America faces a crisis of division. It infiltrates our most personal spaces: One in six Americans stopped talking to family members or friends because of differences about the 2016 election. Across the country, differences in race, income, religion and where we live are also keeping citizens apart. We’re not talking to each other, or seeing each other.
The cost of division is high. Our nation’s biggest problems aren’t being solved. Income inequality. The rising cost of healthcare. A broken immigration system. An education system failing to prepare people of all ages for jobs of the future. The $1.5 trillion mountain of student debt. A lack of opportunity in too many communities, putting the ability to build a better life out of reach.
We’re also experiencing a rise of extremes in our two-party system, with ideas that threaten our American way of life.
Democratic institutions are being weakened by Donald Trump’s presidency. His administration has assaulted the rule of law, undermined our justice system, demonized our free press and circumvented an entire branch of government in pursuit of pet projects. His behavior disregards basic values of personal accountability and equality.
The response to Trumpism by Democrats has produced another extremism that threatens American free enterprise, a system that has provided more opportunity, created more prosperity and birthed more innovation than any other economic model in history. Capitalism in our country must be preserved, but improved. Companies must do more to serve communities and make opportunities available to more Americans. Government must also do things differently to help reduce economic inequality, but thinly veiled socialist ideas like those in the Green New Deal and free healthcare and college are unsustainable options. If pursued, they would quickly raise taxes on all Americans, reduce freedom of choice that many people count on, and squash the job-creating spirit of innovation.
The answer to one extreme cannot be another extreme.
What’s needed is a new approach to the presidency. One that represents all Americans and brings politicians together. We need leadership from the center, a place where a majority of Americans already stand. We need leadership from a place of principles and common ground. A place that opts for the best ideas, wherever they come from. A place where truth and common sense inform problem solving.
Should I run for president, and have the honor of being elected, my administration would govern from the center. Here’s what that would look like:
I would not sign any legislation into law that does not have bipartisan support. Some of our country’s most important initiatives were bipartisan: Social Security, the highway system, the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, welfare reform. More recently, the Affordable Care Act passed with no Republican votes. Trump’s tax cut had no Democratic votes. We should not jam through agendas strictly on partisan lines. Real reform doesn’t depend on the other party disappearing. It requires us to come together to find common solutions.
As an independent president, I would bring leaders of both parties together in a way no president has done in recent years.
I would assemble a cabinet that represents America in every way, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents—and a greater share of women than any previous president.
I would only nominate Supreme Court justices who could be confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate. The courts have become another partisan battlefield, undermining faith in the rule of law and the impartiality of the judicial system. Taking politics out of the Supreme Court nomination process is a critical first step.
I would push for functional government and prioritize reforms that break the logjam of partisanship that has prevented passing common sense legislation. Among those reforms will be aggressive measures to limit the power of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. I would also use the tools available to the president to end gerrymandering. Independent commissions should draw congressional districts in every state.
Leading from the center would also mean getting the federal budget under control and addressing our national debt. This will require hard work and painful tradeoffs, but if our $22 trillion national debt continues to grow, the burden will fall on future generations.
America is a nation of problem solvers. Together we have what it takes to reimagine our politics, heal divides and create a government that works not for “we the party” but “we the people”.
Howard Schultz, who spoke at Miami Dade College on Wednesday, is the former chairman and CEO of Starbucks. He is considering running for president as a centrist independent outside of the two-party system.