By Thom Little, Ph.D.
As we sit at the threshold of another new year with all of the possibilities and challenges it holds, I want to propose a new year’s resolution on behalf of SLLF for 2019: We resolve to do everything we can to bring this great nation together behind the democratic values and institutions that have defined and united our country for more than two hundred years.
There is no question that we are currently a divided nation. We are divided by ideology. We are divided on key issues. We are divided economically. We are divided by geography. We are divided along partisan lines.
We have become, to a troubling degree, united states, but a divided nation.
Nationally, we are almost evenly divided. In 2016, less than one percent separated the two candidates for president in our national election. Following the most recent congressional elections, Republicans have a six seat majority in the 100 member U.S. Senate and Democrats hold a 25 seat majority in the 435 seat U.S. House of Representatives (depending on the outcome of a contested race ). We are a nation divided.
However, within each state, we are quite united. Only seven of the 50 states are represented by both a Democrat and a Republican in United States Senate. Let that sink in for a moment. There are 24 states represented by two Republican senators and 19 represented by two Democratic senators. In the US House of Representatives, 16 states (including the ten member Massachusetts delegation) are represented by members all of one party. And of those that aren’t made up of just one party, most of them are still pretty close to it. A full 70% of states have at least 75% of their representation from one single party.
State governments are even more united with only one state (Minnesota) having a Republican majority in one legislative chamber and Democratic majority leading the other (the lowest number in more than one hundred years) and 37 states (75%) having both branches of the legislature and the governor’s office held by the same party. United states…. Divided nation.
My new year’s wish is that somehow we can become a more united nation, finding common ground across the ideologies and positions that divide us and we at SLLF resolve to do our part to make that happen.
To that end, in 2019 and beyond, the staff of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation resolves to continue to:
- Provide opportunities for state legislative leaders of all parties, regions, ideologies and philosophies to come together and honestly discuss their challenges and differences and seek common ground;
- Deliver educational programs with expert leaders and faculty from across the nation who facilitate balanced and engaging discussions of the critical policy and leadership issues of the day;
- Arm state legislative leaders with the tools to communicate effectively with their members and their constituents, to build consensus across parties and philosophies, and to represent themselves and their institutions in a manner befitting the office of leader;
- Recognize and honor those state legislative leaders across the country who are working with leaders of the other party, the other chamber and the executive branch to address the challenges facing their state;
- Build bridges between Americans and political and corporate leaders from different countries, systems and cultures;
- Encourage and equip state legislative leaders to lead their chambers and caucuses in ways that respect the democratic institutions of government that have served this country and its states so well for more than two centuries; and….
- Assist rising leaders in identifying and developing their own leadership strengths and recognizing the awesome responsibilities associated with exercising them.
So, as we enter 2019, let’s strive to enter it together with a common purpose of making our states and our nation the best that they can possibly be!