The way forward

An update from Doug Phelps, president of The Public Interest Network

A few weeks before the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. PIRG, Environment America and Frontier Group released a report called “Moving Forward Together.

In the spirit of President Biden’s intention to serve all Americans, our three organizations outlined 12 policy areas where we see potential for action that could bring Americans together and help restore our sense of trust in government and each other.

It’s an unusual report for groups in The Public Interest Network to publish, going beyond our traditional issue areas to find strong evidence of cross-party consensus on such topics as universal broadband, career and technical education, and gun safety measures such as background checks at gun shows and private sales.

Unusual as it may be, the report reflects our belief in a “transpartisan” approach to politics, in which we embrace and elevate not our partisan identities but instead our shared needs and interests as citizens of a precarious democracy and a fragile planet. With our new president, we believe that such an approach over the coming weeks and months will be critical to holding our country together.

More Americans need to believe that our political process works for them. Far too many feel that it doesn’t. In order for that to change, leaders who don't often agree must show that they can set aside partisan differences and find common ground for the benefit of all.

And from there, in order to make progress toward common goals despite disagreement over the details, they — and we — will need to compromise.

If we fail at this task, more Americans will look outside the political process for the change they seek, the failure of government will become self-fulfilling, and the ugliness of what took place in Washington, D.C., and some state capitals on Jan. 6 could foreshadow an even darker future.

This does not have to happen. As U.S. PIRG President Faye Park put it, “By daring to venture across the political divide and find compromise on areas of public concern, leaders can get important work done for the American people, and that work itself will forge a pathway out of the nation’s dangerous, counterproductive and toxic polarization.”

The work of listening to and talking with people who don’t see the world the way we do will be difficult. But the only way forward is forward together.

You can read our 12 ideas to bridge the partisan divide here.