think it comes back to values and treasuring our experiment that our Revolution put us in charge. Abigail Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, George Washington, they didn’t say that kings
and queens or monarchs or rich people would be
running our government, they said we would be,
and Madison talked about enlightened education is
essential in a democracy. We have to be educated people to know enough about who were
going to pick for office. That is critical, and my family, my mom and dad said to me growing up, “You’re going to go to church,
and you’re going to vote.” Voting is a responsibility,
it’s a commitment to our form of government,
and when we have 10% of people vote in state elections and 15% turn out for some
congressional primaries, we’re not doing our
jobs, and so part of that is civic education, part
of that is us inculcating in our kids and in
Americans that we need to not only vote, we need to show up and hold candidates like Sanders and Trump and others accountable for what
they’re doing and not doing. – Good, I want to thank both of you, thanks Congressman Swett,
and thanks all of you for engaging and continue
to engage, thanks. – Special thanks to Dick
Swett, thank you, Dick. (applause) – Thank you all.

Maurice Vega

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