We watched as our political system grew more divided and dysfunctional with each election cycle.
In 2011, we thought we hit rock bottom when the bipartisan budget recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission were abandoned and instead gave way to a partisan debt ceiling crisis that wound up kicking the can down the road.
That’s what prompted our founder & co-chair Charles Wheelan, a senior lecturer in public policy at Dartmouth College, to write the Centrist Manifesto – a book that imagined a “Centrist Party” that could control a swing vote in the U.S. Senate and forge solutions based on the best ideas from both political parties.
By the book’s publication in 2013, Charles was convinced by friends and family that writing about it wasn’t enough. So the “Centrist Party” was born in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The organization evolved as we attracted a core group of leaders from across the country who committed to developing, organizing, and funding the organization – and as we learned lessons from early activities. The Centrist Party became the Centrist Project and eventually, Unite America.
In 2014, the Centrist Project endorsed independent Greg Orman for U.S. Senate in Kansas and independent Larry Pressler for U.S. Senate in South Dakota. By mid-summer, when Pressler was gaining traction and Orman was leading in the polls, we saw a viable pathway to our “Fulcrum Strategy.”
While neither Orman or Pressler won their races, we learned a great deal from them – including the critical importance of building the necessary support structure to help independents run competitive campaigns.
In the same 2014 election cycle, our Executive Director Nick Troiano ran for U.S. House as an independent candidate in Pennsylvania – gaining first-hand experience with the opportunities and obstacles facing independent candidates. Nick read the Centrist Manifesto and, after his race, joined our organization’s board member, and, by 2017, as our sole employee.
In retrospect, our initial assumption that our political system hit rock bottom in 2011 was wrong. But our other assumption that the parties would not be able to reform themselves proves more accurate by the day. That’s why we’ve have remained committed to our mission of rebuilding the political center by introducing electoral reform and different types of competition into the political process.
Today, the vision of the Centrist Manifesto is coming to life – as Charlie, Nick, and our team work along our network of more than 20,000 supporters to help elect a country-over-party coalition of credible and competitive candidates, as well as enact election reform across the country.