What does being a "Centrist" mean to you, and why did you get involved?
A "Centrist" is someone who values problem solving and good governance over any singular policy goal or political issue. I've worked in and around politics and contentious community issues for most of my career, and I've seen the insidious influence that extreme partisanship has on our ability to solve problems at every level of government. After working for a nonpartisan PAC, I realized how hard it was to recruit real leaders to run for local office, especially as primaries have become the new general elections. I believe the polarization narrative is wrong (and research proves it). While political polarization is real, the majority of Americans continue to fall outside the partisan system, though partisans are the most active and influential under our current party structure. This means the majority of Americans are being disenfranchised and believe the system doesn't work for them, which leads to disillusionment and inaction, and ultimately becomes a self-fulling cycle of reinforcing the polarization narrative by allowing the partisans more and more influence. My goals for a Centrist movement are to acknowledge the nuanced policy preferences of most Americans, confirm to them that they are in fact in the majority and there is an active movement to engage and represent them, and recruit them to become more vocal and active participants in our democracy. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in history, and I know that every democracy has an expiration date. My worry is that without an effective Centrist movement, our expiration date will come far too soon.
What is a policy issue you are passionate about and why?
In the near term, the issue of partisan gerrymandering is incredibly important to me as the Supreme Court takes up the issue. The court will perhaps set the tone of the next several election cycles if there is no clear ruling against it. While I don't have high hopes that the court will get rid of legislature-led redistricting, my hope is that the court at least sets a standard for what constitutes unacceptable levels of partisan influence over the process and institutes some severe consequences in cases that meet that standard. While I'd like rank choice voting, I'm doubtful we could achieve that at the national level.
In the long term, I'm passionate about policy issues related to poverty. I grew up in poverty in rural Alabama, and I hold many of the same views toward poverty as J.D. Vance noted in Hillbilly Elegy. I think both parties get it all wrong. Republicans have to recognize that good public policy and social safety nets can in fact help some people rise out of poverty and become self-sufficient, productive contributors to society. At a minimum, those policy can help them be less dependent on government over the course of their lives. Democrats also have to acknowledge that there is no amount of government spending that can raise all Americans out of poverty. Statistically, it just can't happen. There is a certain amount of personal responsibility, grit, and tenacity required to escape poverty. I'd like to explore some Centrist approaches to poverty issues and work to find a balanced approach that provides both a baseline safety net and incentivizes the most common practices associated with overcoming poverty.
How do you think we can unite our country and fix our politics?
First, we have to send a loud and clear message across the country that WE are in the majority. We have to take back the political narrative. The media's default story is an "us versus them" narrative that perpetuates the polarization narrative and makes even "leaners" seem more partisan than they actually are. We have to take back the microphone from the cartoonish extremists that dominate our news feeds. In every issue, at every level of government, it's so hard for party shills to fight pragmatic, reasonable voices, if only those voices can be heard. We have to get the movement to the point where those voices CAN be heard over the noise of the partisan bickering. Once we can penetrate this crazy cacophony of Tea Partiers, MAGAs, Bernie Bros, and Antifas, then we can show that these people are not leaders; they're characters in a sad story that continues to play out to the amusement of the media and the disgust of the average American. We have to identify, recruit, train, and elect pragmatic, courageous, charismatic leaders at all levels of government.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I'm a political animal with no political home. I am beyond thrilled to find the Centrist Project. This movement is my calling (as cheesy as that sounds), and I look forward to advancing the movement however I can.