Imagine your company has developed a robust plan to reduce its carbon emissions, and has invested millions of dollars in capital to comply with EPA standards and goals. Then suddenly a change in the U.S. Administration results in significantly relaxing or revoking those standards. Then, a new administration comes along and in a matter of days reinstates those standards.
Imagine that your high-technology company depends upon competent and experienced foreign labor to execute contracts the company must deliver on. Then, without warning, a visa program that has been in place for nearly 60 years that enables skilled foreign workers to work in the U.S. is suddenly suspended without regard to the impact on businesses that depend upon their skills.
These are not wild hypotheses, or viral conspiracy theories. These are scenarios playing out before our eyes. American businesses need reliable and stable legislative policy to help guide investments in infrastructure and workforce strategies. In today’s highly polarized political environment, long-term national strategies that survived successive administrations can no longer be relied upon, unless as a nation we find a way to come back to a middle ground to reach compromises. Hopes that can happen have faded with our two political party system where the parties seem to be moving only further to the left and right.
According to a Gallup Poll taken in May and June of this year, 36 percent of Americans identify as moderates, compared to 34 percent who identify as conservatives and 26 percent who identify as liberals. 54 percent of voters who identify as Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would like to see their party become more moderate, as would 37 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. This leaves relatively small percentages of Americans who actually embrace far-left and far-right political agendas. Yet it is those on the fringes that dominate the political discourse, thanks in large part to popular biased cable news programming and social media.
Even more significant from the standpoint of business and corporate responsibility strategies is the fact that most Americans, despite their political orientation, actually agree on most major legislative issues. There is strong bipartisan agreement on climate change and the need for meaningful environmental legislation. Americans overwhelmingly agree that we should have affordable health care for everyone through a government option. We agree that immigration strengthens our country, and that social and economic injustice and inequality require our urgent attention.
What does this mean for American businesses?
First, it must be said that the business sector is already doing better than its government sector counterparts satisfying its stakeholders. In a 2018 Global CR RepTrak 100 poll of over 230,000 people, top U.S. corporations received corporate responsibility reputation scores of 65 percent and higher. In comparison, only 18 percent of Americans approve of the job the U.S. Congress is doing.
True progress on initiatives that have political, social and business implications can only be made when the government and private sectors are aligned on long-term strategies and goals. Alignment can only be achieved if the government enacts legislation that will endure through changes that occur in the Executive and Legislative branches of our government on Election Day. Based on what we have seen so far in the aftermath of this election, that alignment is not likely to occur unless significant changes in our political processes foster more moderate candidates who are motivated to seek compromise.
Hence, the argument for a third political party that represents the views of the majority of Americans. A third political party would provide a platform for moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats to come together as a powerful force in Washington. It has been demonstrated in other democracies that multiple political parties are a forcing function for coalition building and consensus, especially on strategic issues such as health care, climate action, immigration and social/income equality.
From a business perspective, a strong moderate political party platform could bring greater stability to our political discourse, and consequently a stronger socio-economic foundation upon which to base corporate strategy and corporate responsibility initiatives.
Joe Biden won the presidential election with over 80 million votes, the most in U.S. history. Yes, there are those who voted for Mr. Biden primarily as an alternative to Donald Trump. But Biden is also a moderate, vowing to bring the country together, to a middle ground. I hope he is successful, but the social and political forces that are pulling us apart have proven to be strong and unbending.
In the final analysis, structural change in our political system may be the only solution.
Image credit: Casey Horner/Unsplash
Richard Zacaroli has been a member of the Greenheart International Board of Directors since November 2005, and serves as its Chair. He is a frequent lecturer at California State University-Sacramento, focusing on corporate social responsibility and governance, as well as civic and political engagement.