Hyperpartisanship is not the only force thwarting progress. Too often our governing institutions are stuck in the mindset of the past, ignoring the vast changes that have occurred in the last 50 years. Old political fights from the 1970s and 1980s are recycled. One group holds up the banks as the economy’s dominant evil, another pretends that recreating factory jobs will be the cure for all our ills.
There are genuine grievances, to be sure. Both parties looked the other way as excesses grew in our financial systems. Neither party paid attention as vast portions of our country’s heartland suffered. But the backward-looking shadow boxing that dominates our politics ignores the obvious: We live in a new America transformed by globalization and technology.
Today the rising centers of the economy will less often be found in the highly regulated banks, or in corporations offering traditional goods and services. Growth is more often driven by entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, which has spawned nearly 100 billionaires and where the drive for mega-earnings creates companies that dwarf the old economy giants in size and power. Although trade has opened new doors for companies, they are often parking the profits overseas rather than investing them at home. And while innovation helps the economy as a whole, for the most part the gains have not reached average families struggling to make ends meet. Too often the new jobs in this new economy are part-time, lower pay, and service-oriented, lacking the safeguards and opportunities these workers need to succeed.
To achieve opportunity and inclusion for all, we must strive for a society that takes equality of opportunity seriously and promotes it for everyone. This is why equal access to good schools and to the evenhanded administration of justice in our courts and on our streets is so important. The politics of equal opportunity relies on equal citizenship, freedom of expression and religion, the rule of law, and mutual forbearance among people of different colors, creeds, and identities.
It is against the backdrop of growing partisan political gridlock, emerging 21st century issues, and the need to stand up for our historic constitutional principles that we present our ideas. This is not a comprehensive agenda, but it is a key first step toward solving problems that have festered for far too long.
For example: Despite an economic recovery that has entered its 9th year, too many Americans who could contribute to our economy remain outside the workforce. Despite more than a decade of legislative efforts, our immigration system remains in chaos. Thirty years after the Reagan-era tax reform and the start of a long decline in infrastructure investments, the tax code and infrastructure plan we need to jump-start economic growth remain distant dreams obstructed by partisanship and special interests. While the Chinese are stealing the fruits of our technology, Silicon Valley itself is quickly becoming a valley of huge economic titans that if left unchecked could threaten the robust small business formation and entrepreneurial spirit upon which our economy depends.
The ideas we advance represent a New Center for American politics, a politics that reflects both our enduring principles and the new circumstances we confront. In place of a politics stuck in the past, we offer an agenda re-centered in the future—not a tepid compromise between Left and Right, but a new way toward the stronger economy, more inclusive society, and more effective politics that we all want for the country we love.