I usually devote my columns to business and technology innovation, which drives U.S. economic growth. But given the paralyzing political gridlock in our nation, I decided to focus this column on a new generation of political and economic innovators who are proving that it's possible to break through the left-versus-right divide and bring people together to build a stronger America.
Along the way, they offer a lesson in how to restore the lost art of civil discourse.
Two of the four individuals I want you to meet are running for office — a candidate for governor of Oregon, and a candidate for Congress from Washington state. But the other two are really going to surprise you. They are two high school students who, despite their youth, are doing more to bring people from diverse political viewpoints together to build a better future than most adults.
The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of political experimentation. Here are snapshots of four up-and-coming political and economic innovators from that region.
Carolyn Long, candidate for Congress from Washington.Courtesy Carolyn Long. In this year’s midterm elections, candidates from both parties are frantically mobilizing their most partisan supporters. But Carolyn Long, Democratic candidate for Congress in Washington’s 3rd district, is taking a different approach. She’s appealing to the broad middle section of voters with a message that bridges today’s bitter left-versus-right divide.
Long probably gets her moderate approach from growing up in a rural area helping her parents run a small produce business while living in a mobile home. Unlike in big cities, where you can erect gated ideological communities to avoid those whose politics you dislike, people who grow up in small towns and rural areas need to pretty much get along with everyone. So you learn how to talk to people, and you learn how to listen. Politely. You know, the way we were all brought up to do?
That’s what’s different about Carolyn Long. It’s not her campaign issues, which are traditional centrist Democratic ones — economic security for working people, access to health care, immigration reform, preserving a woman’s right to choose, and moderate gun control measures that preserve Second Amendment rights. It’s her ability to actually bring people together across the political divide that marks her as a real innovator in today’s ugly politics.
Heck, she’s even married to a Republican!
Ms. Long was preaching civility in politics long before she ever tossed her hat in the ring. When she was a Distinguished Professor in Civic Education and Public Civility at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington, she launched the Initiative for Public Deliberation. The organization brought citizens of diverse political perspectives together to discuss common issues of concern in order to “strengthen democratic governance by replacing rigid partisanship with listening and conversation."
She is certain to win the August 7 primary. But does she have a chance against Republican incumbent Jamie Hererra Beutler, in a district that Trump won by 8 points?
Carolyn Long has already raised more money — 95% of it from individual donations rather than political action committees — than anyone else in the district. And internal polls show she is now within five points of Beutler.
If Long does win, it’ll be because, as she told a local newspaper, “People really have lost their appetite for today’s deep polarization.”