Home > NewsRelease > The Myrh of the Partisan Divide
Text Movie
The Myrh of the Partisan Divide
Washington Magic Latest News Washington Magic Latest News
Washington, DC
Monday, April 25, 2022

Video Clip: Click to Watch

It isn't partisanship;  it's lack of trust in government

Bob Perkins and Scott Miller


"Before a revolution happens, it is perceived as impossible.

After it happens, it is seen as having been inevitable."

  • -    Rosa Luxemburg

It is popular to say, as the Pew Research Center recently did, that "Partisanship continues to be  the  dividing line in the American public's political attitudes." The concept is right, but the dividing line isn't partisanship: it is a complete distrust of government.  And it isn't 50/50.  

In the national voter polling we have done over the past decade for our WeNeedSmith project, 80% of Americans feel government has been hijacked by both national parties in Washington to protect the rich and powerful.  

This attitude is shared by citizens of all political persuasions and all demographics.  More specifically, in our polling upwards of eighty percent of all American voters agree that an elite of incumbent politicians of both parties, lobbyists, big banks, big unions, big business, big media and big special interests rig the system to protect their own power and prestige at the expense of the American public. 

Recognizing the egregious gap between the lives and concerns of ordinary Americans and the lives and advantages of the tiny but powerful elites is what unites eighty-plus percent of voters, creates a lack of trust in government and is at the root of most other disagreements, including partisanship.

As our late colleague Pat Caddell said, "There are two alternative Universes:  one of the political, media and establishment elite … the other Universe of the American people who totally reject that elite, desire a total refashioning of the conduct of the nation's political life and yearn for true reform."

This remarkable disconnect between the powerful elite establishment and the American people reflects the overreach on the part of a small group who believe what is good for them is good for all.  They are incapable or unwilling to see the damage they have done and continue doing to our society and our democracy.

It is a challenge for the political leaders of both parties to recognize that the growing sense of alienation and frustration among voters has been caused by the self-serving actions of a few.  

Take a simple example:  the mayor of New York changes the vaccination requirements for professional athletes after, according to the New York Times front page story, heavy lobbying by the billionaire owner of the Mets and other celebrities.  Yet average city workers including police and firefighters get no such exemption and many lost their jobs as a result.  Sound fair to you?

Our research, however, does give us great optimism that restoring trust in government is a problem that can be solved.  Many great challenges are considered complex or intractable by the pundits and press, but restoring trust can be done with a few simple measures.   The hard part will be finding the reformer-leaders with the courage to drive fundamental change.  

This is the first step:  recognition.  This is a call to arms: you can't have a functioning government when 80% of the governed [both liberal and conservative] don't believe government acts in their best interest.  In our WeNeedSmith research the premise of the candidacy of the hypothetical "Candidate Smith" has been that while our nation faces many towering challenges, none of them can be addressed until we fix our broken political system.   Voter approval of this foundational premise is at the (high 70% level).  First, we must recognize the central problem.  

Second, we need to start about approaches to fix the problem.  In our research, we have tested some simple steps that would help overcome even the deep cynicism of the American public.  Among them are five obvious fixes:

1. End the underground railroad from Capital Hill and the White House to K Street:  Ban lobbying for three years for every year served after leaving a Congress/Congressional staff or confirmed Executive Branch job.  

2. Pass a budget or you don't get paid.  

3. Don't make money an average citizen can't:  No insider trading and disclosure of all investments made before or during the term in office.

4. Give me some new faces to look at: set strict term limits for Congressional leadership

5. Full disclosure of campaign spending...no "dark" money; bring it all into the light.  

A sixth point overwhelmingly supported by voters but much more difficult to achieve in our political reality would be term limits for most national offices.

Politicians of both parties are fond of the phrase, "These aren't Democratic or Republican issues, these are American issues!"  

In this case, these are American issues that most Congressional Democrats or Republicans would despise.  Presently, we think a coalition of committed leaders from both sides of the aisle should agree to champion this work.  This is the most important thing an elected official can do:  restore trust in government.

A recent New York Times editorial reporting on focus groups with both Democrat and Republican voters found this: "Not only Republicans, but Democrats had some empathy for some of the Americans who stormed the Capitol, seeing them as ordinary people who had real, understandable frustrations with 'the system.'"

Most Americans have "real, understandable frustrations" with the "system."  There is a genuine mandate for sweeping change. The means for restoring voters' faith in government is not impossible and certainly can be done and done quickly within the law.  

The problem is clear:  lack of the average voters' trust in government.  The solutions are equally clear and have enormous voter support.  But can our national body politic see that reality through the hazy wall of the bubble of privilege and wealth in which they live and work?  We believe the answer to that question defines the future of our democracy. 


Scott Miller is co-founder of Sawyer/Miller, best-selling author and CEO of Core Strategy Group.   Bob Perkins is the former Finance Head of the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and CEO of Sharp Arrow Consulting

Scott and Bob co-founded, with Kendra Stewart and the late Pat Caddell, WeNeedSmith.com.  This was a five year project to bring new analytical approaches to voter analysis and is the source for this article.








News Media Interview Contact
Name: David Morey
Group: Washington Magic
Dateline: Washington, DC United States
Direct Phone: 1-888-882-8499
Jump To Washington Magic Latest News Jump To Washington Magic Latest News
Contact Click to Contact
Other experts on these topics