Ron Fournier on the Hugh Hewitt Show

On July 30, former journalist and current Unite America spokesperson Ron Fournier joined the Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss Unite America’s plans to bridge the partisan divide. Fournier previously served as the Washington bureau chief at the Associated Press (AP) and Editor-in-Chief of National Journal.

Hugh Hewitt, the host of the show, is familiar with talking about polarization in the US, and in an article he wrote in the Washington Post, stated that “we are in a purple drought.” The following article takes excerpts from the interview where Hewitt and Fournier discuss Unite America, independent candidates, and the reason why politicians work for their parties instead of the country.

Hewitt: Tell us about Unite America.

Fournier: Unite America is an outgrowth of the failed Simpson-Bowles initiative that collapsed under partisan rancor back in 2011 and what it is, is a movement of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who are desperate to bridge the partisan divide, who want common sense solutions to the big problems facing this country, who are willing to put our country over our parties

Hewitt: How does it propose to move from where we are, which is the most polarized we’ve been since the summer of ‘74?

Fournier: For a long time I was looking for a white knight, a new kind of candidate or a new party. And like you, I’ve slowly come to the belief that you know, this is a two party system. So maybe what has to happen is a weaponization or radicalization of the middle that forces change from within the system and that’s what these guys at Unite America, that’s what they’re, the unique elegance of what their strategy is. And that is to identify independent candidates in states with legislatures that are narrowly divided so that if you can elect two, three, four, five, a handful of  independents you can have a controlling minority, you could have a swing faction that would force common sense, that would force solutions, that would force real decent politics that is from the middle out instead of from the extremes in. It would force that on the political system. So its more incremental towards, it is setting aside the debate of whether we can have a third party. It’s -lets find candidates who can force change from a controlling caucus from the middle out.

Hewitt: Where do you see the state legislature that could conceivably get a handful of independents to hold the balance of power?

Fournier: Now there’s a couple of exciting candidates including a woman named Ann Diamond in Washington state. Where it’s divided closely enough that the next election, her and a few other people could make a big difference. Take a look at Maine, look more broadly at the Senate. You know, the Senate is so easily divided. If we could get a couple of independent US Senate candidates that could swing the debate from the middle out instead of from the extremes in, that would force the parties to compromise. If you have two or three US Senators who are demanding that the parties come together and were holding their votes until the parties came together to get something done, it could make a huge difference.

Hewitt: I don’t know if we’ve had viable, genuine, I’ll vote 50% of the time with the Republicans, 50% of the time with the Democrats. I don’t recall the last time we had such a person, do you?

Fournier: Well, I don’t know if there is such a person who is perfectly evenly divided R and D. And that’s not what we’re looking for, we’re looking for somebody who will look at every issue pragmatically and decide what is the right thing to do based on the right thing to do instead of what color jersey I am wearing. So the idea isn’t to go out and find unicorns. People who are perfectly purple. The idea is to find independent thinkers who are incentivized by their voters to put the country and policies ahead of a party. So we’re not looking for false equivalence, we’re looking for real public servants.

Hewitt: Now the way I think about doing that, is to find a handful of people who are individuals usually of extraordinary character like Chris Coons, Angus King or Jim Langford, Tim Scott. And to get those people to agree to cooperate on certain issues, but you know what, it comes, push comes to shove, everybody always goes back to their partisan corner because the base run will kill you if you desert.

Fournier: Now you’re speaking my language. That quality of men and women you’re talking about, if they weren’t coming out of a party structure, if they weren’t beholden to the special interests of their party, if they weren’t beholden to the party leaders, if they weren’t beholden to the decades of ossification and silly partisanship of their parties, if all they had to do was what they thought was right, if they were elected outside of the party system, think about what men and women like that could do to the US Senate. The problem is we have good men and women who are elected in corrupt, through a corrupt system. And what Unite America is trying to do, and you can look them up at, is create an infrastructure for independent thinkers like the men and women you just discussed where they can get elected and make a difference without having to wear a red or blue jersey.

Hewitt: Why does everything have to go through the grinder? (when talking about the barriers when nominating and approving a nomination for Supreme Court)

Fournier: The reason you have all Democrats lining up against Kavanaugh and reason all the Republicans lined up against Merrick Garland is because they’re not serving the public. They’re not serving the middle. They’re not serving the public interest, they’re serving their party’s interest. There is such incentive if you’re a Democrat to line up against Kavanaugh, you would get your head bashed in by the Democratic apparatus if you said anything remotely nice about Kavanaugh. As a matter of fact, my twitter feed is probably blowing up right now because I said he’s a decent man. If you’re a Republican and you said “Hey Barack Obama won the election, you should be able to nominate Merrick Garland,” you would have had YOUR head handed to you. It would have been heretical, because we have this system where we incentivize our politicians to the parties, to not think independently, and we need an organization like Unite America that gives independent thinking people an opportunity not to be down the middle, 50/50, but to do what they think is right for the right reasons and not be dragged on by their nose by the political system.

Hewitt: What you’re really getting at is a personality type. I always put down as “will someone come and sit down and talk across party line?” and right now, if you look at the 15 to 20 Democrats who are running for office, about 1 or 2 of them will come on this show and talk. Ditto the Republicans, there are very few places, spaces actually. What’s Unite America going to do about that, Ron Fournier?

Fournier: Well they’re starting with a big summit in Denver the weekend of August 18th and 19th, where they’re bringing together, again not people who are 50/50 down the middle, but independent candidates who want to be able to talk and learn from one another and figure out how to have a new kind of political system in this country. The issue that you mentioned is so big. It’s bigger than any news organization, it really is kind of a “We the People” issue. You know, we have to decide as individual Americans that Hugh Hewitt is worth learning from even if I’m wearing a dark blue jersey.

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