Finding Middle Ground Will Give Chambers Opportunity to Lead Way to Shared Goals

Chris Romer, ACE

Pragmatic solutions are better than political division.

Consider the opening line of the Constitution of the United States: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” (emphasis added). Note the focus on unity as the baseline foundation for our country. It is aspirational and inspirational, and important.

Yet we are undeniably divided, gridlocked over social and economic issues with no clear path forward on how to meaningfully bridge these differences. We have lost the unity that has long defined our success.

I am confident that the answer isn’t in our traditional political system. As a self-described “radical centrist,” I see benefits and drawbacks to aspects of both the Democrat and Republican party platforms. I’m not alone in this; 30% of voters nationally and a whopping 46% of voters in Colorado are unaffiliated and choose not to associate with either major party.

Pragmatic Solutions

The ability to focus on pragmatic solutions is an opportunity for chambers to lead. We are uniquely positioned to solve problems by seeking to find the inevitable middle ground between extremes that incorporates the best from both the left and right.

Melding together ideas from both sides allows us to support market-based solutions to social problems (typically a right view), with strong government oversight in the public interest (typically a left view).

As we approach the 2024 election, Republicans and Democrats alike need to realize it is not about demonizing the others, but rather about solving issues. Both sides would benefit by avoiding the divisive culture war du jour. Focusing on these things makes both parties seem fringe, out of touch, and unlikable.

Centrist Approach

With that in mind, there is a path forward and chambers need to lead the way to help encourage both sides to embrace a centrist approach without selling out their core values. How can we do that?

• Focus on building trust. Trust enables action and action builds trust. The precondition for trust is a system that works for all. That is our perennial task. Neither party owns this lane, and chambers can authentically own this space.

• Work with and not against government. The best societal outcomes occur when business and government work together. That goes especially for policies that raise living standards, offer opportunities for continuing education/reskilling, and improve public safety. That means collaboration on a broader set of issues, including privacy and security, geopolitics, and moderate supervision of new technologies.

• Market solutions to problems are preferable to government solutions. Businesses have a leadership role to play by investing in fair compensation, and skills training for workers, and their communities. The best solutions are typically those that arise from competition in the “marketplace of ideas.”

• Hold divisive forces accountable. Support politicians and media that build consensus and cooperation, not those that focus on division and hatred. Spoiler: division doesn’t build trust.

Collective Action

The current state is not sustainable. Rural versus urban, Republicans versus Democrats, us versus them. No one wins when provided with these false choices. Chambers must encourage mutual understanding and respect, which can lead to collective action and shared goals.

This just might be the path forward to developing a stronger sense of community. The real question is will we recognize the opportunity before it is too late?

Chris Romer, ACE, is president and CEO of the Vail Valley (CO) Partnership.